Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kotas Reviews Peppermint Oreos

I absolutely love this time of year. You know that scene in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with the lights? That isn't comedy, that's a GOAL, son! It's the time of year to jingle your bells, stuff your stocking and deck those halls up good! You know, that sounded less dirty before I typed it all up. Anyway, today we (of COURSE) look at one of TWO different holiday flavored Oreos out this year: Peppermint Oreos! Man there are a lot of Oreos these days.

Truth in advertising.
That right there is the essence of a seasonal flavor. No cutesy artwork, no hiding the actual product on the package, just Peppermint Oreos and a picture of Peppermints, in case you forgot what they looked like. Like all Limited Edition Oreos, this comes in a smaller container than regular Oreos, but costs the exact same. Hrm. Maybe that's how you know you've "made it" as a flavor. They put you in the big package. Lookin' at you Lemon Oreos

I am a little miffed about their choice to remove the "easy open seal" thing from the packages of limited edition cookies. It was just so convenient! Also, looking back it seems the weight of the limited edition packages has gone down a couple of ounces in the past year. Maybe it cost too much? What's that Nabisco? You needed to squeeze every possible cent out of these things to make your Quarterly Numbers? Augh, screwed again by Big Cookie. And at Christmas Time! Now, where was I?

Oh, right., the cookies. I made a mutant snowman picture with them!
The scent on these is exactly what I thought a peppermint Oreo should smell like: Oreo cookie, and peppermint. I know you are all bewildered by that staggeringly astute observation, but hey, I'm a simple man with simple needs and desires. I'll tell you this: The cookie part makes this work. Without it, the creme by itself is vaguely toothpaste-ish and kind of off putting, but with the cookie to offset that, it tastes like a minty chocolate cookie. Pretty tasty, really! I think this may work better in the Thin configuration, since there would be less creme to interfere with the cookie crunch. I think they would go splendidly with hot chocolate by the fire, though they aren't really so good with milk, probably because of the whole toothpaste comparison. Also because mint and milk are not flavors that should ever really be together.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 smiley faces. A simple, straightforward, snack sensation succinctly summarizing seasonal...uh...well, it falls apart there, but you get the idea. I think these would be great at any holiday gathering, or simply snuggling with loved ones in front of the fireplace. I wouldn't want these every day though, so it is best if they remain an annual treat. I do think these could be confused with the Winter Oreos, which are just Oreos with red coloring and "winter" designs on the cookie. Put these side by side for some delightful Christmas Hilarity! 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Kotas Reviews Cranberry and Sage Triscuits

Happy Holidays everyone! There are a ton of holidays packed into this month (Hanukkah, Christmas, Return Terrible Presents Boxing Day, New Year's Eve, etc.) but I'm going to attempt to review some things in the holiday spirit. You know what 'tis the season for? Holiday Parties! Yes, whether you are embarrassing yourself with the eggnog fountain at your office party, or simply gorging on food at your in-laws' annual get together, December means holiday parties, which means Holiday Snacks! Today we have...wait, what? Cranberry and Sage Triscuits? Oh man, it's gonna be one of THOSE years...


That's somewhat festive, I'll give it that.
Triscuits are an odd beast, even without any holiday trappings. First developed in 1900 and taken to market in 1903 by Nabisco, the Triscuit is one of the oldest branded snack foods that we still consume today. Of the popular snack crackers they are the most durable and the single best vehicle for toppings you can have, given their inherent sturdiness as a cracker. They also have a relatively unique texture, and come in all sorts of flavors...such as the one we look at today. I can say, I've never THOUGHT to include cranberry as a flavor on my wheat based snack cracker, particularly paired with SAGE of all the herbs, but hey, how bad could it be? It's a Triscuit! I generally like Triscuits, though not as a go to snack food. They require me to be in a mood for them. So...how are these gonna stack up?


Why am I allowed to speak? No good can come of it.
Well, that's a Triscuit for you. I've always loved the look of Triscuits because nothing else looks like them. These have the usual "colored dust" that many savory flavored snacks have, with flecks of green to indicate the sage, I'm guessing. The scent is definitely some cranberry and sage, with the wheatiness of the Triscuit strongly present, but not completely dominant. The cranberry is sort of muted, yet obvious. It's weird.

The flavor is...mostly sage actually. There seems to be little to no direct cranberry taste, though in the aftertaste and in the nose it is very present. I keep smelling cranberry, but while I'm actually eating the cracker cranberry vanishes, only to return after the cracker is gone as a lingering presence. It is interesting, but I don't think I like it. It's not horrible, at least. Just very weird. Probably would work better with some toppings, but it is fairly unpleasant for snacking on. Sage is not what I would choose for a primary flavor on anything, let along a cracker, especially when the supposed cranberry compliment is absent for the critical portion of the taste journey.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 frowny face. The cranberry is like an elusive entity that comes and goes when it wants to, rather than when you want it to be there. The sage is absolutely the strongest flavor continuum that this cracker has since it is present for the whole experience. I don't think either of those features are very good. Real herbed Triscuit aficionados might find something here to like, but I advise not bothering with this one. Not completely awful, but poor execution of a mediocre idea does not an tasty treat make.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Kotas Reviews Caramel Apple Oreos

Welcome to the end of our exploration of our Caramel Apple Week Series! I know the schedule's been a little irregular, but a lot of stuff has been going on, so I hope you will all cut me some slack. Still, to close out this exploration of Caramel Apple, we get the one you've all been waiting for, nay, expecting! Today we look at Caramel Apple Oreos.

Dun dun DUUUUUUN!
Well, that's some imagery right there, isn't it? Big, bold, and in your face, the packaging for these Oreos makes no bones about what you are getting. Also, we are definitely getting a sour apple variant this go around. At least, I think we are. Look at that green filling! I am not terribly impressed with the combination of "neon green and light brown" as colors here, but I suppose they get the point across. Of note is that this package, unlike every other package of limited edition Oreos, does not have the inviso-seal flap. I had to open this one the old fashioned way. Let's take a look inside.

And I thought they smelled good, on the outside!
I just don't particularly like the color scheme here, with the light brown. It's not very appetizing in a dessert, unlike in a more savory offering. I do know why they went with a vanilla cookie though, as chocolate might clash a bit. These cookies do smell amazingly like caramel and apple though, so that's a good sign. How do they taste?

They taste almost but not quite like caramel apple cookies, that's for sure. There is definitely a good fake sour apple flavor, and that is reflected in just eating the bright green filling by itself. Where this falls down though is with the caramel side. The light brown cream is "vaguely" caramel-ish, but not exactly and its generic sweetness kind of overshadows any distinct flavoring, in contrast to the bright green filling. The vanilla cookie offers nothing but a base flavor that doesn't mesh with either of these flavors, though it is ultimately non-offensive. It's an okay apple cookie that is overly sweet and has a strong scent of caramel and apple, but the flavor falls way short of the odor. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets zero faces. It's not a bad cookie, but it is definitely in the category of "A for effort, C in execution". If you are an Oreo fanatic, or have a fondness for the rarely found apple flavored cookie, you might go out and try these. Otherwise I would stick to the "if offered, give it a taste, but don't spend money on it" line of thinking.

Well, that's the end of Caramel Apple...something. I hope you've enjoyed this romp through disappointment and (in some cases) crushing tragedy. I think Pumpkin Spice is safe as the top flavor pairing of Fall for a long time to come. Maybe if some of these companies put some, you know, actual effort into their products (Nabisco excluded) they might have turned out better.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Kotas Reviews R.W. Knudsen's Caramel Apple Juice

Welcome to another day of Caramel Apple Week! We've been looking at a lot of candy this week, so today we are going down a different path, to one of drinks! Honestly, outside of the milkshake, I didn't think you could make Caramel Apple into a successful drink. It doesn't really pair well with coffee, though I suppose the case could be made for tea. Today's subject however, went in an unexpected direction. Let's take a gander at Caramel Apple Juice.

Limited Edition! It must be good, right?
Seriously, this is a thing that exists. R.W. Knudsen apparently saw fit to dive into the burgeoning caramel apple craze by being the first (and only that I am aware of) company to take sparkling apple juice (loved by teetotalers the world over on New Year's Eve) and combine it with caramel...or at least caramel flavoring.
Non-alcoholic, of course.
 The label is pretty simple, and I like the artwork that has the apples and the caramel together, yet as separate items, rather than the usual "apple covered in caramel" picture. It's a small touch, but a nice one. Perhaps indicative of what is inside? Let's find out.

Rock that jam jar. Rock it hard!
Well, the smell is very weird and off putting. It has a caramel-ish scent, but it is undercut by something else that I can't quite place, but it made my nose wrinkle in fear. Eh, maybe it just takes some getting used to. Let's take a sip! 

Okay, have you ever had something described as a liquid emotion? As in "this tastes like liquid happy" or something like that? Well, this is Liquid Disgust. I swear that of all the flavors one thinks of when tasting caramel apple, SOUR AS FUCK is not what I was expecting. It actually made me wince when I took a big sip, it was so sour. Look, when making caramel apples, it is supposed to be sweet, not like you just brined the apples in essence of Warheads and children's tears. Also, Dat Aftertaste! It is caramel, but caramel made by Evil Keebler Elves or something, because it tastes like the sugared wails of the forsaken. I did manage to finish the glass, but only just. The carbonation was fine.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 frowny faces. Seriously, how the hell do you fuck up sparkling apple juice? Apparently by adding caramel flavoring, or using shitty apples to make the juice or something. SOUR! Why is it SOUR? Not recommended, at all. Shame too, as their usual juice is perfectly fine. Just say no to this one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Kotas Reviews Caramel Apple Laffy Taffy

Caramel Apple Week continues with...taffy! Taffy is a confection that one sees but rarely outside of tourist traps and any place the purports to do things "the old fashioned way"...by being a tourist trap. Still, it is a candy style that I greatly enjoy and if any candy type would pair well with a caramel apple flavor, it's taffy. But, does it actually work? Ladies, gentleman, children of all ages, today we examine Caramel Apple Laffy Taffy.

Created in a time when misspelling words was kewl.
Laffy Taffy is about the only mass market brand of taffy to exist in stores today that is actually referred to as taffy. Starburst candies are also technically a taffy, but no one seems to realize that, so I will ignore it for now. Taffy pops up in several regional shops, but it was never really a staple of the candy aisle...with the Laffy Taffy exception. Personally, I love the stuff. It is probably the finest brand of edible plastic you can buy and it comes in a variety of yummy flavors. Yes, even the banana flavor. Plus, it's brightly colored! Well, let's see how they do on the caramel apple front. The packaging is...okay, clearly going with a "green apple" motif which is at odds with the stereotypical caramel apple, but whatever. Nothing to write home about. Let's crack these open!

Well, it's...brown.
Laffy Taffy used to come in wax paper squares, rather than the plastic sealed rectangles it arrives in today. Why is this even a thing? Well, you see, this particular formulation is really hard to get out of the package unscathed. Hell, if it gets even slightly warm from, say, holding it in your hand, it can become nigh impossible to get out of the package in anything resembling one piece. I actually had to throw away half of a piece of the stuff simply because I couldn't get the wrapper off. I never had this problem with other flavors, nor with the old wax paper, so I chalk it up to this formulation being extra sticky. You may now make your jokes. 

Speaking of jokes, the central conceit of Laffy Taffy is that it has jokes printed on the wrappers. These jokes are generally submitted by children, and the quality varies from "Dad Joke" to "You should Never be allowed to write Humor again." For example: "What goes to the top of a haunted house? Mon-Stairs!". And this particular gem: "What October holiday do dogs celebrate?" "Bow-wow-ween". I mean, COME ON. The obvious pun there is Howl-o-ween, but nooooooo....we had to go with something nonsensical. This is what happens when you let the public submit content folks. (Full disclosure: that last joke was submitted to me by a former co-worker from HIS piece of Laffy Taffy. You know who you are.)

The scent is heavily on the caramel side, as is the color. So why the HELL is the only real flavor that of an apple? And not even a sour apple, but a regular old apple...well, artificial apple flavoring anyway. Seriously, this stuff is pretty much all apple, all the time in flavor, which is totally at odds with the color and scent. Just...what? 

That's like, three times now that candy makers have messed up a combination flavor in some fashion! How hard is this to do? You put your caramel stuff here, you add some apple there, you add some color there, and you shake it all about. You put them both together and you have caramel apple, This Isn't Exactly Toooooough! Seriously folks, I could take a Kraft Caramel and eat it with Red Apple Jelly Bellies and it would be way more Caramel Apple than this candy is by itself. Not a bad apple flavor though. Way better than most artificial apple flavored things.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 frowny face. The actual apple flavor isn't bad, but the disconnect between scent, aesthetics and taste is jarring, especially since I was expecting the apple to be sour apple and not standard apple. Plus, the formula makes unwrapping this much more difficult than it should be. This is definitely in the "eat if offered, don't bother trying to buy" category. At least, if you can get the damn wrapper off.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kotas Reviews the Caramel Apple Milky Way

Welcome to a much delayed Day 2 of Caramel Apple Week! Once again we delve into the dark mysteries of the up and coming flavor challenger to the venerable and beloved Pumpkin Spice. Will it survive the marketing push that it is under? Nobody knows, but candy is a good place to get your caramel apple on since for a lot of candy you just have to add apple flavoring. Today we look at one such example: The Caramel Apple Milky Way.

Schmancy!
As a child one of my absolute favorite candy bars was the Milky Way (or Mars Bar as it's known everywhere else in the world). I was going through my "I don't like any kind of nut in any of my candy" phase and the Milky Way provided a nice, peanut free alternative to the otherwise ubiquitous Snickers bar. I have never lost my affection for them, but they tend to be a "fall back" candy when I want something comforting and familiar and not necessarily interesting. How does this one shape up?

The packaging is certainly a step up from the "brown and more brown" of the traditional Milky Way. Red stands out from other candy wrappers in this category nicely, and there's some pleasing art of caramel and apples, together. Let's see how these things look!

More like UnFun Size, amirite?
Yeah, pretty much what I expected. As an aside, why are these tiny bits of candy called "Fun Size"? Was "miniature" not entertaining enough? And seriously, wouldn't it be more fun if it was bigger? In fact, if your goal is to reduce waste these bits are a total failure, probably adding 3 times the wrapper for the same amount of candy as in a regular Milky Way. You know what? I'm rambling. Let's eat them! NOW!

That feeling right there? That's "underwhelming" in a nutshell.
Well...it is definitely a Milky Way. The nougat is a little lighter than in normal Milky Ways, but the flavor is mostly the same, except for a hint of "apple-ish something" that seems very tacked on. It never really gels with the caramel OR the nougat, sort of showing up in the aftertaste more than anything as a reminder that "Oh yeah, these are caramel apple and not regular Milky Ways". It's not bad, but it is nothing particularly special. I wanted to like these, but ultimately I doubt I would notice they were different from regular Milky Ways until after I had eaten some. I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to eat one.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. It's a Milky Way with an apple reference and different packaging. Unless you are a candy wrapper art aficionado, don't bother with this one. However, if you are offered one, there is no reason to turn it down. Unless you hate Milky Ways, of course. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Kotas Reviews Having a Heart Attack

There comes a time in every man's life when he pauses to reflect on what he has done in the [REDACTED] years that have led up to this particular moment. The stereotypical response is to become enthusiastic about grooming again, purchase some variety of compensation for insecurity (preferably with a lot of horsepower), and then simply be embarrassed about the whole shebang 5 or so years later, when you laugh over it with a couple of friends over beers. Then there is the other time in a man's life, when he has a fucking heart attack before age 40. Today we review "Having a Heart Attack". 

So, after several days fighting off various other illnesses ranging from colds to strep throat, I had just settled down for along fall nap (known 'round the Kotas Household as "going to bed") in our "sick bed", when I awoke with some vague unease in my chest. I dismissed it as "random bullshit", like ya do, and returned to try to sleep. The pain, however, decided that I would simply lie there and whimper, as it began the slow dialing up from 1 (vague discomfort) to 8 or so (Augh why! But hey, I still have my limbs...I think). Around 5 or so, my loving wife shows up with "Uh, are you okay?" We then proceed to discuss the relative merits of "going to the hospital" and "maybe it's just really bad heartburn." Two Pepto-Bismol, level 7 and 15 minutes later, I'm being shoved into the car while my father in law screeches into the driveway to watch our child while my wife and I tear ass over to the hospital. 

The ER staff was initially somewhat hesitant to declare that I was having a heart attack, given that I had a horrible wracking cough (thanks, previous illnesses) and had probably just pulled a muscle. When my initial blood test came back with "Oh yeah, he TOTALLY had a heart attack", the pain had subsided and I was installed into a normal hospital room. It was about that time that Mr. Chest Pain (possibly the worst mascot ever invented) showed back up at 3, and just kept cranking up. I informed the staff of this, and after several sticky pads were shoved onto me and an EKG hooked up, they decided "Fuck it, off we go to get a heart catheter" and...well, let's be honest, I was scared shitless. When half a dozen medical professionals are slapping a wide variety of medical instruments to you (with adhesive, and without time to shave...places), shouting medical jargon and rushing, you get scared. Real scared. It wasn't more than anxiety until the words "Kiss your wife goodbye" were uttered, and then the tears began. It was kind of awful, is what I'm saying. 

To their credit, the medical staff were all professional and did their best to keep up my spirits. There is, however, only so much dignity and calm that can be conveyed in an emergency situation. So many sticky pads, needle sticks, and disinfectant wipes were used on me, before I was dragged, literally, onto a very uncomfortable and cold metal table, where the drugs were administered. This calmed me down a lot, and it goes kind of hazy at this point. I remember cracking a joke about getting a Brazilian due to the multiple apologies from the nurses about not having had time to shave my chest and other places before applying the diagnostic sticky pad things (oh so many of them), but mostly I remember just waiting and being cold. 

I'll let you look up what a heart catheter is on the Internet, but the TL;DR version is that they shove a tube up your femoral artery (through the groin, naturally) to poke around and see what's up. From there they can install a stent or do an angioplasty or several other things. For me though, they just found the problem: A blood clot was gumming up the works. It was decided that drugs would be the answer, since physical interaction might knock the clot to "elsewhere", and that would be bad, or so I'm told. From there, I ended up in the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), and was unable to lift my head or leg for six hours. That had numerous awkward moments, such as trying to use the portable urinal without moving much, and having my wife feed me my late lunch around 2pm, which was the best lunch ever having not eaten since...7pm the night before.

After some recovery time, I managed to sit up enough to eat, and take a handful of pills. For the next couple of days, I would go through a lot of sleep, some podcast listening, some texting, and more sleep. Thank goodness for smart phones and free WiFi, or I would have gone insane. On Halloween I subjected myself to a "Ghost Adventures" marathon in the vain hope it might be "somewhat spooky", but mostly it was dumb. I also had a second heart catheter, which showed the clot be dissolved yo. I consider this a win, and eventually moved to a normal room for a couple of days before going home. 

A few asides: The food in the hospital looked absolutely amazing. However, I was on the Cardiac Diet, which essentially means...no salt. So while the food LOOKED really good, the flavor did not match the appearance. It wasn't horrible, but in many cases it certainly wasn't good. I still ate all of it though, because hell, I was hungry. The desserts were usually the exception to the bad flavor rule, because it is really hard to fuck up pudding, and I do love pudding. The "chocolate pudding with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker crumbs" was a personal favorite. 

Sponges baths. We all make jokes about them, and they seem to be a popular thing for "randy old people" on TV. Let us say that they are way more awkward, cold, and humiliating than advertised. First off? No sponges. It's somewhat warm damp rags and/or extremely cold disinfecting wipes, usually done at 5 in the morning. Imagine being scrubbed down awkwardly with Lysol wipes and you get the idea. To describe it in one word: indignity.

Lastly, hospital gowns. Could their be a less flattering outfit? Probably, but this one is pretty terrible, given it had both too many snaps and not enough. Ah well, it was at least comfortable, if not warm. Speaking of warm, they have blanket heaters. This is awesome, and I want one. 

On the FACE Rating System, the heart attack gets the worst possible rating: 5 Frownie Faces. My own body literally tried to kill me, and I was never so happy as the day I got to go home. Heart attacks are stupid, and I hope to never, ever, EVER have one again. Not recommended for anyone!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Kotas Reviews Caramel Apple Twizzlers

Ah, Halloween, when we finally get a holiday that is solely about dressing up in spooky costumes in an effort to extort candy from those we once called "neighbors". How delightfully evil it all is! It is also a season for remembering treats from years gone by, even if you never actually had those treats as a kid. That's why this week is CARAMEL APPLE WEEK!

That's right, the treat that no one ever actually gets at Halloween is this season's Pumpkin Spice, in that I'm seeing Caramel Apple everything popping up. Sure, we had some examples from last year, but this year it has really gotten out of hand. With that in mind, we turn to our first subject, the legendary Caramel Apple Twizzler.

King Size, because you are my fans, and want me to suffer.
It is no secret that my red licorice twist of choice is the humble Twizzler. Only vaguely fruit flavored, it is the finest plastic treat that one can sink one's teeth into. There is just something particularly satisfying about biting into a Twizzler that is hard to explain. Also, if you bite the ends off you can use one as a makeshift straw! A terrible, terrible straw. So...how do these babies hold up?

Kang and Kodos would be proud of these candies. 
Well, they smell vaguely like caramel in some way. The sickly green color is supposed to represent a Granny Smith apple maybe? Or a Sour Apple flavoring? Seriously, was red not good enough here? There is something apple-ish about their odor, so I guess that is on theme. Maybe. Also, the goo inside oozes out a bit when you squeeze the end, which is sort of spooky. Maybe. Let's take a bite.

Oh God, what have I done? Seriously, this is all the worst parts of candy ever conceived and rolled up into terror. There is nothing apple here, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. In fact, if anyone says "Yeah, that's sort of like an apple" they are clearly evil space zombie communist vampire werewolves and need to be driven from their space enclaves. Seriously, fuck this flavor. The so called caramel fairs a little better, in that it is caramel in the same way a Sugar Baby is caramel...if that baby was barfing at the time. WHY IS IT GRITTY? When will manufacturers learn that GRITTY IS NOT A THING? The combination of both of these fucking terrible flavors is as nauseating as it is offensive to the mind. Come on Hershey's (the parent company of Twizzlers). Did someone put you up to this? DID THEY? STOP RUINING THINGS I LIKE. I ate two. I threw the rest out. I NEVER DO THIS.

On the FACE Rating System these get a Damning FOUR frownie faces, because seriously, fuck this shit, fuck the factory it was made it, and to hell with the person who thought this would be a good idea. If I never see another package of this travesty again, it'll be too soon. No one should eat this. DOGS should not eat this. I wouldn't wish these on prisoners. GAAAAAAAAAAH.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Kotas Reviews George Dickel Rye

I've been reviewing a lot of Pumpkin Spice things as of late, and to be frank, it's getting kind of old hat. Still, it is Fall and I should do something Fall-ish...maybe. Well, it is the harvest season, and that means lots of grain has to be stored. What is the most efficient way to store grain for transport? Booze, of course! Today we review George Dickel Rye.

The American Classic!
I know it is trendy,but I like rye quite a bit. It was the first whisky I'd had that I actually liked, though to be fair to whisky I hadn't much exposure past Jack Daniels or Col. Kwik-E-Mart's Kentucky Bourbon. Still, I have very much enjoyed my time with rye, and it's perfect weather for a glass to take off the chill. Anyway, the George Dickel Rye I have here is a 95% rye mash, which is pretty high. Hrm, that reminds me of Bulleit Rye, which was also 95% rye. Odd, isn't it? Well, not really. You see, both of these ryes are basically the same rye out of Midwest Grain Products (formerly Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana). Bulleit simply bottles it as is, while George Dickel here subjects it to their charcoal filter process that they use on their normal whisky.

Distilled in Lawrenceburg, Bottled by George Dickel. Kudos for honesty on the label!
The reason I bring this up is that there has been some controversy in the whisky world about a number of American brands not disclosing that the whiskey inside the bottle was simply purchased in bulk, blended, and bottled, rather than being distilled by the company on the label. Dickel has chosen not to hide anything. There's a good article on the topic over at The Whiskey Jug if you want to know more. What does all this mean to you, the drinker? Very little, since whisky blends are a perfectly fine thing to drink, though I personally feel that "not being lied to" by a company is a good thing. So, kudos to Dickel for that. Now, onto the drink itself!

In the traditional tumbler that is not at all a used jam jar.
I tried it neat first, because yes. This rye is a definite contrast to other ryes I've drunk. While it still has that characteristic rye pepperiness, it is much smoother overall. It tickles the nose properly, but is just a nice clean drink. Definitely some fruitiness to the flavor that I greatly enjoyed, as well as some nice vanilla underflavors. Very different from the Bulleit Rye, though I like them both. I guess that charcoal filtering does something after all! I also tried it on the rocks, and it's pretty good that way too.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 smiley faces. I may have found a new "daily drinker" rye to throw into my rotation, and that makes me happy. I am most happy at the price. $22 for the bottle, and worth every penny. If you like whisky, and more importantly, if you like rye, you should give this a shot. It is not the finest rye you can buy, but it may be one of the best you can buy for under $25.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kotas Reviews Pumpkin Spice Twinkies

So it has come to this. I knew this day would come, I just didn't expect it to be this soon. Hostess has joined Nabisco in evolving the flavor of its signature product to try and catch the spark of the viral flavor sensation in hopes of garnering ever more market share. An empty pursuit? Perhaps in the long term, but in the real of the now, it can only lead to glory...or infamy. Let's turn to today's subject: The Pumpkin Spice Twinkie.

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings....
Everyone's getting into the limited edition flavor train, and let's hope it hasn't already gone off the rails. Did anyone anywhere ask for this, outside of an executive board room? I can picture it now "Uh, sir, what new flavor do you think we should invest in for the fall? Apple perhaps? Oh, maybe revamp the Halloween Twinkie from last..." "Naw, I gots it! Pumpkin Spice is the hot new flavor, right?" "Uh, maybe from 3 years ago." "Right! Perfect. Ship it." "But.." "SHIP IT." I will say the box art is pretty much spot on. The product is front and center, surrounded with images of what the product should taste like. Or at least, remind us of other, less artificial tastes, right? I pity the poor flavor engineers that were tasked with this one, but hey, let's see how they did.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Well, they are Twinkies all right. No real changes to the sponge cake in this one, so the glory is all in the filling. The filling itself is pretty much "dirty fluff" in appearance, with a very strong "spice" component to the scent. There is a lot of cinnamon to be found, but hints at nutmeg and clove. Very, very little pumpkin though. The flavor is pretty much the same. Very heavy on the spice, not so much on the pumpkin but it is there, if only just. The sponge cake does not pair particularly well with this, but it also does not detract. It's not bad, though I doubt I would seek it out again. All in all, a fairly pedestrian cash in on a flavor trend that was on its way out anyway. I kind of expected to either love or hate these, but it gets a resounding "meh".

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. Nothing special, but I wouldn't turn it down if offered. If you like Twinkies, you will most likely enjoy trying them, but if you hate cinnamon stay the hell away from these. Good try, Hostess, but c'mon. You can do better. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Kotas Reviews Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats

I have a bit of an obsession with breakfast cereal. I'm not exactly sure when it started, but ever since I've been able to mostly choose my own meals unfettered by society's expectations (read: college), I rejoined the breakfast cereal community with a gusto. While my first love will always be the sugary desserts as breakfast cereals of my tender youth, I occasionally foray into adult-oriented cereals that try and be "hip and cool" to appeal to a younger generation. Today's subject is one such cereal, with a seasonal twist. Let's explore the world of Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats.

Super classy. You can tell by the lack of cartoon anthropomorphic cereal.
Shredded Wheat is not a cereal that kids will clamor for, really. In it's purest form (I believe only sold by Post these days) it generally resembles a hay bale, neatly crimped, that sits in your bowl. It is of a fairly large size, with 2 bales filling the average bowl. While the novelty of "giant cereal pieces" is intriguing at first, it quickly fades given the flavor of the cereal, which is decidedly "meh". Corn Flakes have more flavor, is what I'm saying. Kellogg's, after some interesting patent litigation, came out with a more kid-friendly variety, the Frosted Mini-Wheat, which touts much smaller cereal pieces, frosting, which is always a good sign, and some vague notion of being "more healthy" than the usual honey blasted sugar bombs that most kids oriented cereal consists of. Take a look!

Shhhh...it can sense fear.
Well, it is certainly cereal. I've always been a fan of Frosted Mini-Wheats as a concept, though I tend to get sick of them faster than other, more comforting cereals. How does this particular variety stack up? Well, it certainly has something "spice-ish" and "vaguely pumpkin-ish" about its scent. The frosting also has orange highlights, which is a nice touch for the presentation, but really, this stuff is always going to look like tiny hay bales to me. The taste is "wheat and frosting, but with added....something". It is a really vague flavor that kind of hints at maybe having been exposed to pumpkin like elements at some point in the manufacturing process, along with something that maybe is a spice accidentally added to the batch. The cereal pieces are uncommonly dry without milk, so much so that I do not really recommend eating this dry, but with milk they taste pretty good, but it's not really pumpkin spice so much as "not standard frosting". It is a mystery wrapped in wheat fibers coated with known unknowns. 

On the FACE Rating System, I give this 0 faces. It's not bad, and the flavor is pretty decent, but it is so confusing trying to figure out exactly what that flavor is beyond "sweet mystery". If you like Frosted Mini-Wheats, you might give it a try, but as a first Mini-Wheat endeavor I simply cannot recommend it. Without a frame of reference, one may just end up even more confused than I was.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Kotas Reviews Pumpkin Spice Creme Oreos

Fall is soundly upon us. Seriously, it hit us like a ton of damp leaves off of an oak. Or maybe I'm just projecting my experience to the universal. Anyway, pumpkin spice abounds in the world, with special signs pointing out the variety of gourd based concoctions bubbling forth from the cauldrons of the nation's food purveyors. Lucky for me, I rather like that particular flavor...most of the time. Let's see how Nabisco takes it on as we dive into Pumpkin Spice Creme Oreos!

Well, it had to happen sometime, didn't it?
Oreo flavors are now a staple of this blog, and who am I to shy away from a product that is clearly little more than a trend-following cash grab of a cookie, especially if it is an Oreo? Kotas, that's who. The package art is pretty simple. Pumpkin, check. Spice (in this case represented by cinnamon), check. Oreo (golden), check. Wickedly orange creme filling...check! This is pretty much what I expected to see from a Pumpkin Spice Oreo, and it works, though I do not particularly care for the idea that "spice" is wholly represented by cinnamon. What about nutmeg and clove, eh? Let's crack open these cookies and see what's what.

Uh...well, it's kind of orange.
 The smell is pretty fake smelling pumpkin with a hint of cinnamon and some other fall spice. The color though...I was expecting a brighter orange than "burnt umber" really. It's more of an orange-brown and is not particularly appetizing. Passes the twist off test with flying colors though, even if that color is "Jersey Boardwalk Spray Tan". 

The taste is much, MUCH better than I was expecting. In fact, it is about exactly what I would expect if I were eating a pumpkin pie flavored cookie. Sure, it's somewhat artificial, but that's to be expected when essence of pumpkin pie has to be crammed between two vanilla flavored wafers as a creme. Even without the cookie, the creme tastes pretty good, if a bit strong when not mellowed by the wafer's flavor and texture. Most surprising is that it's still good even with milk, the creaminess of the milk adding whipped cream like notes to the pumpkin pie flavorings. I'm sort of shocked at how good these are, really.

On the FACE Rating System, these get a solid 1 smiley face. I would not seek them out as a staple, but they certainly fill the role of "man, I want some pumpkin pie, but I'm not willing to cook one." and as an occasional holiday treat. If you are an Oreo fan or a not too discerning pumpkin pie fan, give them a whirl.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kotas Reviews Brach's Pumpkin Spice Candy Corn

Ah, Fall. Probably my favorite season of the year. The weather is cooling, but not freezing. The leaves on the trees are pretty colors. I can wear long pants without dying in the sweltering heat. Fall also contains two of my favorite food based holidays: Halloween and Thanksgiving. There is, however, a more sinister side to Fall, and that is the Oncoming Storm of Pumpkin Spice. Yes, the flavor that cravers love to savor is back and in full force once again. Let's see how it handles another fall favorite. Today we look at Brach's Pumpkin Spice Candy Corn.


May Glob have mercy on our souls.
I admit that I am a candy corn aficionado. Candy corn was always a staple in my house while I was growing up and though I was not a huge fan at first, I came to enjoy the subtle waxy sweetness that a good candy corn can bring, along with its cousins the mallow pumpkin and the "autumn mix". Candy corn is definitely an acquired taste and is certainly not for everyone, though they've tried broadening the market with such things as chocolate candy corn, "reindeer corn" which is just candy corn in red, green, and white, and other seasonal varieties. My preferences run toward "traditional" candy corn, because most variants are not very good or just recolors of the traditional. Not so with today's offering. Let's dive in!

Yep. It looks like candy corn. Candy corn has always had a very distinctive odor associated with it, but this stuff smells more like a Yankee Candle in the Pumpkin Spice scent. The colors are fine, being the traditional orange, white, and yellow, so it would be indistinguishable from ordinary candy corn in a bowl. Clearly, that is how they get you. But appearances aren't everything, how does it taste? 

I actually like Pumpkin Spice in myriad forms. The Starbucks Latte variety is delicious, and pumpkin doughnuts are always a treat. Pumpkin pie is one of my staple fall desserts, and who doesn't love a hint of gourdly goodness in their muffins now and again? So, as you can see, I am certainly predisposed to like these two flavors. But...how do they pair?

Have you ever smelled a candle and thought "man, that smells delicious. I wonder how it would taste?" Yeah, well, eating this so called food is exactly like what I imagine eating a pumpkin spice candle would taste like. I mean, yeah, candy corn has a bit of waxiness to it, but for Crap's Sake, this is the waxiest thing I've ever put in my mouth, and I've tried Wax Lips candy...which is real wax! The terror is exacerbated by the most nauseatingly fake pumpkin flavor imaginable, marching over the taste buds in horribly malignant saraband. There is something resembling artificial "spice", but what spice it could be I could scarcely comprehend.   I really hated this stuff, as did my long suffering mother who is also a candy corn connoisseur. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 Frownie Faces. It is just fucking awful and we would all be better off if this abomination had never escaped the lab to threaten us in our homes. Run as far as you can from this nightmare concoction and don't turn back, like I did. You may never recover from your experience. Don't wait for me, it's too late. Save yourself!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Kotas Reviews Full Service BBQ

I'm a big fan of barbecue, really. Slow cooked for hours, slathered in rubs and sauces, all designed to make a large, cheap, tough cut of meat into something marvelous, truly it is an American meal. It is also one of those food types that inspires fierce regional loyalty. Texas Brisketteers look down their noses at Memphis baby back rib purveyors, and both are suspicious of Kansas City, with it's savory take on sauces. Everyone has a favorite type, though my love of barbecue is nigh Catholic in its acceptance. When some friends invited me to celebrate a birthday in High Barbecue Style, I could not refuse, and frankly, I'd not been to the place. Let's take a look at Full Service BBQ.


BEHOLD!
Full Service BBQ, so I am told, started as a take out joint located in an old gas station, hence the name. This particular location was ensconced in an old Sonic place, minus all the car hop nonsense. Speaking of nonsense, there is none here. The concept is simple. You park, you go to the window, you order. They bring out your order. You leave, or eat it at some of the many mismatched tables that sprawl in front of it. There is also a drive through window, if you are in a hurry. Orders are punched into a tablet, though they do accept credit cards via the magic of Square or other payment option. 

They barbecue choices are many and varied. They serve beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken, ribs, and smoked sausage. They also offer several "foods topped with barbecue" such as nachos, loaded fries, and the ever popular Hawg Dawg, which is a hot dog topped with barbecued meat. They even offer a sampler meal called "The Big Boy Box" which has some of all the meats along with a couple of sides. Of course I got the Big Boy Box.


I'm a big kid now!
I chose as my sides cole slaw and fries. They are generous with the barbecue sauce, which is a sweet and spicy sauce, spicier than you would imagine, really, but very good. They also throw in some Texas Toast and a pile of pickles, jalepenos, and onions as random toppings. It's a LOT of food, for about $18. This and a couple of drinks would make a meal for any two people. Of course I ate it by myself.

To my credit, I did finish everything but some of the fries, which they are generous with. The brisket was very good, nice and tender, but not dry like I've had at a few places. The pulled pork was also tasty, though sans sauce it wasn't the stand out. The ribs were fall off the bone tender and very meaty, though they had a bit more cartilage in them than I was expecting. The smoked sausage was well spiced and excellent. The standout though? The pulled chicken. This was the best damn pulled chicken I've ever had. Excellent spicing, moist and juicy instead of dry, and a flavor that stood out even when smothered in sauce, this was fantastic. The fries were also excellent fries, though I wished for more crispness. The only disappointment was the cole slaw, which just did not have much flavor at all in contrast to everything else. I even got to sample the banana pudding, which was so good that even in my corpulent state, I considered ordering some.

On the FACE Rating System, this place gets 3 bloated and full smiley faces. I waddled away from this place fat and happy, and I will absolutely visit it again. The pulled chicken was amazing, and everything tasted pretty great, with the sole exception of the cole slaw. Highly recommended if you are in town! A little out of the way for me, but totally worth it.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Kotas Reviews Brownie Batter Oreos

Alright Nabisco. I know we've had our spats in the past. But today I'm gonna give you another chance. Let's do something wonderful together. Or at least something hilariously amusing. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a peek at Brownie Batter Oreos.


Does anyone even USE a wooden spoon for mixing anymore?
I have never understood the obsession with cookie dough, cake batter, and other "non-cooked" sweets that people seem to go gaga over. Raw cookie dough, while tasty enough I suppose, has an awful gritty texture and a baked cookie is just so much yummier. Same with cake batter. Yes, it is very tasty...but a cake always tastes better and has a better mouth feel. These flavors, born of desperation, laziness, or impatience have worked their way into ice cream culture (See the proliferation of cookie dough and cake batter ice creams) for reasons I cannot explain.  With all that lead up, we come to the Brownie Batter Oreo. My predictions are that it is going to be chocolate flavored. Very, very chocolate flavored. Release the Cookies!
The only cookie where the filling absolutely matches the cookie in color.
Well they do smell like brownies. Very fudgey, very chocolatey brownies. Oh, and some Oreo in there too. Wow, that is a dark colored filling. I mean, if you could have a singularity encapsulated in cookie form, I imagine we would perceive it as something like this before we were all sucked into the oblivion past its event horizon. Or maybe not. Anycrap, let's taste this!

My stars, it's full of chocolate and grit. This is EXACTLY what I would expect a brownie batter cookie to taste like. Super thick chocolate flavor, completely overwhelming the taste buds. I imagine that in some way this is how Augustus Gloop felt when he was drowning: completely subsumed to the Chocolate. What a punch in the mouth this is. The texture is gritty, like all batter and dough sourced treats, which while not appealing, is at least true to the source material. Even milk does little to tame these cookies.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 smiley face. They do not taste bad, they just are a typhoon of chocolate in gritty, cookie format. Definitely worth trying for chocolate and Oreo fans, but you might need a sit down after consuming. DAT CHOCOLATE. Nabisco, I won't say you are fully redeemed in mine eyes, but after the last fiasco of Cookies and Cream Oreos, you are at least back to trying new and entertaining things. So, good on ya for that.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Kotas Reviews Lay's Greektown The Gyro Potato Chips

Yeah, it's another chip review. The Do Us A Flavor promotion is still going strong, and as such, I am compelled to review each and every chip that I can before it ends. I will hand it to Lay's though, in a crowded market for "wacky flavors", this promotion manages to out wacky them all. Today we review Lay's Greektown Gyro Potato Chips. God help us all.


Kettle Cooked, as the Gyros of old were made.
 What is it with Lay's and adding location information to the flavor profile? What makes a Greektown Gyro different from any other gyro? The particular spices? The toppings? Does ANYONE know? Eh, whatever. I love me some gyros (pronounced YEAR-ow, according to my New York father) and all they come with. Gyro meat is a fine accompaniment to any meal, and goes well with a surprising number of dishes (trust me when I say a hamburger with Swiss and gyro meat on top is to die for), but how well does it translate to chip form?


The Chinet plate is how you know it's classy.
Well, the scent is a strange yet alluring mixture of potato chip and gyro-esque spices. In fact, the spice portion is quite obvious in the aroma. It smells pretty good, actually. The chips look like just about any other flavored chip, with a heaping of "flavor dust", so you know that they are trying. 

These things are incredibly savory and have a strong meaty flavor that is balanced by equal parts of "spice" though exactly what those spices are is hard to figure out. Pretty darn tasty though, but heavy. This is not a light side to accompany any dish, that is for sure.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 smiley face. They are pretty tasty, but very savory and heavy, not very good with a meal. Definitely worth trying for all you carnivores out there, maybe not so much for people who like solid, but not overwhelming, flavors.

Kotas Reviews Lay's New York Reuben Potato Chips

Lay's Potato Chips are often considered the Default Potato Chip of America. Thin, crispy, greasy and salty as hell, they represent the pinnacle of Classic American Snack Food. Of course, even the pinnacle of snack foods can't rest on its greasy, salty laurels for too long. Ladies and Gentlemen, today we look at Lay's New York Reuben Potato Chips.

What makes it a New York Reuben anyway?
The Reuben sandwich is a classic deli sandwich made up of corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing (or Thousand Island dressing in a pinch). Generally served on rye bread, it is a staple sandwich of comedy routines and old men who sit on stoops and play checkers.I have a love of most delicatessen foods, so naturally I am an aficionado of this sandwich, and I am very skeptical that it can translate into flavored chip form. Let's take a look at this beauties!

Sure, that's one serving...if you squint.
Well, they don't look like anything special, save for a faint reddish coloration from the flavor dust that coats them. The scent is definitely reminiscent of corned beef and sauerkraut, though there are no cheese or dressing aromas to accompany it. The flavors are, as expected, quite on the savory side, with a bit of meatiness that is almost but not quite unlike corned beef, and the sauerkraut overtones come through, though they remain a sidebar to the main corned-beef-ish taste. It is remarkably odd how close these come to tasting like an actual Reuben, but they miss the mark just enough for one to go "Yep, that's a fakey flavor alright." 

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 smiley face. They are certainly better than I expected, and I think they taste pretty good. They taste a lot like what I expected "fakey Reuban flavoring" to taste like, but they miss out on some of the flavor contrasts that make a Reuben sandwich a classic. Definitely worth trying, and some people will absolutely adore these. Me? I wouldn't turn them down. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kotas Reviews Lay's West Coast Truffle Fries Chips

So, last year, Lay's had a promotion where "America" (or at least, anyone who logged into this website) got to vote on what new flavor would become part of their regular rotation. I reviewed their Cappuccino Chips at the time, though that did not end up being the winner (that honor goes to Wasabi Ginger). Seems like Lay's is at it again! This time I will try to obtain and eat all the different flavors, so today's entry is the West Coast Truffle Fries Chips.

So, what the hell are Truffle Fries anyway?
So, a casual Internet search reveals that Truffle Fries are simply steak fries with Parmesan cheese, parsley, and truffle oil thrown on them. Actually, that sounds pretty good, but I can't seem to find a place that serves them in my town (clearly a West Coast Conspiracy). Still, I do love potato chips, and I have a fondness for the Wavy ones from Lays. Let's see how these babies look!

Look at all that...uh...well, they do resemble flavored chips.
These chips look a LOT like a sour cream and chive flavored chip, and their aroma is definitely different, with and earthy, mushroomy scent. I suppose that is the truffle oil component of the flavor coming through. Still, they didn't much look like they had any cheese flavoring on them. Let's take a closer look!

Yep. Green specks. EXCITEMENT!
Still nothing that screams "Truffle fries" or anything resembling the packaging, which I kind of like. But, who cares about packaging (besides me, of course), how do they taste? In short, they taste a lot like more mellow sour cream and onion chips. They are actually pretty good, because I normally find sour cream and onion chips from Lay's to be a bit too strong, and the earthy components nicely offset that while allowing some of the potato flavor to shine through. But I do not taste any Parmesan cheese, nor much of any truffle flavor beyond "earthiness". They are pretty good, but nothing particularly special.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. They are not bad, and since they cost the same as regular old chips, give them a whirl. I wouldn't turn them down at a party or anything. They simply did not wow me, nor did they stand out much from other, better Sour Cream and Onion flavors (though they are certainly better than the Lay's version). I mean, good try, but why are these called "West Coast Truffle Fries"? I would call them "Sour Cream and Onion XP" or something.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kotas Reviews Cookies and Cream Oreos

Sometimes a product is released that is ridiculous in its conception and it comes out terrible. Sometimes you get something ridiculous that is pretty good.Then there are the products that say "What the hell were you thinking?" because they make absolutely no sense at all. Ladies and gentlemen, today we take a look at Cookies and Cream Oreos.

Yo dawg, I heard you like Oreos...
Cookies and Cream is one of my favorite flavor combinations. The very essence of Cookies and Cream is vanilla ice cream with crushed up Oreo cookies (or other chocolate sandwich cookies, I suppose) mixed in. Best enjoyed fresh made with soft serve, perhaps in the form of a winter storm, it has become a staple ice cream flavor up there with Rocky Road and Mint Chip. So I have to say "What the HELL Nabisco?" In the past, you haven't really involved ice cream flavors, so much as "flavors that are also used in ice cream" but really? This one takes the sundae. Did you even stop to think about the redundancy of this product? 

The package is standard Limited Edition Oreo packaging, with a picture of a nice serving of cookies and cream ice cream...that has an OREO IN IT. Is this some sort of joke? Are you THIS contemptuous of your audience that you thought we wouldn't notice? Eh, fuck it, let's open this up and take a look.

OREOCEPTION!
Well, you know what this looks like? A FUCKING OREO. With rejected creme filling, no less! Seriously folks, as I've noted before, grey is NOT an appetizing color. Sure, it kind of looks like "cookies and cream filling", but you know what that is? OREO CREME AND CHOCOLATE COOKIES! This is making a hamburger by grinding up ground beef. YOU STILL HAVE GROUND BEEF, JUST SLIGHTLY MORE GROUND. So, how does it taste? Can you guess? 

The taste is AN OREO. I know you all are as shocked as I am, but the flavor is the exact same flavor as a regular Oreo. Now, that flavor is a good flavor. One of my favorites even. But this is not a LIMITED EDITION flavor, when you've just put the same old flavor into a slightly worse looking package. Did you think we were idiots Nabsico? Apparently we are, because this bastard costs the same as a standard package of Oreos, but with 4 ounces LESS product. And I bought it, so help me I BOUGHT IT.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 Frownie Faces. It is the height of laziness, arrogance, or both to just barf out a worse looking Oreo that tastes exactly like an Oreo and have the FUCKING GALL to charge a premium for the privilege. The actual taste is fine, it's just EXACTLY WHAT WE ALREADY HAD, in a smaller, shittier package that costs more. Ya done fucked it up Nabisco! I liked the Thins version because it was a fairly interesting texture change...but THIS...Ya done me wrong, Nabisco. That hurts. If you get a chance to taste these without buying them, they taste just fine. Oreo deliciousness. Just don't get suckered into actually paying for them, because there is nothing of value to be had.