Friday, September 26, 2014

Kotas Reviews the Arbys Caramel Apple Milkshake

Arbys has been trying out a few new things lately, such as their current "We have the Meats" promotion, and the horror of the "Meat Mountain" sandwich. Arbys has always been the "quirky" member of the fast food family, with their surprisingly addictive roast beef sandwiches and their curly fries and potato cakes and so forth. In my youth, they were also the only fast food restaurant to offer more than the holy trinity of milkshake flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) with their Jamocha option. Recently, the Arbys near my house has been doing a "flavor of the month" advertising campaign, which intrigued me enough to stop by and pick up this month's star. Welcome, to the Caramel Apple Milkshake.

Dun, dun, duuuuuuuun.
I've always liked Arbys myself. The food is different enough from the usual hamburger fare to let it stand out, but the trappings are familiar enough that I don't avoid it simply because it is different. My unabashed love of potato cakes doesn't hurt either. Still, not every milkshake flavor can be a crowd pleaser. Let's see what it looks like!

Just screams deliciousness, doesn't it?
It smells a lot like caramel, with a few apple-ish overtones to remind you of the apple portion of the caramel apple label. The color is essentially a slightly..uh...browner version of the Jamocha shake, but you ain't ordering a milkshake for its aesthetic qualities at an Arbys now are you? The taste is almost exactly like what I think you should get if you pureed a Russell Stover Caramel Apple candy sans chocolate.  The flavor is very strong, if not as apple-y as I would like, and not overwhelmingly sweet, which is nice. I really like this flavor, actually, but if you do not like caramel, stay the heck away. It also is not something I would want in a large portion, as the flavor overwhelms the taste buds after a bit.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets a solid 2 smiley faces. It is delicious, but it is not an every day flavor. It is a fantastic seasonal flavor and if you like caramel and apple, give it a whirl.

Kotas Reviews Pumpkin Spice Oreos

Ah Fall! The time when pumpkin starts its ascendancy as the "flavor of the season", before sliding into the background for another year when peppermint and the like reign during the winter. So, of COURSE Nabisco got into the act with Oreos. Is it wonder or terror we shall experience? Let us find out!

Does this package seem smaller to you? That's what she said.

Well, it has a pumpkin on it, and it's yellow, signifying it will use the Golden Oreo as the base cookie. It may just be the graphics on the cover, but for some reason I think the container is smaller than the other Oreo flavors I've been trying recently. Maybe it's just the cold weather causing shrinkage. Also, when did cinnamon become a generic stand in for "spice"? Is it because it is the only spice most people think of when they think of fall? What about all spice, eh? Or cardamom? Oh well! Let's pop open these bad muthas and see what they are about.

Well, it is certainly orange. Maybe that should be looked at.
The scent is incredibly strong, and reminds me of those pumpkin spice candles you can buy at almost every store ever during the fall. It's a good smell, but it has that faint whiff of artificiality that can make your nose wrinkle a bit. The twist test had mixed results, as you can see above. The first one failed miserably, but a subsequent test was almost perfect. The taste is...well, it is complicated. The creme by itself tastes like I think a pumpkin spice candle should taste if you were to eat it. Very strong flavor, kind of plastic-y, not particularly appetizing. HOWEVER, if you eat it with the cookie, the cookie neutralizes a lot of the plastic-ish parts of the flavor and adds some vanilla, which makes it taste pretty good. Very pumpkin and spice, but I cannot taste any cinnamon really. Dunking it in milk mellows the flavor a bit, but otherwise leaves it about the same, so it is personal preference here.

On the FACE Rating System, the Pumpkin Spice Oreo gets 1 smiley. It is appropriately fall themed, and the flavor on the package is mostly the flavor you will get, but for me it is not a flavor I particularly enjoy in cookie format. It's not bad, and I'd eat them again, but I will not go out of my way to acquire them except for maybe a theme party or something. If you like pumpkin spice flavoring though, they may be more your cup of tea.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kotas Reviews Berry Oreos

Man, Nabisco just won't stop with the new Oreo flavors, will they? Of course, that just means a steady stream of things for me to review! Today we evaluate another fruit-flavored version: the vaguely named Berry Oreo.

So, is it strawberry, raspberry, or some other berry not pictured? 
Kids who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s have a long affiliation with Berry flavoring. I'm not exactly sure when the trend started, but lots of foods have been labeled as "Berry" flavor, despite the fact that "berry" covers a wide range of individual fruits: blueberry, strawberry, raspberry, loganberry, juniper berry, blackberry, schnozzberry, etc. Near as I can figure, it refers to either "the flavor of a mix of berries" or as a stand it for "red", which my childhood taught me was a flavor. Given the packaging, I'd say this is gonna be more on the "red" side of things. Let's find out!

Is there a better word for underwhelming? No? Pity.
The smell is mostly artificial raspberry, but it has a hint of something else that is probably strawberry. Why they didn't just go with raspberry instead of "berry" I will never understand, because I mostly think "raspberry" when I smell these things. The cookies themselves are standard Oreo cookies with a raspberry colored creme on the inside, which is kind of dull looking. It passes the twist off test with flying colors. The taste is that of a creamy raspberry filling, like one would find in an "assorted chocolate cremes" box, with a good chocolate flavor from the Oreo cookie bits. These flavors pair well and neither overwhelms the other. I rather like it, though personally I needed to eat a couple before I could decide. It was not "love at first bite", but I'd happily serve these at a party. Dipping them in milk adds a bit more creaminess, but otherwise doesn't improve or detract from the flavor so go with what you prefer.

On the FACE Rating System, I'd give these cookies 2 smiley faces. It's a new confection that retains the best parts of the original Oreo while making good use of the fake fruit flavoring to create a pleasant experience. If you don't like raspberry or Oreos, these will not convert you. Likewise they do not displace the OG Oreo from its throne as a personal favorite, but hey, variety is the spice of cookie life!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kotas Reviews Cookie Dough and Watermelon Oreos

I apparently have some momentum going, because my last review was commented on quite a bit (er, for this blog anyway), so like any good content producer I'm making a sequel! A shameful, pandering sequel. Like any good sequel it has more of what worked last time, and it's faster! Welcome, to the Dual Oreo Review! Today we have two contrasting flavors of Oreo to look at: The very meta Cookie Dough Oreo, and the head-tiltingly strange Watermelon Oreo. 

Made with "chocolatey chips". And nightmares.

A few caveats. I'm honestly not a huge fan of Cookie Dough anything. Why eat it raw and unrefined when you can bake it and bring out the magical union of flour, sugar, and assorted mix-ins? I don't hate Cookie Dough flavored things, but I'm not predisposed to loving them either. Let's take a gander at these puppies outside of their otherwise unremarkable packaging. The fact that they couldn't call the chips "chocolate" chips, but instead "chocolatey" does not bode well.

Just screams "chocolatey", doesn't it?
Well, the scent is vaguely "cookie dough"-ish, that is for sure. While light tan isn't the most appetizing of colors, it DOES look a lot like cookie dough, and it passed the twist off test with flying colors. The flavor is kinda like cookie dough, but reminds me more of a coffee and cream flavor than cookie dough. It's pretty good actually, though I don't know if I would eat this over regular Oreos. Dipped in milk though? Absolutely delicious, perhaps even better than a regular Oreo. The coffee notes shine through, and when paired with the mellower, creamier cookie parts...simply wonderful. But what of its partner in crime?

A match made in Never Again.
Artificial Watermelon Flavor has to be on my top three Worst Childhood Flavors Ever. It's so sickeningly sweet that it hurts my teeth, and the weird Not Quite Watermelon overtones just enhance the yuck factor. But maybe that's just me, let's shimmy these pretties out of their container.

Very colorful. Did you know bright colors are nature's way of warding away predators?
These smell almost exactly like Watermelon flavored Jolly Ranchers, with a bit of vanilla cookie mixed in because, well, cookies. They taste EXACTLY like Watermelon flavored Jolly Ranchers sandwiched between two vanilla cookies. You know, like awful. I absolutely HATE Watermelon flavored Jolly Ranchers. They are everything wrong with artificial watermelon flavoring cranked up to eleven and these brought back terrible memories of only ever getting that flavor at Halloween when I was a wee tot. Simply awful, that is what these cookies are. They even failed the twist off test! Still, if you are an individual who enjoys that sort of thing, these should appeal to you. NOT dip them in milk. I have never tasted such a vile flavor as Watermelon Jolly Rancher mixed with milk. I swear, if a Muppet pleasured itself directly onto a cookie, THIS is what that cookie would taste like. Absolutely wretched in every imaginable way. Only gin could wash away the taste-bud wrenching terror.

On the FACE Rating System, Cookie Dough Oreos get a solid 2 smiley faces. I don't think they can replace standard Oreos as a favorite, but they sure come close. Watermelon Oreos get an unprecedented 3 Frowny Faces, though I'm sure people who like Watermelon Jolly Ranchers will like them and should try them. Just keep them the hell away from me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kotas Reviews Lemon Oreos

So, it turns out that Oreo is now the cookie of novelty flavors. It used to be pretty standard. You had Oreo cookies and Double Stuf cookies, which were just Oreos with more creme filling. Then they introduced Chocolate Creme Oreos, Golden Oreos, Golden Chocolate Oreos, and a variety of holiday themed ones with different colored creme and different cookie shapes (I reviewed a Halloween edition here). Now? There are Fruit Punch, Birthday Cake, Marshmallow Crispy, Cookie Dough, Watermelon, Caramel Apple, Mint, Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Fudge, Rainbow Sherbet, Root Beer Float, Berry, Strawberry Milkshake, and even Dulce de Leche flavored Oreos. Which brings us to today's entry: Lemon Oreos. Let's take a gander.

This stretches the definition of Oreo quite a bit, really
Honestly, these aren't exactly innovative. Lemon sandwich cookies have been around since before I was a kid, even if they were relegated to the realms of brands like "Country Choice" and "SugarKake". Still, it's nice to see one of the most recognizable sandwich cookie purveyors finally expanding their repertoire of standard offerings. What do these things reeeeeally look like though?

Pretty much exactly what it says on the tin package
These cookies are essentially a palette swap of standard Oreo cookies, made up of vanilla cookies with yellow creme between them. The smell is very, well, lemony. I'm not sure exactly why I would think they might smell otherwise, but I've been fooled before by other foods. One minor complaint is that they don't "twist off" cleanly a lot of the time, as shown in the picture above.

The flavor is a very nice lemon creme flavor, the right mix of artificial lemon and creamy sweetness. The vanilla cookie is of high quality as well. Oreos have always been one of the few foods I've found where the name brand edition is just better than any store brand, and this particular flavor is no exception. Unlike some of the more "unique" flavors that Nabisco has put out, this is a great spin on an old standby that is quite enjoyable.

On the FACE Rating System I would give these a solid 2 smileys. I may not always be in the mood for a lemon sandwich cookie, but when I am, these are probably the ones I would pick up. If you like lemon cookies, do yourself a favor and try these. Of course, if you don't like lemon cookies, these will not change your mind. Oh, and they do NOT go well with milk at ALL, so I advise not to go a dunking with these babies.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kotas Reviews Kettle Maple Bacon Chips

Lovers of food around the United States know that bacon has held a special place in our bloated, cholesterol-caked hearts for a number of years. Once merely a staple of the "hearty farm boy breakfast", bacon has wormed its way into our collective food culture as both the cause of, and solution to, many of life's culinary problems. Of course, food fads such as these are often taken "too far". With that, I present to you today's subject: Kettle brand Maple Bacon Chips.

By naturally, they mean "naturally developed in a laboratory."

I've been a fan of Kettle brand chips for a long time, particularly their "waffle" style, because they deliver a most satisfying crunch. Their various flavored varieties are also heavy on the flavor while keeping a really solid potato base, which is something I appreciate in my flavored chips. Of course, it is always possible to go too far in pursuit of the latest taste sensation. Let's rip this bag open and see what we can see.

This is definitely a bowl of chips. 

The chips themselves are standard kettle style potato chips, twisted into interesting shapes by the kettle frying method. They are coated with a reddish brown powder which I suppose is adequate for indicating that these are, in fact, flavored with maple syrup and bacon. The smell that hits you is intense, a cross between the scent of liquid smoke, overdone pork, and the barest hint of vague sweetness. I admit, gentle readers, that I entered into this with some trepidation. Luckily, I had a hard cider to fortify my efforts.

If I had to describe the flavor in one word, it would be "inconsistent". The flavor is...essentially a more different version of that vague flavor called "Barbeque" which in chips always seems to taste almost but not quite completely unlike any barbeque I've ever had in my life. I say inconsistent because in most flavored chips, while any particular bite will have more or less flavor (depending on the density of 'flavor dust' dispersion), these have the added dimension of being either sweeter or savory-er with each bite. Even eating multiple chips at once seems to suffer from this, rather than balancing it out as I had hoped. The maple notes aren't even there, being relegated to "background sweetness" that doesn't really convey the stated theme. The so called "bacon" portion of the flavoring is also nondescript. You could have labeled these "sweet barbeque" and I wouldn't have been able to say they were NOT that flavor. Unlike the actual labeling.

On the FACE Rating System, these chips get 1 frowny face. They aren't bad exactly, but they are neither maple nor bacon in any capacity, so for those of you craving breakfast in chip form will have to look elsewhere. I certainly won't be buying them again. If you really, REALLY like barbeque flavored chips though, you might give it a whirl. One person's crushing disappointment might be another person's new taste extravaganza! But probably not.