Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fusia Frozen Shrimp and Avocado Roll (Aldi)

About what you would expect from frozen supermarket sushi.
I have a confession to make:  I’ve had sushi, like, twice in my life.  For the sake of avoiding a potential exaggeration, we’ll say three times, tops.  And one of those was from a supermarket.  The only other time that I can remember was just over a year ago, at a Chinese restaurant down the street from my house.  If there was a third, it must not have been memorable, because I’m drawing a blank.  It’s not that I don’t like sushi, because the times I’ve had it, I did, it’s just that it tends to be expensive, and the places that offer it tend to have more filling dishes for way cheaper.

Well, I was dying of starvation when the wife and I stopped by Aldi one evening.  Our intent was to pick up a couple of their Fusia noodle bowls, which are pretty much out-of-this-world, and dirt cheap, as recently our financial situation has taken a rather sudden turn for the worse.  But in the frozen food section, we stumbled on Fusia Shrimp and Avocado Rolls.  Surprisingly, I was a little more hesitant to buy them than my usually pickier wife (though part of it was also due to there not being a price posted), but eventually my stomach got the better of me, and I decided to go ahead and splurge.

Honestly, my opinion of this product, at least initially, was guided along by my wife; I’ve had sushi so infrequently, I don’t even remember the proper texture.  Hell, I didn’t even remember that it’s always supposed to be served cold (thank goodness I didn’t make this at home on my own)!  To thaw, you have three options: Microwave (takes about 40 seconds), cold water bath (takes about 30 minutes), or let sit out (takes about two hours).  We opted to microwave them; within a minute we had cold, but thawed, sushi, ready to eat!

While I might know nothing about sushi preparation, I‘ve got the taste covered!  The main taste was definitely fishy…I don’t think I would have guessed that it was shrimp, but it was a pleasant, light flavor.  I also got the avocado, which is fitting, considering it “shares the marquee” with the shrimp.  I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much of a cream cheesiness, though it’s probably more of a “paste” to hold everything else together.  The package also comes with a small pack of soy (that certainly wasn’t enough for us, though my wife does tend to go heavy on the soy whenever it’s around), as well as some wasabi…I just sampled the wasabi alone, and it almost immediately felt like pin-pricks on my tongue.  I’m not really into the stuff, but it honestly tasted like other wasabi that I’ve had, so it seems legit.

This is some pretty decent stuff, given the fact that it’s frozen, but a lot of supermarkets now seem to offer fresher versions, for about the same price.  Sure, here you get 15 pieces, while the supermarket by me offers eight pieces for about $6, but their pieces are a lot larger…I could down this whole package by myself, and still be completely hungry (which has actually happened to me before).  If you don’t eat a lot, or are just in the mood for something lighter, then the $5 asking price will be perfect for you.  Otherwise, this provides about as much sushi as the supermarket brands, but for only a couple quarters cheaper…and at least I can taste the cream cheese in those.  Not great sushi by any means, but it’s decent for the convenience and price.

Overall: 6/10.  This is only the third time I’ve ever had sushi (and one other time was from a supermarket), so I’m certainly no expert, and I went into these absolutely starving, but these exceeded my expectations.  For $4.99, you get a decent amount of sushi, and going with the quickest of the three thawing options (the microwave), they were ready in about a minute.  The lead taste is certainly fishy, though I’m not certain it was shrimp (it’s “shrimp salad”, according to the packaging; almost enough to send shivers down my spine), but it wasn’t bad; the avocado also shines through.   At the very least, it pretty much equals the supermarket sushi I had, and is a couple quarters cheaper.  If you don't mind supermarket sushi (and you don’t have to admit it out loud), and want a quick fix, then this is at least worth a try.

Fusia General Tso's Zesty Chicken Meal (Aldi)

Note that the watermark will not appear on the actual product...
I know they’re bad for you, but you know what?  Sometimes I like enjoying a frozen meal or two.  There’s just something about the enticing, scientifically-created mixture of chemicals, MSG, and sugar that makes them addicting…

On my latest trip to Aldi, I decided to pick up a Special Buy: Fusia’s General Tso’s Chicken Meal.  For the relatively decent price of $5, you get one-and-a-half pounds of white meat chicken, complete with rice, vegetables, and a General Tso’s sauce.  All you do is pull the microwavable tray out of the box, and toss her in the microwave for a few minutes.  In other words, pretty much everything you need to enjoy some microwavable Chinese at home!

I’ve been a fan of most of the other Fusia meals I’ve had, and while this one kind of skirts the line, I'd say their reputation still comes out intact.  As is par for the course with frozen Chinese meals in general, the white meat chicken is rather questionable, as it seems to fall apart way too easily.  But the box says it’s white meat chicken, and it more or less looks like white meat chicken, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume that’s what it is.  The taste of the chicken itself is rather bland, so it’s a good thing it comes with a generous helping of General Tso’s sauce to douse everything in!

Which brings me to a problem with most store-bought Chinese…the sauces always taste the same.  No matter what you get, it pretty much always tastes like sweet and sour sauce, with some slight variations based on what dish it‘s supposed to be.  Case-in-point:  This very entrée.  The sauce tastes like sweet and sour sauce.  But since it’s supposed to be General Tso’s, they just had a slight, spicy kick.  Now it’s more an observation than a complete knock for me, since I like sweet and sour sauce.  But I still wouldn’t really say this technically qualifies as General Tso‘s, so if you‘re expecting something different, or something with a good bit of heat to it, you're going to be deeply saddened.

The value is pretty decent, as this can easily be stretched into two servings (especially if you have a side dish, such as egg rolls).  I’m also pretty surprised that each serving of this has just 3% cholesterol, so even polishing off the whole tray at once (should you have any desire to do so) will only be 9% of your daily cholesterol intake, which I didn‘t think was bad for a processed, frozen meal.  Sodium content, though high, is still below-average for this much food.

In other words, it's pretty good, and it's worth the price, but just barely for both.

Overall: 5.5/10.  It tastes good, it’s quick to make, and you really do get a decent amount of food for $5.  So why the relatively low score?  It’s just that there’s really nothing here to write home about.  The sauce is just essentially sweet and sour with a slight spice kick added, and the white meat chicken is still pretty terrifying when you see it up close.  There’s really nothing special to constitute even having this occasionally as a Special Buy for Aldi, considering you can get very similar things to this year ‘round from the grocery chain.  Average in every sense of the word.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Fresh Finds Sriracha Honey Kettle Cooked Gourmet Potato Chips (Big Lots)

Give them a shot, and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
I’m going to be honest here: I didn’t want to try these.  It was the last flavor that I had yet to try from Fresh Finds’ gourmet potato chip line, (besides the “standard” sea salt and other boring flavors), and even though the others were good, I was more or less terrified to buy a bag of these.  In fact, after much hesitation, I forced myself to pick this bag up, but also purchased a bag of their amazing Aged White Cheddar & Sour Cream chips to use as backup, in case these were bad.

For starters, everyone suddenly has sriracha fever, but “sriracha” these days essentially means something tomato-y and spicy, as companies flock to throw together something that they can call by that name simply to meet the demand of the market.  In other words, the “sriracha” taste companies often use isn’t very good, nor is it very authentic, and this is why I wasn’t too excited to get them.  But at the same time, I like a good edible challenge, and after walking around the store a couple of times and dwelling on the concept, I softened up and began to embrace the idea.  Besides, for $1.90, it’s not like I’d be out a whole lot if they didn’t live up to my mediocre expectations.

As with Fresh Finds Jalapeno Popper chips, I feel like these also are so named simply to cash in on the sriracha craze.  Again, the taste doesn’t remind me of sriracha sauce all that much, though there is a solid bit of heat that comes through.  If I hadn’t read the bag, and you just delivered these to me blind, I’d probably label them “sweet chili chips”, or something of the sort.  But you know what?  For all my opinions of the chip name, all that matters is the flavor, and once again Fresh Finds has come through—I’m honestly leaning toward naming them my current favorite chip brand, which is high praise coming from a store typically associated with closeouts and discontinued items.

It’s common sense how this combo is supposed to work—the spicy of the sriracha mixes with the sweetness of the honey to provide a counter-balanced taste—but there are a lot of ways this can go wrong, the most obvious of which is if one flavor overpowers the other. Thankfully, this isn’t the case.  It isn’t too sweet, with the honey playing a supporting role, allowing the “sriracha” to remain front and center, yet the sweetness still punches through.

These aren’t nearly as addicting to me as the Aged White Cheddar and Sour Cream chips, but this is a fantastic chip that’s very hard to put down.  The $1.90 price tag hints at something much more generic than what you get, which is a fairly original, very tasty snack.  If you come across these at your local Big Lots, ignore the voices in your head telling you this combination is “weird”, and give them a shot. Chances are, you’ll thank me later.

Overall: 7.5/10. These are pretty darn tasty.  Again, the flavor name seems to be a little exaggerated—sweet chili would have probably been more on point—but then again, they were probably just trying to cash in on the sriracha craze (that’s Marketing 101).  But regardless of the name, the taste is fantastic, with just the right amount of heat counterbalanced with a slight bit of honey that’s noticeable, but not excessive.  I’ve got to hand it to Big Lots…their Fresh Finds chip line provide excellent value for the money (each bag is only $1.90), as well as surprisingly delicious, and sometimes even unique, flavors. Give them a shot if you haven’t already.

Fresh Finds Mesquite Barbecue Kettle Cooked Gourmet Potato Chips (Big Lots)

This is a tasty little barbecue chip.

After trying a couple of the other Fresh Finds “gourmet” potato chips, I opted to try the most straightforward one yet: mesquite barbecue.  There are only so many things you can do with BBQ chips, and many of them come off tasting like salt more than actual barbecue, but based on what I’ve had, I had faith in Fresh Finds to deliver the goods.  Did they come through, or leave me hanging for the first time ever?

Like all the other Fresh Finds chips that I’ve seen, the Mesquite Barbecue is contained in an 8 oz. bag, for $1.90, which is a pretty good price point.  A vast majority of the chips take on a dark red hue, from the sheer amount of barbecue seasoning on each one.  While this can be a blessing, a lot of times with barbecue chips it tends to mean that it’s just overwhelmingly salty; still, I’d rather there be too much seasoning, than not enough, I suppose.

Just like the other Fresh Finds chips I’ve had, these really are nice and crunchy, just like the packaging declares.  This is no doubt due to them being processed as kettle chips, which tend to be twice as crunchy as standard ones.  And just like all the other ones I’ve had under the Big Lots private label brand, these are surprisingly delicious.

The “secret” ingredient in these, which are curiously missing from a lot of other BBQ chips, is that they add a touch of sweetness to their seasoning.  This is welcome, because it helps to counterpoint the saltiness inherent of standard barbecue chips, that I have now mentioned three times.  By adding a little bit of sugar to the mix, it creates a much more addicting flavor, and I found myself reaching into the bag at various points throughout the day just to shove a few in my mouth.  This doesn’t happen very often to me, as far as barbecue chips are concerned.

But it really works here--I was downing these quicker than any other barbecue chip of recent memory.  I’m usually hesitant to purchase BBQ chips because they all seem to taste the same (or close enough), but these stand out enough that I wouldn’t hesitate to get them again, though it would be some point down the road (barbecue used to be the only kind of chip I would buy, so I get sick of them quite easily, no matter how good they are).  If you don’t mind a little bit of sweetness to go with your salty, then these are a surprisingly delicious way to go.

Overall: 8/10.  A surprisingly sweet barbecue chip that is one of the better ones I’ve had in recent memory.  The BBQ itself is good, and manages to avoid being salty on its own, but adding in a touch of sugar makes these far more addicting than they should be.  For purveyors of crunch, these are kettle cooked, so they are twice as crunchy as standard potato chips.  The retail price, $1.90 per 8 oz. bag, offers plenty of chip for an affordable price, too.  If you’re a barbecue connoisseur, you should pick these up the first chance you get!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Casa Mamita Bean and Cheese Burritos (Aldi)

These taste more like "bean and bean" burritos.
I never get these things, because they kind of remind me of gas station food.  Then again, I guess the same could be said about any number of frozen dishes, but the couple of times I have purchased these--many, many years ago--I never really cared for them all that much.  Well, times change, so I decided to give these a little shot.  We settled on the bean and cheese variety because my wife is a vegetarian, and she was unaware they even had a variety without meat.

As with most frozen burritos, less than two minutes in the microwave yields you a (hopefully) tasty finished product.  I’ll admit that I was a little taken aback upon opening the package--I had assumed that each burrito was individually wrapped.  They aren’t.  In fact, they’re just grouped together in clusters of four, so expect to have to peel some frozen burritos apart if you just want one or two.  It didn’t take long, but it was a little extra hassle that I wasn’t prepared for.

They’re also a little smaller than I thought they would be, but then again, you get eight of them for a mere $2.79 (if I recall correctly), so that wasn’t a big deal.  Unfortunately, they also taste exactly the same as I remember.  Where’s the cheese?  All I got was bite after bite of dry beans, with no cheese flavor in sight.  I thought maybe I just had to dig a little deeper--maybe it all settled in the middle, or something--but even then there was nothing but beans.  My wife, who has a set of taste buds far more acute than mine, also agreed that the cheese was nowhere to be found; thus we were both very disappointed.

Overall: 3/10.  There are eight in a package, for a mere $2.79, which make these a pretty cheap snack.  But even by those standards, there’s very little cheese in each burrito, making them incredibly dry, as they are overrun with beans.  I also went in expecting them to be individually wrapped, but they are not.  Again, at the price point that’s just a minor quibble, but go in expecting to have to peel apart frozen burritos when you open the package.  Time changes some things, but apparently the dry taste of frozen bean and cheese burritos are not one of them.  Will set my phone alarm for 2027 before giving them another shot.

Casa Mamita Fiesta Bake (Aldi)

A frozen Mexican entree that is actually pretty good.
There’s really only one thing that Aldi stores have to do to get me to buy something I normally wouldn’t go anywhere near:  Put it on sale.  There’s nothing quite like the excitement of looking around the store for red tags, then seeing what each one pertains to.

Enter Casa Mamita’s Fiesta Bake, a rather unappetizing-looking blend of cheese, rice, and just about anything else that can be considered “Mexican”.  I’ve passed up this entrée probably at least two dozen times over the years, without even a slight interest in purchasing it.  Until I happened to come across it when it had a red tag.  Even though the markdown was rather insignificant (from $7.99 down to $5.99, if I remember correctly), I figured that it would feed us for at least a couple nights, making it somewhere around $1.50 per serving, per person.  And who can argue with numbers like that?

After following the oven cooking directions to a “T”, which consist of putting it in the oven for a mind-boggling SEVENTY minutes, it came out way too soupy.  So I put it back in for another ten.  It was finally starting to bake, and “solidify” a bit more, but I was so hungry, I took it out of the oven and decided to eat it while it was a little softer than it was supposed to be.  I mention this because you might want to allot a few more minutes when preparing this, as it probably would have required closer to 90 minutes for it to get that proper cooked texture.

So after eighty minutes, dinner was finally served…in a bowl, its chunks of rice and corn surrounded in a brown “broth” more than slightly resembling vomit.  But hey, I figured as gross as it looked, it would still taste the same, so who really cares?  I added a little dollop of sour cream for some added flavor, and dove right in…

Even though I’m not a fan of rice in any capacity, I have to say that this was surprisingly delicious.  Not, “this is something I’m going to eat several times a year” delicious, but given its unhealthy-looking texture, it was a lot better than I was expecting it to be.  The rice combines with meat, cheddar cheese sauce (my favorite), peppers, and corn to form a delicious Mex-American taste that’s actually a notch or two above Taco Bell (granted, dumpster diving will get you something better than Taco Bell).  It’s certainly not an original casserole, but it’s something that’s a little different than, say, macaroni and cheese, or tacos.

My biggest complaint is the tortilla strip topping, which didn’t cook up very crispy in our oven.  Though the flavor was fine, there’s just something a little unappetizing about chewing on soggy tortilla strips, so that part didn’t win me over.  Besides, adding tortilla strips on everything considered “Mexican” seems to be a fad that I’m really hoping dies down soon.  I get it in some applications (I mean, tortilla soup wouldn’t be the same without it), but nowadays it just seems like it’s used simply to make Americanized Mexican dishes appear more “authentic”.  I highly doubt Mexicans put tortilla strips on everything, if they even use them at all.  Without that, this would have been even better.

Overall: 7/10. The tortilla topping stays soggy, which isn’t really all that appealing (or necessary), but the rest of this dish is actually quite good.  It’s got cheese, rice, meat, and tortilla strips coming together to form the kind of Mex-American taste that you would expect; I’m sure it’s far from authentic, but it’s about on par with what you would get at a popular “Mexican” fast food joint, and for a pretty good price, too.  A bit of caution: Even after 70 minutes in the oven (the recommended cooking time), it was still soupy and not quite ready, and we even have a newer oven.  So you may want to set aside some extra prep time, just in case.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Breakfast Best Western Frozen Breakfast Pizza (Aldi)

Now THIS is an excellent breakfast pizza.
The last time they offered their breakfast pizza, I’m pretty sure they only offered the bacon/sausage kind.  So I had to get one for myself.  This latest time, however, they also had a meat-free “Western” version, which substitutes onions and peppers for sausage and bacon, so I got one of each--one for myself to eat when my wife didn’t feel like cooking, and one for the both of us to share.

I did burn this pizza a little bit, but actually found the extra char to work to its advantage: Even without the meat, this is an insanely flavorful pizza.  In fact, I have another confession to make: I actually forgot that this was meatless.  The peppers and onion add some extra flavor and texture to the whole affair, while the cheese sauce (a replacement for pizza) is actually quite phenomenal…it’s got great texture, and has a light enough cheese flavor that the other ingredients still have room to shine on their own.

Honestly, I thought for sure that this Western version would suffer from a big hit to the flavor, without the bacon or the sausage, but that was certainly not the case.  In fact, I’d probably prefer this one to the meat-covered one, if for no other reason than the decrease in cholesterol and sodium.  But the flipside to this, and one of the biggest downsides for me, is that both the Western and the Meat varieties cost the same price.  I suppose that shouldn’t really bother me that much, but come on, peppers have to be a lot cheaper to manufacture than TWO kinds of meats; not to mention that meat is generally much more filling than vegetables.

On those grounds, I guess I would probably favor the meat one in the future, just because I felt like I got more food, for the exact same price.  But for strict vegetarians, you should feel confident knowing that what you’re getting is every bit as tasty as the meaty version…and that’s not always the case, at least in my opinion.  As usual, the biggest downside is that these are only available as a Special Buy; I believe they are a more recent offering, though, so I’ve seen them twice within a six-month span.  Hopefully this means it’s one that they put out often, especially during the summer months.

Overall: 9/10.  These are absolutely fantastic.  As someone who can appreciate both the vegetarian and carnivorous aspects of life, I was expecting there to be a huge flavor drop-off here, with the meatless combination of red and green peppers replacing sausage and bacon, but I thought it was actually better.  The meats tend to be overly salty, so this cut back on the salt while still delivering a ton of flavor.  Of course, the most important part of any pizza might be the base; the cheese sauce here delivers great flavor that blends in perfectly with the rest.  Breakfast pizzas of any kind sadly seem to be a rare breed, but Aldi delivers an excellent one here.  The $4 asking price might seem a little steep, but is well worth it.

Mama Cozzi's 12" Morning Take and Bake Breakfast Pizza (Aldi)

If you're a huge fan of breakfast pizza, then prepare yourself for the biggest disappointment of your entire life.
In Illinois, where my mother is from and grandmother currently resides, there is a chain of convenience stores known as Casey’s General Store.  They seem to be like any other convenience store: small and overpriced, except that they are curiously known for their pizzas.  They have a variety of them, from Taco Pizzas, to more standard toppings, but the one that immediately caught my attention was the most underrated, under-offered pizza of them all: breakfast pizzas.

How do more places not carry these?  More to the point, how do no pizza chains carry these?  I get that the logistics of keeping eggs fresh would probably get a little pricey, but that would be offset by the sheer monopoly that place would have on the industry.  And it’s not like breakfast pizzas are the kind of product that would only appeal to a small niche of people: it has everything that people who love breakfast love, and since everyone loves pizza, that’s a demographic so large I’m honestly surprised that no one has the guts to jump on it.

Needless to say, Casey’s breakfast pizzas became the go-to breakfast for us during our stay in Illinois.  I also happen to love Aldi’s frozen breakfast pizzas (released under the “Breakfast Best” moniker), so imagine my excitement when I saw that the discount grocer would be offering a take and bake breakfast pizza, complete with sausage AND bacon, cheese, egg, and a cheese sauce.  How could this not be good?  A fresher, deli-style version of a frozen classic?  I was ready to immediately praise this as a triumph before I even took my first bite.

This pizza is one of the biggest letdowns I’ve ever encountered from an Aldi store.  The sausage is the closest thing to “delicious” on the whole thing, but it’s so overloaded with sodium that the salt overpowers the actual sausage flavor.  My wife made the claim that the bacon tastes like “dog food”, which I found to be a little extreme…but not by much.  It’s kind of bacon-y, to the point that you can tell that’s what it is, but it is by no means a “good” bacon taste.  It’s just like little clumps of jerky, with a smokier flavor.  There weren’t a whole lot of bacon pieces on our pizza, so you shouldn’t notice them too much (seriously, my wife was at least two, maybe even three, pieces in before she even realized bacon was on it).

I was really hoping the cheese sauce would bring everything together and win me over, but even that sucks.  There’s no tang to it, nor anything interesting…it’s just a bland cheese sauce that doesn’t taste a whole lot like cheese.  Just for the sake of saying something nice, I will say that texture is perfect, as it’s not so thin that it runs all over the place, but it’s The only thing that I didn’t pretty much completely hate is the crust, which according to the box is a “croissant style crust”.  I don’t think “croissant” would have crossed my mind if I hadn’t read the packaging in advance, but it is light and kind of buttery.  There’s not much flavor at all, but when the rest of the flavors are so bad, something tasteless is better just by default.

This 12“ pizza retails for $5.  Normally, I would be ranting and raving about how that’s expensive for a frozen pizza, except I realize that breakfast pizzas seem to naturally be more expensive anywhere you go (and there are disturbingly very few companies that offer them; why no major chains have jumped on board is a complete mystery, except for probably the logistics of keeping eggs and the other ingredients fresh), so it’s about on par with what you can expect to pay elsewhere.  Only, there can be no value for something that’s bad; this is by far the worst breakfast pizza I’ve ever had.  In fact, it’s the only one that I’ve ever tried, and haven’t liked.  That probably says it all.

Overall: 2.5/10.  Hands down the worst breakfast pizza that I’ve ever had, which is a complete shocker to me, considering Aldi’s frozen breakfast pizzas are pretty excellent.  The cheese sauce has a great texture, but a taste that’s just “off”, while the sausage is made up of 90% salt.  My wife mentioned she thought the bacon pieces tasted like “dog food”; while I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, I will admit the look and the flavor have more in common with jerky than actual bacon.  I didn’t mind the crust…it’s light and lightly buttery, and that’s enough for me to call it the best thing on the entire pizza.  Breakfast pizzas are one of my favorite things in the world, and I was super-excited to give this a shot; to call this even a “massive letdown” feels too understated.  Unless they improve it or change it up completely, we will never be buying this ever again.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Clancy's Dill Pickle Potato Chips (Aldi)

Stock image of a bag of Clancy's Dill Pickle Potato Chips, from Aldi
I hope you really, really, realllllly like pickle...
Of all the weird chips I’ve eaten over the years, I’ve always gone out of my way to avoid getting pickle chips.  I guess a lot of it can probably explained by the simple fact that I’m not a huge fan of actual pickles, so the thought of them in potato chip form sounds even worse.  But my wife loves anything and everything pickle-related, and so she picked up a bag of these when they were a Special Buy at Aldi.  Since they were in the house, I had to try them for myself.

Wow, I have to say that these are really pretty spot-on. It starts off with a sourness very reminiscent of salt and vinegar chips (and due in large part to the presence of vinegar as part of the pickle seasoning), but then a surprisingly accurate pickle flavor seeps in to the forefront.  I know there are people that like to put chips on sandwiches—it would be an interesting experiment to substitute these for actual pickles in a sandwich or sub and see if it would give the same flavor (or at least something relatively similar), but with the benefit of additional crunchy texture.

The only problem with these, and it’s something that even my pickle-obsessed wife agrees with, is that they just aren’t addicting.  They’re almost too accurate; they creeped me out more than they begged me to dig into them.  The sour factor also plays a strong role in these, because there’s really nothing to counterbalance the flavor:  It starts off with the sour vinegar flavor, and that merely gives way to a sour pickle flavor.  It’s not really surprising that a guy like me (who doesn’t really enjoy sour chips) doesn’t find these too addicting, but again, for the sake of comparison, even my wife could only eat a couple of these.  And she’s of the mindset that the more vinegar in a salt and vinegar chip, the better (I’ve tried a couple that she loved and actually winced because the taste was so strong).

This is a rare product that I just can’t really wrap my head around.  It should receive points because it’s very close to the food that it’s trying to replicate (an area where most chips fail miserably), but at the same time, there’s almost no reason to eat them.  They’re not addicting, and a jar of actual pickles are about the exact same price, meaning there’s really no reason to just grab a jar of those if you’re craving them.

A random, hypocritical side note: I would love to try a chip based on bread-and-butter pickles. That would be interesting, though it would probably be subject to the exact same complaints I had about this one.

Overall: 5.5/10. They’re pretty darn accurate, but that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily "good": These aren’t the least-bit addicting, and actually get pretty old after just a few chips. Each bite starts with a strong vinegar flavor, with the pickle coming in shortly thereafter. Even my wife (whose decision it was to buy these, who is pickle-obsessed, and whose idea of a good salt and vinegar chip is one swimming in the latter liquid) could only eat a couple of these before putting them down, due to “taste fatigue”.  I can appreciate the accuracy and value, but these aren’t something either of us would be likely to get again.

Clancy's Cajun Herb & Spice Flavored Potato Chips (Aldi)

I hope you like paprika...

I have to say that these didn’t really appeal to me all that much when I saw them sitting on Aldi shelves…but when you eat as many chips as I do (sadly), sometimes you just want to try something a little different.  And so, while they didn’t look like they would do much for me, I wanted to give them a shot anyway.  Hey, worst-case scenario, I was out a dollar and a couple quarters.

The smell certainly delivers on the whole “Cajun and herb” idea…this smells strongly of Cajun spices.  However, though the smell hints at a strong, super-spicy taste, the actual flavor is no hotter than your typical barbecue.  This will no doubt disappoint those with a taste for really hot peppers, but obviously, they’re just trying to appeal to the mass market, so it makes sense (financially) to cool it down a bit to appeal to as many people as possible.

The taste is very heavy on the paprika.  The flavor profile actually reminds me a lot of a barbecue, if you remove any traces of the sweetness that many mass-market BBQ chips have, and replace it with lots of the red powder (curiously, there’s actually brown sugar in the seasoning here also, though I didn’t really catch any on the tongue).  I don’t mind the flavor of paprika, but it’s a pretty one-note kind of taste, and I did think these got pretty old fairly quickly.  I guess that’s sort of a good thing, as it prevented me from eating too many at once, but these definitely don’t have anything to make them “addicting”.

These are a Special Buy, meaning they’re only available occasionally at different points throughout the year, and once stock is gone, it’s gone until the next time.  Even with the potentially long intervals between seeing these offered again, I don’t think I’ll get them the next time they become available, or even the time after that—they’re just not really in my wheelhouse.  But at some point down the road, I’m sure I’ll once again get sick of the norms, and give these another chance.  They’re not good, not bad…just kind of there.

Overall: 5/10.  These aren’t bad, per se, just uninspiring; the main flavor of these consists of paprika, which is a pretty one-note taste.  It reminds me of a barbecue chip, minus the brown sugary sweetness that most of those chips have; at least the sweetness counterbalances with the salt and spices in most BBQ chips, giving it at least some slight complexity.  These are just pretty boring, and I got tired of the flavor pretty quickly.  Value is pretty good, at $1.49 per bag, but even at that price, it’ll be a while before I get these again.