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.

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.

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!