Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kotas Reviews The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

As I mentioned in my review of the last Hobbit movie, the Hobbit may be my favorite book of all time. I know I'm about a year late on my review of this film, but time and babies make fools of us all. That said, let's get this review over with, because the third movie is out and I need to catch up. Be warned because thar be spoilers a plenty on the horizon. Skip to the last paragraph for the FACE Rating and final thoughts.

When we last left our intrepid heroes, they had just escaped the dungeons of the Goblin King, and sliced his fat warted ass up for good measure. The last film was considerably more serioused up than the source material, but it was reasonably well done enough that I did not find it went against the spirit of the book. So how do we open? With a flashback sequence to Thorin entering Bree and meeting with Gandalf! Here Thorin's actual plan is laid out: Steal the Arkenstone from Smaug and, holding the symbol of dwarven rulership (Whaaaaaaaat?) unite the dwarves of Middle Earth once more to take back Erebor. Uhhhhhh, okay. Sure. That is at least a much more sensible plan than the one in the book, but WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THIS IN THE SECOND FILM? This should have been in the first film, and seems essentially like a retcon of the first film. Whatever, back to the story from the previous film.

The Various Dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf are seeking shelter from the patrols of Boss Orc the Orc Boss, when the Youngest Dwarf (by appearance, who is not Kili or Fili as it would be should they be following the damned book) spies a "great beast". Gandalf advises them that there is a house to shelter in, but that the occupant will either help them or kill them. Uh....is he talking about Beorn? Because while the dude was pretty unfriendly in the book (at first), he wasn't Chaotic Neutral. Anycrap, the film jump cuts to the party fleeing the ravening beast and managing to lock themselves into a convenient house.The goblins hold off their assault at this time, because Beorn is one scary motherfucker. Then Bilbo is woken up by a giant bee, doesn't freak the fuck out, and Gandalf introduces them to their host, Beorn. Then Beorn gives us his tragic back story info dump about how his people were tortured by the Orcs, and he's the last of his kind, and how he hates dwarves, but he hates orcs more, and here's some stuff, Mirkwood sucks, and this takes all of five minutes of the film.

What the everloving shit. In the book, the Beorn sequence is used as a respite from the previous action sequence, and to show how Gandalf is clever without having to use magic to show us his awesome, along with the dwarves securing a great ally for the troubles ahead. In the movie...it is a glossed over "and then" bit that manages to take Beorn and turn him into the fucking Last of the Really Angry Werebears. It even manages to make it seem like Beorn loses a lot of his control when in bear shape, which was never in the book! This fucking movie, people. After Beorn, they end up in Mirkwood, which has been Even More Serioused Up. Gandalf quits the party to go be in a more interesting movie, and the dwarves get overcome by the illusion of the forest (Whaaaaaat?) and are captured by the spiders. Bilbo is also captured (double whaaaaaat?) but manages, with a tiny itty bitty bit of help from his ring to fight his way free. He also becomes a bit of a show off. Anyway, while wearing the ring he can understand the spiders (not in the book, but hey, it makes sense), cuts the dwarves free, and the chase and fight is on!

The dwarves have weapons of course, so they do quite a bit better than in the book. Bilbo manages to lose his ring briefly, and fights a...worm/spider thing to get it back. I think this sequence is meant to show that the ring is starting to take hold of Bilbo, but it comes off as disjointed and kind of dumb. I mean, yeah, I get it, but it is not framed well. Then Legolas shows up with a shit ton of other elves including Female Legolas, and the dwarves are captured. Okay, why is Legolas in this film? I mean, yes, his dad is totally the King of the Wood Elves but he seems clumsily inserted into this story to show some continuity with the previous story. There is a so-called "hilarious" bit where he asks about one of the dwarves' family and is told "That's Gimli, mah wee lad!" Har dee har har.

The King of the Wood Elves actually susses out Thorin's plan at this point, and offers to assist, with the only price being some gems in the hoard. Thorin tells him to stuff it up his elf hole, we learn the King has fought and been scarred by dragons in the past (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?) and the dwarves are retained in the elf prisons for a grand total of...maybe 24 hours, during which time Kili starts to lightly romance Female Legolas, who was just told that Regular Legolas would not be allowed to court her, but is "very fond of her". Whaaaaaaaaaat? Anyway, Bilbo finds out there is a party going on, nips the keys, shoves the dwarves into barrels, and sends the whole lot down the hole into the river. This...happens in the book, but it takes a lot longer and shows Bilbo's cleverness in sneaking the dwarves out. In the movie, this is a rip roaring action sequence that would also make a pretty fantastic amusement park ride. The problem? It goes on forever and is even MORE ridiculous than the chase sequence through the Goblin City in the previous film, and that is saying something. There's elves and chasing and orc murder and tossing weapons and Bombur turns into some sort of dervish in a barrel for a little while and...sigh. It just goes on and on forever.

To sum up, dwarves and company escape, and somewhere in all this mess we see a different movie I call "Wizards and Orcs Do Stuff". Gandalf and Radaghast investigate the prison of the Nine and find that they have all broken free and gone to Dol Guldor. Gandalf and Radaghast go there to investigate, and Gandalf decides to break the spell of concealment on the place, sending Radaghast away. Also, Boss Orc the Orc Boss has been recalled there, and sent Bolg to hunt the dwarves instead. Because reasons, I guess. Something about him being the chosen leader? Whatever. Gandalf does a lot of cool magic, fights off some orcs, and then Wizard Fights with Sauron. Gandalf ends up in a cage, again. This movie is cut to several times during the film, but that's pretty much what happens in this better film. Back to the (sigh) dwarves.

They meet Bard, and hire him to smuggle them into Lake Town. Bard is a poor, but honest man of the people, who is trying to help the commoners overcome the hardships brought on by the corrupt government of the Master of the Town, and his toady, uh, Totally Not Wormtongue. Blah blah blah smuggling, blah blah blah, downtrodden, whatever. We also learn that the Black Arrow is not only one of many, but also actually ballistae ammunition (Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?????). Bard finds out that Thorin is Thorin, who has just been captured trying to steal weapons from the armory, after Kili falls on his bum and poisoned leg that he got during the barrel chase. Thorin speaks grandly, Bard yells about how that will just bring the dragon, Thorin tells him to piss off (noticing a theme here), and the Master of the Town welcomes them with open arms. Meanwhile, back with the elves, Legolas and Femgolas find out that Kili is poisoned, and she runs out to save him, with Legolas after. The dwarves set off for the mountain, but Kili, Bofor, Fili, and, uh, Doc all stay behind because Kili is For Reals Sick, and they end up at Bard's house. GOT ALL THAT? Jesus, for a 2.5 hour movie, it sure does rush through shit.

The dwarves manage to climb a very nice set piece to where they think the door is, and then essentially give up after the most minor of setbacks, to the point of just dropping the key. Bilbo tells them to sack up, and manages to figure out that the "last light of Durin's Day" meant "the moonlight". Do I even need to say Whaaaaaaaat? again? The dwarves send Bilbo down to see Smaug, while some orcs sneak into Laketown to kill Kili and Company. There is a wacky fight scene. Back to Bilbo and the actual good part of this film. Down in the depths, he finds the giant huge treasure hoard, and then finds Smaug sleeping under it. He uses his ring for about 20 seconds before just giving up on that shit, because trying to talk to Smaug with the "RingWavy" filter on was too much effort. Smaug is actually pretty damn cool, and I'll be honest, I was kind of rooting for him at this point as one of the few characters that stayed true to the books.

Smaug basically says "I'm a dragon, I'm a Dragooooon, Suck My DIIIIIIIICK, I'M A DRAAAAAGOOOOON!" while Bilbo tries to pick up the Arkenstone. Smaug also susses out Thorin's Actual Make Sense Plan, and tells Bilbo that it's probably not the best of ideas, given the whole dragon thing. Then he tries to kill Bilbo. Bilbo sensibly runs, and meets Thorin, who starts to threaten him for the Arkenstone (shades of Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring, actually), when Smaug demands all of their attention.

Ugh, this movie is super long, so I'm going to whirlwind through it. Orcs fight in Laketown, Legolas and Femgolas kill most of them, Femgolas heals Kili, who professes feverish love for her. It's...kind of dumb. The rest of the dwarves and Bilbo execute an amazing plan to use molten gold to kill Smaug. This is two things: First, it is totally the "hero" moment for all the dwarves, because in the book their plan is "show up and hope", so I don't mind it as much. Second, it is the single most contrived thing that has ever been shown on screen. Here is what has to happen. The forges need to be lit, so the gold can be melted, which is then sent through channels to a giant mold that resides in the Hall of Kings, and Smaug needs to be in front of it so that the dwarves can crack the mold and dump the gold on him. To get to the forges, the dwarves split up while being chased by Smaug, and taunt him into using his fire breath on them, which lights the forges when they hide behind the slats in a giant metal portcullis. Bombur begins using a giant bellows to fan the fires to melt the gold. Thorin sends Bilbo to pull a lever which will release water that will both put out Smaug's fire temporarily, and also start the waterwheels turning which will move the ore carts and enable some of the channel mechanisms. The dwarves use the ore carts to distract Smaug, while Balin prepares canisters of gunpowder (!!!) to distract and enrage Smaug. Thorin opens the channels to let the molten gold flow, and then throws a wheelbarrow into the gold to ride it to the Hall of Kings, leaving Bilbo to lead Smaug there as well. Smaug tries to kill Bilbo, but Thorin taunts him into approaching the cast, and the mold is broken, leaving a giant golden dwarf standing there ever so briefly before the molten gold splashes over Smaug covering him and the Hall in molten gold. Smaug walks it off, and goes to destroy Laketown. The end.

By any sane account, each of these folks should have died 30 times over executing this long, complex, nigh impossible plan. Look, I've tried on the fly complex plans in combat situations against powerful foes before during my gaming experiences, and usually they devolve into "rush 'em and pray" because even with the most intense planning, they fall apart so very easily. How in the HELL did Thorin know about the statue being "all but cast" and somehow, in the 30 seconds he must have had, spill this plan to the rest of the dwarves and Bilbo, in addition to surviving extremely close encounters with molten gold and dragon fire. It was an incredible action sequence, but it was completely and totally so far over the top as to go back under and go over the top a second time. What the everloving fuck did I just watch?

On the FACE Rating System, this movie gets 3 frowny faces. It had some really impressive visuals, and the action sequences were spectacular, but it suffers from a myriad of pacing problems, wild departures from even what the "moviefied" version of this book should be, several plot cul-de-sacs, a pointless romance set up, a completely unnecessary social commentary about corrupt politicians, and a level of cartoonishness and ridiculousness that is even more outrageous than anything in the original Lord of the Rings Trilogy could throw at us. Holy Shit This Fucking Film. I feel as though I wasted 2.5 hours of my life, and while middle films are often a bit of marking time in film trilogies, this film is the worst aspects of that ten fold. I am incredibly disappointed and you should be too.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Kotas Reviews Gingerbread Pop Tarts

I have a special fondness for convenience breakfast foods. Toaster Strudel and microwave pancakes were a staple for several years during my childhood, and who doesn't love a nice Egg McMuffin from time to time? Well, hold onto your butts folks, for today we visit something old and comforting, yet new and strange. Today we examine the Gingerbread Pop Tart.

Printed Fun may be Best Fun.

This is some seriously busy packaging. Pop Tarts are something I have enjoyed since I was a wee tot, because they are easy, quick, and most importantly jammed full of sugar. Clearly the perfect breakfast for a kid like me. As an adult, I have retained a fondness for them, though my go to flavor is "uniced strawberry" so that they aren't quite as sweet as the frosted sugar bombs of my youth. These do not have icing, but they purport to have some sort of festive imagery emblazoned on them. Let's see how they did.

Well, that certainly is some sort of...something.
I am...not very impressed by these images. Sure, I'm not expecting haute stuff from a box of Pop Tarts, but they should at least be recognizable. On the left we have a...pirate? Octopus? Pirate Octopus? Random blob? On the right, is either someone jumping or an angry sea serpent. Or a snake horse. Angry parrot? Whatever, how does it taste? 

Dear Kellogg's Pop Tart Engineers, I appreciate the fact that you have produced a number of fine confections over the  years. Your Iced Cherry Pop Tarts are particularly tasty. But seriously folks, eat some gingerbread and then eat these and go back to the drawing board. I am not sure what you were going for here, but these are NOT at all like gingerbread. More like snickerdoodles made with something vaguely gingerish. The icing is also sweetish, but does not compliment the other flavors very well. Overall, it is not bad, but it is not particularly good either. Very disappointing.

On the FACE Rating System, these suckers get 1 frowny face. I appreciate the effort, I suppose, and they weren't terrible, but they were not very good either, and the sub-par artwork did not add to their appeal. 

Kotas Reviews Mayfield Peppermint Stick Ice Cream

Ah, the holidays have passed, our gift collections have swollen, and it's time to try some new (or not so new) things before the New Year is upon us. Christmas may be over, but there's still a plethora of holiday themed things to sink our teeth into, so let's look at today's subject: Peppermint Stick Ice Cream!

Skiing. Nothing more than...skiing.
Mayfield tends to put out simple ice creams that are a flavor done very well, or complicated jumbles that throw everything but the kitchen sink in and yet still somehow stay coherent in flavor. Today's subject tries to be both of these things together, just in time for the season. I rather like the packaging, though it departs from the traditional Mayfield yellow, because how often are you going to see an image of a cow skiing with peppermint candy canes? Not very often in my experience. Let's rip the top off and see what we can see.

The phrase you are looking for is "underwhelming".
Okay, so it isn't very exciting to look at. Just white ice cream with flecks of green and red peppermint candy in it. It's somewhat festive, but I was hoping for a bolder statement. Still, something visually pedestrian can conceal a powerhouse of flavor. Unfortunately for this ice cream, that is not the case. When I have had peppermint ice cream in the past, it tends to be a pink ice cream with a very strong peppermint flavor. Sometimes that flavor would be too strong, but here? There isn't much flavor AT ALL outside of the peppermint candy bits. This might be okay if the candy was fairly evenly distributed, but it is not. The chunks tend to be pretty large and while the color of them is common, the actual bits themselves are pretty clustered together, with a whole lot of nothing in between. That ice cream is best described as sweet, cold, and flavorless. It's not even "vanilla with a hint of peppermint", it's just "nothing with the occasional peppermint bit". The candy bits aren't even very good candy bits, as a final insult.

On the FACE Rating System, this ice cream gets 2 frownys. I expect a lot from a Mayfield ice cream, and usually even flavors I don't like are at least well crafted. This? This is a lazy seasonal effort that attempts to be "different" from the normal peppermint ice cream, and falls completely flat. If you simply MUST have Mayfield peppermint ice cream, I guess you only have this as a choice, but for everyone else, avoid.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Kotas Reviews So Delicious Dairy Free Nog Coconut Milk

Welcome to Day 5 of Eggnog Week! One type of product that has always kind of weirded me out is the faux-dairy product. I know a lot of people can't drink milk and such, but soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and a whole host of other milks that come from "not cows" to readily seem like they are trying much too hard to be "milk" and not "milk substitute". A black bean burger can be delicious, but if it tries to be too much like a meat burger instead of its own thing, it ends up being a crushing disappointment. With all that in mind, let's look at today's subject.


Hang on folks. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.

So Delicious Dairy Free makes a wide variety of coconut and almond milk products that I'm sure you've seen in your local green grocers. This is one of their "holiday" flavors, along with Mint Chocolate and (sigh) Pumpkin Spice. I am not a huge fan of coconut flavor in general, but I do occasionally indulge in an Almond Joy or Samoa here and there. This particular incarnation claims to be "Nog" flavored. This is actually a ready concession to the fact that artificial eggnog tastes a lot like...well, nog, whatever that magical substance may be. But how well will it pair with coconut milk? 


Dun, dun, DUUUUUUUUUUN.

Well, it looks a lot like eggnog to me. Smells faintly of coconut and noggishness, but how bad could it really be? Well, I'll tell you, it can be pretty freakin' terrible. This is drinking coconut milk laced with something almost but not quite entirely unlike eggnog. If you've ever entered a room where all the furniture was moved 1 inch to the left but you didn't know about it, that vague and growing sense of "wrongness" is exactly what I am talking about. It's pretty thin in consistency, but it really doesn't taste like eggnog or even just nog. It tastes like you'd expect vertigo to taste like. Off putting and strange, but not undrinkable I suppose. Coconut milk lovers will be much more inclined to like this, but the weird "faux-faux-nog" flavor is still unsettling.


Because of Science, I threw some rum into this because really, that could only improve the flavor, right? The pina colada is a classic for a reason, right? WRONG. The flavor of the coconut milk, coupled with their version of "nog" completely cancels out the rum flavoring leaving you with a glass of creamy alcoholic nothing. Seriously, it has no flavor at all other than the vagueish hint at generic sweetness. This was even MORE off putting and strange than the stuff by itself! Also, adding booze made it even more awful. How is that even a thing? 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets a well deserved 2 frowny faces. It is drinkable, but it is something I would want to do as fast as possible so I could move on to actual good drinks. If you like coconut milk you might be more inclined to enjoy this, but their particular spin on "nog" is just wrong enough compared to normal nog as to push me off my game. If you've never had eggnog before and like coconut milk, you might like this, but everyone else? No. Just, no.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kotas Reviews Southern Comfort Eggnog

Welcome to Day 4 of Eggnog Week! There exists a concept in marketing known as cross promotion. Selling cheddar cheese? Maybe put some crackers on the same display, because crackers and cheese is a classic snack. Frozen Apple Pie? Maybe hang a plastic pie server or three near the case. There is also the concept of vertical integration. Why sell just cheese when you can break into that awesome cracker market? Do you make pasta? Might want a branded sauce to go along with it. Today's example is probably the oddest pairing of these two concepts I've encountered, Southern Comfort Eggnog.


Seriously, I would have never guessed this was a thing.
You know, when I think of Southern Comfort, I do not think "I hope they produce an eggnog!" Southern Comfort, for those of you who don't know, is an American fruit and spice liqueur that was the favorite drink of one of my old bosses. I've not actually had the stuff in a long time, but I remember it being very sweet. Still, I would not have expected a liquor company to make eggnog, but I suppose it is a classic pairing. Let's pour a glass!

Ready for action!

It looks good in the glass, maybe just a touch more off white than the Mayfield brand. The scent is a bit stronger than Mayfield as well, and it is thinner in consistency. The taste has a sharp hit of "the nog", definitely bolder than the Mayfield, but it tapers off fairly quickly with additional sips. The flavor is...sharper? More nog essence than Mayfield, but it doesn't linger as long. It's very good, actually and will definitely satisfy your noggin. 


I still had some rum, so in it went. Wow, now I see why it has the flavor profile it does. The strong flavor stands out more from the rum when the two are blended, such that the eggnog and rum are more like partners than one taking a back seat to the other. I think that this eggnog, probably by design, is better suited for mixing with booze than Mayfield, even if it isn't quite as good straight up. Of course, given the branding, this makes perfect sense. Well played, Southern Comfort. Well played.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 smiley faces. Straight up it's pretty darn good, though I prefer the Mayfield. With booze though? This is the clear winner, so pick your nog accordingly. Nogheads will still find a lot to like about this, even without booze, so I recommend you pick yourself up a carton, settle back, and find some Comfort this holiday season.


Post Script!

If you are looking for the Real Deal in Eggnog, mosey on over to Experiments from the Bar. He has a nice little discussion about eggnog going on over there, and of course he includes a recipe

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kotas Reviews Mayfield Eggnog

It'd Day 3 of Eggnog Week, and what better way to get over Hump Day than to drink some actual eggnog! I know it isn't as wacky as some of the things I've consumed in the past, but hey, it is Eggnog Week. That and I love eggnog. Let's break it down!

In convenient half serving size bottles. Everyone knows the serving size for eggnog is the "carton" or half gallon.
Ain't she a beaut? Today's eggnog comes from the fine folks at Mayfield Dairy. Many of my audience consider this to be the quintessential eggnog, but frankly I grew up on Purity eggnog so it remains to be seen. I do think this packaging is spectacularly festive though. Of course, how does it look in the glass?

EXTREEEEEEME CLOSEUP!

It smells exactly like artificial eggnog should, vaguely nutmeggy with that unique noggishness teasing the palate. It has the customary flecks of brown to indicate that yes Virginia, there is nutmeg in here. The taste? Well kiss my grits this stuff is amazing. If you like artificial eggnog, this may be the eggnog to get. Creamy, rich, but not too thick, it goes down easy and leaves a lovely noggish aftertaste. It is hard to describe the mysterious flavor I call "Nog", actually, unless you've had artificial eggnog before. I can't get enough of the stuff, but some people find it is not their cup of tea. 


Of course, there was one other test. How does it go with booze? Well, I had some rum just lying around and I mixed in some...you know, for Science or whatever. Well, alcohol does a couple of things: first it thins out the mixture so it becomes less viscous. Second, it can (depending on the amount) mute the nog flavor by quite a bit. This does not diminish the drink however, merely changes the focal point from the nog to the booze. Adding less booze might help with that, but that would mean adding less booze!

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 smiley faces. This may be the one Nog of which all other Nogs are but shadows, and it's not bad with booze either. Whether your an addict looking to satisfy a nog craving, or a nog newbie taking their first steps into a broader, more fattening world, this is the nog for you!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Kotas Reviews Mayfield Eggnog Flavored Custard Ice Cream

Welcome to Day Two of Eggnog Week! Today we will be looking at a product from one of my local dairies: Mayfield. Mayfield Dairy is a Tennessee institution, and is definitely one of the premier regional purveyors of cow secretions in the Southeast. Since 1910 they've been foisting their delicious treats upon us, and in the dessert area they have a huge variety of ice cream flavors and novelties. Today's subject is one of their holiday offerings. Let's take a gander at Mayfield Eggnog Flavored Custard.

Custard? I thought it was ice cream? Is it both? WHAT BLACK SORCERY IS THIS?

So, I wondered why the packaging said "custard" on it, but also "ice cream". Turns out, there is probably a reason for it. You see, frozen custard, by law, must contain a bit under 2% egg yolk solids, while ice cream has no such requirement. I'm going to guess that this should probably be "eggnog custard flavored ice cream", rather than the mess on the label, but whatever. The carton looks pretty festive, what with the reindeer dressed in a holiday button up shirt, and the lights and all. Seriously though, how does he button it with those hooves? In fact, how the heck does he hold the cup of eggnog? You know, it's just ice cream, I should stop worrying about these things. It IS a limited edition, after all, and the nightmare world of reindeer with magical "able to hold things" hooves will only haunt me briefly. Yes, yes...only briefly. Anyway, how does it look in the bowl?

That is most definitely a bowl of ice cream.
Looks pretty good to me! No real surprises, though it lacks the small flecks of brown that most store-bought eggnog has. The faint odor is pure artificial eggnog, and that is promising. The flavor is smooth and creamy eggnog, very similar to the eggnog milkshake from yesterday, but richer somehow. Less distinct nutmeg overtones, but they are there, and that special element I can only call "nog" is present in abundance. Mayfield makes darn good ice cream and this is no exception. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 smiley faces. Definitely a holiday treat for us nog lovers, and I think it would pair well with chocolate syrup. Still, if you are not a fan of eggnog, this will not convert you, and may in fact repulse you. If you are looking for more nutmeg flavor, this will not satisfy, but you could probably sprinkle on some for the extra kick.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kotas Reviews the McDonalds Eggnog Milkshake

It's that time of year again, when the cold wind starts blowing in, and people scurry to add meaning to their joyless existences by purchasing mass produced brickabrack that is designed to look thoughtful and non-commercial. That's right ladies and gentlemen! Winter is here! And with winter comes that most delectable of substances, Eggnog! This week we here at Kotas Reviews Everything will be taking a gander at several varieties of eggnog and eggnog-based products in celebration of the return of this magical substance. Let's begin with the McDonalds Eggnog Milkshake.


She's a beaut, ain't she?
Of course it would be a milkshake. According to my statistics, my post about this milkshake is my most popular post ever, and I am definitely one to give the readers what they want! Anycrap, onto the initial first impressions. Like all McDonalds milkshakes these days, this one comes with whipped cream and a cherry on top, though by "on top" they mean "sort of shoved off to the side and buried under the whipped cream". Hey, at least it is there. The color of the shake is exactly what you would expect, sort of an off-white eggshell kind of color. Yeah, that's pretty much what eggnog looks like. Still, it is more attractive than some shakes I've purchased.

This thing smells like artificial eggnog, and the taste is 100% true to that scent. Which is to say it tastes very little like actual eggnog. I have not indulged in such a treat very often, but real honest to goodness rummed up eggnog is seriously one of the best things I've ever put in my drink hole. So on that count this falls flat on its face. HOWEVER, if you are like me and grew up drinking the wide range of artificial non-alcoholic eggnog products produced for this season, the flavor is on par with that experience. That rich creaminess with that hint of nutmeg and something uniquely faux-noggish is reproduced here in shake format. I happen to like that flavor, but some people can't stand it and if you are looking for a more authentic nog experience, your search must continue.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets a hearty two smiley faces. Faux-Nog goodness in milkshake format is aces in my book. There is a catch, however, maybe two. First, if you don't like artificial eggnog, you will absolutely hate this shake. Second, if you are looking for an authentic nog experience, you will not find it here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kotas Reviews the Iced Gingerbread Clif Bar

There are a number of foods that benefit from having an enormous variety of flavors. Jelly Belly jelly beans, waffles topped with things, milkshakes, and bubble gum fit the bill nicely. There are other foods where just a few really good variations are all you need, like bacon, ham, and sausage (pork is just delicious and SHUT UP I'M NOT HUNGRY). Clif Bars should probably fall into the latter category, but they are trying to make themselves into the former. Let's see how they fare today.

Here we go again.
I still like the holiday packaging and it is an example of how to do it right. The imagery calls back to, but does not exactly match, the standard packaging, and the different varieties each have distinct if small differences. So, kudos on that. Onward!

Oh look. More different stripes. How original.
Well, it smells gingerbread-y, so it's a step up from the last one of these I reviewed, if only just a tad. It has the same icing stripes, but here they actually make some sense, given this is Iced Gingerbread we're attempting to mimic. The scent also has a nice gingery element, though it is more in the range of a ginger snap than ginger bread. The taste? Much the same, really. This very much reminds me of iced gingersnaps rather than ginger bread. Spicy ginger with a crunch and a crispness. Gingerbread (good gingerbread anyway) should have a softer texture and flavor, and the other spices should be more subtle. This is more in your face, but not in an unpleasant way.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 smiley face. Definitely closer to the mark than other seasonal Clif Bars, but not quite there. If you like gingersnaps or ginger flavored things in general, give this one a try. I'd eat it again, certainly, and might pick up one or two during the season, but it is not a go to flavor. They definitely tried a lot harder on this one, and it shows.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Kotas Reviews the Pecan Pie Clif Bar

Some seasonal foods for the upcoming Holiday Clusterfuck are eagerly anticipated by many, such as eggnog. Some seasonal foods are hated and reviled, such as fruitcake. Then there is another category of seasonal foods, which seem to entirely miss the point. Ladies and gentlemen, today we take a look at one of these. 

Well well well, lookee what we got here.

I've talked about my enjoyment of Clif Bars before, so I won't repeat that here, but I must say I'm pleased to see additional offerings in their distinct yet recognizable holiday packaging. It's about as inoffensive as it gets, though I'm pretty sure they ripped off the pose from a poster of Cliffhanger. Oh well, onward to the bar!

Stripes are STILL totally in this year!
Welp, I don't know why I was expecting something different, and yet I am still disappointed. We still have our usual "slab of mushy granola in vague bar shape, covered with icing stripes". Seriously, why icing stripes? No pecan pie I've ever had has ever had icing stripes, or icing PERIOD. A lot of your other bars lack such decoration, so why include it? Is it just more "festive" that way? 

The flavor is almost entirely unlike pecan pie. There's something pecan-ish about it, particularly when you eat a bit of pecan. It has some vague holiday-like spicing. But pecan pie? Not really. Real pecan pie doesn't usually have cinnamon in it, and has WAY more high fructose corn syrup. This is pretty good, but it surely isn't pecan pie. Maybe more like spice-covered pecans. Nothing very pie like though.

On the FACE Rating System, this one gets 0 faces. It's not bad, and I like some variety, but it surely isn't pecan pie. I'm pretty sure the foodgineers here were told to make some "holiday" flavors, slapped this together and then popped off to the pub for a three beer lunch. "Eh, fuck it. Slap seasonal on the label, I've got my kid's soccer game tonight." It is not the laziest seasonal food I've ever seen, but half-assed is definitely the vibe. The packaging is nice enough, but this is not a seasonal product I will seek out in particular during the holiday season. Give it a whirl if you like Clif Bars, but it's not a must taste.