Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kotas Reviews Coca-Cola Life

Coca-Cola is practically ubiquitous in my life, and I have been an avid consumer of Coke products since I was a wee tot (which probably explains this blog's focus on junk food). I've had almost every product they have offered: Coca-Cola, New Coke, Coke Classic, Diet Coke, the various "with Lemon/Lime" variants, Caffeine Free Coke, Diet Caffeine Free Coke, Coke Zero, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, Vanilla Cherry Coke, and numerous Coke related products. I've even sampled Fried Coke. I guess I enjoy the soda, is what I'm saying. When you've produced as many things as Coca-Cola though, it is hard to really innovate. It is even more shocking when you completely change the color scheme of your packaging. Thus, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, we're reviewing the very distinct Coca-Cola Life!

It takes some marketing confidence to flip people's world view upside down by putting a Coke product in a GREEN PACKAGE. A little research (Thanks Wikipedia) informs me that this beverage was originally developed in Argentina in 2013, moving to Chile and the UK shortly after that. Distribution started in the US in November of 2014, and it has finally made its way to my town, I guess. This soda's claim to fame is that it is a "reduced calorie" soda, sweetened with a mix of stevia and cane sugar, putting its caloric content at 65% of a standard Coke. It's also sold in 8oz glass bottles at "regular" six pack prices. Because of course it is.

Majestic, I tell you.

Of course, you didn't come here for a history lesson or bitching about high prices, you wanna know how it tastes! Well, it's pretty much a Coke, with a little less sweetness and some different but not unpleasant overtones that I can't place, though I assume that's the stevia coming through. It's fairly tasty, and it satisfies my "I want a real soda" craving about as well as regular Coke. The problem here is that I don't know if I would pay a hefty premium over regular Coke simply to get this version. It's tasty, and I would totally drink it from a fountain or at a restaurant, but it isn't good enough to justify the hefty (in soda terms, anyway) price. Put it at the same price as your other varieties, and then we'll talk, Coke. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 smiley face. It's good, but it is nothing spectacular. I appreciate the lower calorie count, but this is NOT a diet soda by any stretch, though it is a good product. If you are a huge Coca-Cola fan, this is worth having at least once, but this will not become my "go to" product without some better price parity or availability. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kotas Reviews the Arbys Chocolate Covered Cherry Milkshake

As one strolls through life, one very early on encounters the concept of "good in theory, terrible in execution". We've all seen the results of this combination unfold in some spectacular failures (Apple Newton, I'm looking at you) that were doomed by the lackluster technology available when the idea was conceived. Others (such as the fall of Nokia from dominance in the cell phone industry to also ran), are the result of mismanagement or incompetence. Today's subject is a milkshake which is definitely good in theory, but how does it shake out in execution? Let's take a gander at the Arbys Chocolate Covered Cherry Milkshake.


To me, this sounded like a wonderful combination that would go perfect in a milkshake. Chocolate and Cherry are two of the world's greatest flavors and even combine into chocolate covered cherries like some sort of...combine-y flavorsplosion of deliciousness. This milkshake isn't particularly beautiful (few milkshakes truly are), but I honestly expected a more brownish red for my chocolate covered cherry milkshake. The picture isn't great, but it is really more of a pink color with flecks of chocolate in it, and is surprisingly bright. I would have gone with a chocolate base for my chocolate and cherry milkshake, but what do I know? I'm not a foodgineer, after all.

Upon tasting it, my very first thought was "This is much more vanilla than I was expecting in my chocolate cherry milkshake". The cherry flavor is noticeable, but shares too much space with the vanilla base, with only a few hints of chocolate. My second thought is "This doesn't taste very good at all". It had this odd pseudo-alcohol flavor that I couldn't quite place, and it was jarring. What a curious concoction I had! I was very puzzled as I drank, and drinking it would alternate between "fine" and "a total chore". I had to continually fiddle with the straw to maintain any flow of shake, which had me further puzzled until I drank the thing down far enough to figure out the problem.

Can you see what the problem is?

The picture isn't super clear, but what that is is a giant mass of chocolate-ish fragments that collected at the bottom of the cup and kept clogging the straw. En masse they also tasted like cheap pseudo-chocolate as well. That is when it hit me. This isn't a chocolate and cherry milkshake mix, like I thought it would be. They LITERALLY threw cheap chocolate covered cherries (probably cherry cordials) into a vanilla milkshake and blended the whole mess together into one big mix up of failure. How do you fuck up chocolate and cherry, in a MILKSHAKE NO LESS? By not adapting your flavor combination to the medium. I enjoy chocolate covered cherries, but just throwing them into the milkshake mixer leads to a poor milkshake experience. 

On the FACE Rating System, this disaster gets 2 frownies. It is a wonderful idea, but the result of that idea is a boring, gloppy mess that does not deliver on its promises. This product should never have gotten out of the testing phases, but it is such a lackluster effort I would be surprised if it even had a testing phase. Don't bother with this one folks, especially if you enjoy chocolate covered cherries. You will just make yourself sad.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Kotas Reviews French Toast Crunch

Ah, nostalgia. It currently is all the rage for thirty-somethings like myself. Recapturing our childhoods has never been easier! Transformers have been back for eight years now, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have seen several revivals and incarnations in the same time frame, including a new "live action" movie, and retro gaming is practically a genre at this point. What's not to love? Well, there is always the risk of things going to far, which brings us to today's subject: French Toast Crunch.

It is most definitely back, though I did not ask for it.

Originally released in 1995, this cereal was actually on the market as late as 2006 in the United States, and it never LEFT the market in Canada. The original release had the cereal pieces shaped like little pieces of toast (and it has always been that way for the Canucks), but later was changed too look like its sister cereal, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, with little generic cereal squares. It was resurrected in December of 2014 "due to popular demand" in its original 1995 incarnation, bread shaped cereal pieces and all. 

I do remember them, actually. I LIVED IT, MAN!

I never had any experience with this cereal, as by 1995 my breakfast tastes had moved away from such things, and of course, I never really noticed it when I was out shopping for food during the decade that followed. It vanished from store shelves with nary a peep out of anyone that I knew, and I have to say, it is hard to feel any real nostalgia for a product that was discontinued 9 years ago but claims to be "from the 90s". In any case, I go into this with few preconceived notions about what it should taste like, and will only judge it on its current merits as a sweetened cereal marketed at kids and hipsters. 

Best served during winter storm watches!

Well, I'll be damned if it ain't exactly what it says on the tin. It really does look like miniature french toast. The scent is heavily of sweetened corn and maple syrup-ish overtones. Popping a few pieces into your mouth leads to a satisfying crunch, and it has the flavor of, well, Cap'n Crunch lightly drizzled with artificial maple syrup, only without the mouth-cutting sharpness of that cereal. Very pleasant for snacking. In milk, the flavor remains exactly the same, and the cereal pieces hold up nicely, not turning to complete mush by the end of the bowl. The milk gains a nice maple syrup taste and on the whole it is quite good. Color me amazed, but I think I like this.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 smiley faces. I was honestly surprised that such a naked nostalgic cash grab, of a BREAKFAST CEREAL no less, would actually taste pretty damn good. It's about as french toasty as a cereal can get and a tasty treat to munch on when one is huddled up sick or trapped inside due to blizzard conditions. If you like sweetened cereals, give it a whirl. If you like French Toast, give it a whirl! If you prefer pancakes...well, you might be out of luck, but I thought it was good.