Thursday, December 28, 2017

Kotas Reviews Ocean Spray Mocktails Tropical Citrus Paradise

Well, well, the holidays are winding least until the next holiday of course! And what's right around the corner? 2018! Hopefully it doesn't have a baseball bat and want our lunch money. Anyway, what better way to try and ring in something resembling a new year than by drinking a whole lot? Still, not everyone enjoys the glory of intoxication. For that, we have today's little adventure. Ladies, Gentlemen, I present to you, the Ocean Spray Mocktail.

Non-Alcoholic? Wel...I guess I'll try it.
Non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks have been around since forever. Notable ones include the Shirley Temple, the Arnold Palmer, and the "Water", but pre-packaged versions? Sure, I suppose that's a thing. We called 'em "Mixers" back in my day though. Anyway, the packaging is kind of ho hum. It's got a picture of some juice on it, trussed up like a cocktail, but you know, that's it. Still, it's not what's on the bottle, but what's in it! Let's drink!

It was a lot more pink in person.
Well, it's definitely juice. Very sweet juice. I think it's trying to emulate a Hurricane, but since I haven't had one of those in decades, I don't really know. It's very...grapefruity, which isn't a juice I normally go for. Still, I turned to my secret ingredient for making drinks taste better...rum! Yes, I put rum in the Mocktail to make it a...well, not a real cocktail, but something boozy.

Sadly, adding booze didn't really improve the flavor too much. The rum clashed with the juice (probably because I added too much...oh, shut up) and the flavors didn't really compliment each other. Perhaps vodka would have mixed better, but I'm still a little disappointed.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frowny Face. I guess it's fine, since it is drinkable, but I did not care for it and wouldn't really want to drink it again, even with some booze. It's overly sweet, cloying, and very very grapefruit. Still, I'm sure someone out there would like this, so feel free to try it. Just bring me a beer instead.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Kotas Reviews Maple Water

Coconut water has been trendy for a while now. If you don't know what coconut water is, basically someone decided that refining the slop that comes out of coconuts was an unnecessary step in the refinement process and just bottled the stuff straight up. Now, it's been the healthy beverage advocated for by athletes and health nuts alike. Me? I can't stand the stuff. I dislike most coconut products in general, and as a flavoring, it isn't my first (or second or eleventh) pick. Still, maybe there's a product that appeals to me? I suppose we have to find out. Ladies and gentlemen, today we crack open some Maple Water.

Yup. Mostly water.
According to the reputed scholars at Drink Maple's Labeling Institute, maple water is just "maple syrup before we boil it into actual maple syrup". Straight from the tree to your throat is where it's at, apparently. Uh, hooray I guess? Honestly, I didn't even know this was a thing until my spouse brought some home one day, but I don't know why I'm surprised at anything anymore. This job is tough sometimes, but we do what we do. 

The label isn't very fancy, just some text, a circle, and a maple leaf. I guess it's hard to make interesting packaging for what is effectively tree squeezin's, so they have my sympathy here. I think the labeling is just somewhat sterile is all. Maybe put a whole maple tree on here? Some bucket icons? Anyway, it's what's inside that counts, right? So let's pour one up.

Yeah, it basically looks like slightly tinged water. It does kinda vaguely smell of maple syrup, but other then that? It's water. Now, I'm not opposed to paying for water in a bottle. I regularly do so as a convenience for camping trips and other outdoor activities, but I can't seeing myself pay too much for bottled water, because it is after all just water. Maple water price wise is about the same as coconut water, which is around $2-$3 a bottle, so I don't know, I kind of expected a bit more from this? Whatever, down the hatch!

Have you ever drunk something that tastes like nothing until after you stopped drinking it? This is what drinking maple water was like. I drank some water, then suddenly smelled maple syrup. It was really weird. I know taste and smell are very tightly linked in the old sense bucket, but my tongue was telling me "water bro" while my nose is all "syrup, yo". It was very...disconcerting to say the least. My 4 year old didn't like it though, so I got to "enjoy" her sampling. Hooray.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. I don't hate it, but I would never seek this out as a treat or a refreshment or anything. If you hand one to me, I would drink it out of politeness. It's just water with the lightest note of maple taste and a heaping of maple scent, but only after you drink it. I'll give it this, it was quite refreshing, but so is tap water. Try it if you want, or just, I don't know, add a few drops of maple syrup to your glass of water.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Kotas Reviews Hot Cocoa Oreos

Happy Holidays everyone! This is a magnificent time of the year for me, because so many new Holiday themed stuff comes out! Now, most of this is food, because food is super convenient for me to experience and review, but I occasionally sneak in something else. Not today though, today we return to my bread and butter, or should I say cookie and filling? That's right! It's another Oreo review. Ladies and gentlemen, today we look at Hot Cocoa Oreos!

Clever girl...
So, hot cocoa eh? This is not the first time that Nabisco has seen fit to grace us with a drink themed flavor, but this one certainly seems to fit the profile of the cookie better. I mean, come on, look at that logo! Replacing the "o"s with marshmallows? Brilliant! Still, does the taste hold up to the glory of the packaging? Only one way to find out!

*Bum bum ba Duuum, boooooooooown*
Well, it smells...mostly like a chocolate Oreo. I suppose this is to be expected, but I don't want to be fooled again by a "special flavor cookie" that's just their regular cookie with shitty coloring. Anyway, these look like someone just opened up a Chocolate Oreo, a regular Oreo, and smushed them together. You know what? It tastes exactly like that too. It's not bad, and it IS different from something you can already buy, but much like Holiday Brew, this is just two flavors you already had combined into a somewhat convenient package. UNLIKE the Holiday Brew however, this costs considerably more to buy (same price as regular Oreos, much less in the package). And that, I think, is the kicker. If this was in a standard Oreo package, I'd be happier. They taste just fine, but I can either buy two packages of these, or buy one each of Regular and Chocolate Oreos, smush them together myself (with more creme no less!) and pay THE SAME PRICE. The flavor is fine though.

On the whole, this gets Zero Faces. The flavor is pretty good, and the themed artwork is nice, but the premium you pay for something you can basically do yourself is not a great value. Holiday Brew is the same price as regular Mtn. Dew, and yes, that DOES matter when it comes to limited edition things. If you can't bring me something unique, then don't charge me a premium. The cookies do taste fine though, so if you MUST have them, no one will be hatin'. Judging maybe, but not hatin'.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Kotas Reviews Float Nashville

Hello Everyone! It's the Holiday Season at last! Honestly, the whole Christmas/New Year's package deal is probably my favorite time of the year. I love the lights, the ornaments, the giant inflatable monstrosities that festoon people's lawns, the cards, the eggnog the wrapping paper, the music, the ribbons, the TV specials, on the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! So of course I dragged my family to Nashville's Opryland Hotel to see all the Christmas Fuss right at the start of the season. While I was there, a buddy of mine goaded invited me to try out an isolation tank. So, of course I had to. Ladies, Gentlemen, Hippies of All Ages, let's take a look at Float Nashville.

Seven Days a Week!
Float Nashville is a little shop in a business park in a part of Nashville I never visit. Luckily, it was only about 15 minutes from the hotel. I admit I was somewhat skeptical of the whole affair, but you know what? Trying things is sort of my idiom these days, so what the heck, eh? The office itself was fairly small and cozy, and the staff was pretty laid back and friendly. The lady at the desk answered all of my questions and didn't bat an eye at the simplicity of them ("So, is it really a tank? Really? For sure?"). We ended up going for a 90 minute session.

So, first thing, you don't need a bathing suit or anything at this place. They put you in a private room with your tank, a robe, and such, and the door locks, so you have that going on for you. I'm told you can wear a bathing suit, but eh, if you are gonna go, you might as well go whole hog. First, you put in some earplugs. Then, shower, but don't use the provided conditioner. This is to keep things pretty clean. Before you even enter the room though, they flush the tank and put in the...rather large amount of Epsom salts that lets you actually, you know, float. So, you've showered, and you've made sure the fresh water spray bottle and clean hand towel are situated to be at hand in case you get some of the water in your eyes (spoiler...I totally did and was super grateful for the spray bottle). Time to enter...THE TANK.

Definitely not an oven.
The thank itself is a little boxy contraption with a door on it, some pumps at the bottom, and many handles to grab onto. It looks a bit like a miniaturized Star Trek style shuttle craft. The door swings freely, so you aren't locked in or anything (which was a concern for me, since I have been known to get mildly fearful when in confined spaces), and the mood lighting will shut off once it senses no more movement. I stripped down and started to shower...and the shower head popped off the wall. It was certainly surprising. Anyway, I had to robe up and inform the staff. Without a shower head, the shower pipe still put out enough water that I could go ahead and keep going, so that's exactly what I did. It was only a little awkward. The things I do for my art. Still, IN WE GO!

My own private spa treatment.
So, you slide on it, shut the door, lay back, and relax. The water is 94 degrees, which is theoretically the surface temperature of our skin, but they apparently don't know that I'm a furnace inside. Still, it wasn't unpleasant getting it. And boy, do you really float. All that salt did an excellent job of keeping me above water. I opted to use this little ring thing for my head for comfort, but I probably didn't need it. The only things I could see were...nothing, and the only things I could hear were the sound of my own heartbeat, my breathing, and a very quiet background hum that I assumed was the pumps, which were otherwise not running. I certainly felt isolated, so I just laid back and tried to blank out. 

Mission fucking accomplished, because I dozed off. It was really easy to fall asleep in this thing, and I had absolutely no fear of rolling over and drowning because you float really, REALLY well and it's very comfortable. Like what I feel a water bed should feel like, instead of what it actually feels like, which is weird. The illusion of isolation is certainly there, but if you stretch out enough you hit the edges of the tank, which sort of brings you back to reality. I did have a fairly vivid dream, but it wasn't a dream that was particularly unusual or insightful. Just vivid. Upon waking, I apparently still had time in the tank, and while I was relaxed, I did get a bit bored. No hallucinations, no great revelations, just me and dark and quiet. Super comfy though. When time was up, they turned on some loud yet trancy music, and I showered off, got dressed, and exited. I'll give it this, though: I had a bit of stiffness in my neck and back from the longish drive to Nashville, and my time in the tank cleared that right up.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Smiley Face. I certainly didn't hate it, and in fact found it very relaxing and nice. But that's all it was: nice. It was an extended Epsom salt soak, in the dark, with earplugs. Given all the stuff people say about floating, I feel like I missed something, and for $74 a session, I'm not convinced it was "totally worth it". Still, this is about what I'd expect to pay at a spa for some long treatment, and I must say I do want to try it again. I'm not sure if it is totally for me, but I can't help feeling like I need to do it again to really get the most out of my time with floating. That's weird, I'll grant you, but it was a nice experience. On the whole, definitely give it a try, if you've got the time and money. It's definitely not for everyone, but it is both better and worse than I expected. Super chill time, but don't expect to have your mind blown.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Kotas Reviews Mountain Dew Holiday Brew

Well, now that we've all recovered from our Thanksgiving comas, I suppose it's high time I got back to work around here. So many things to review, so little time. Still, I like to get a bit festive for the start of the Christmas season. I do love Christmas and all that comes with it: Trees, Presents, endless repeats of shitty television specials on ABC Family, eggnog, and yes, even fruitcake. Fight me. So to kick off the celebration, we'll start with a holiday themed...uh...soda. Let's take a look at Mountain Dew Holiday Brew.

It rhymes!
Well well well, seems like Mountain Dew is still experimenting with mixed flavors for the holiday season. This go around it seems that the Christmas season is in its sights, after the 4th of July got the extreeeeeeme treatment. For most of my adult life, Mountain Dew has been the flavor of snowboarders, BMX stars, and elite gamers, mostly because of the caffeine kick it provides and the citrus shock to the taste buds. Not too bad for a soda named after slang for moonshine whiskey, eh? Let's smash it open!

Franklin Delano Doughnut approved.
Honestly, I'm not sure what I was expecting here. This particular soda is a blend of standard Mountain Dew and their cherry flavored Code Red variant. Code Red is basically one of my favorite soda flavors of all time, so of course I had to try this. I was not expecting the resulting beverage to be so pink though. Grade school color wheel knowledge would indicate it would be more yellow, but hell, what do I know? Let's drink it!

You know, it's not bad. The citrus portion of regular Mountain Dew compliments the Code Red cherry nicely, and gives the whole concoction a nice zing of holiday cheer. It doesn't linger in the mouth either. Quite refreshing actually. I think I like this! Bravo, Pepsi Co, bravo.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 Smiley Faces. It's a darn tasty soda and, actual color not withstanding, is a nice way to market a holiday limited edition. Ya killin' it Mountain Dew, and coming from me, that's saying something. Give it a whirl if you like soda!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kotas Reviews the Pixel 2

As we gear up for the next Turkey Day, let us give thanks for the miracles of modern technology. Things that would have seemed magical when I was a kid are now common place: Looking up almost endless facts to settle dinner arguments while right at the table, watching video while in a car, playing video games while on the crapper, and many other wonders are literally in the palm of our hands with the modern smart phone. These little techno wonders have certainly changed my life, and probably yours. Then again, that which is common place becomes mundane, eh? Let's take a look at the Pixel 2

Ta da!
Image From:
My first smartphone was the venerable Nexus 5 way back in December of 2013. I resisted the call of a smart phone for many years for reasons that mostly amounted to "I don't really need that garbage". Well, I'm big enough to admit that I was totally wrong and I totally need that garbage. That Nexus 5 changed the way I go about living. Browsing while waiting in lines, entertaining my kid while waiting for food in a restaurant, finding my way to new and exciting places via the Maps app, and playing a wide variety of games are all things I do on a near daily basis thanks to these marvels. I cannot count the times I've turned to my spouse (or friends, or random people on the street...) and said "How did I ever get along without smart phones before?". However, as the years rolled by my poor Nexus 5, much abused, began to show its age. A little slower, a little less able to keep up with modern apps, and most noticeably, the drop off in battery life. Gone were the days of "charge it at night and go strong all day", now I had to top it off during days with someone moderate use. Thus, I looked around for a good replacement and after a lot of research I landed on the Pixel 2. I love stock Android, and Google (for a few years anyway) gives near immediate updates on all the phones it sponsors, but dat price tag...well, I splurged for my and my spouse's phone as an anniversary present.

After a bit of a SIM card fiasco involving my spouse's SIM card and a SIM cutter (and then a few package deliveries), the Pixel 2 was in my grubby hands. Transferring my stuff from my Nexus 5 was pretty easy. Turn on the Pixel 2, connect it up with the old phone using the Type-C to Type-A adapter and my Nexus' old charging cable, let Google do its magic, and voila! Most of my apps and stuff were transferred over. Still had to download them, but the settings were mostly preserved along with account info and whatnot. Notably, everything from my Google Authenticator was lost and had to be set up again, so beware when doing that. Also, Super Mario Run didn't transfer data either, which I guess I understand since I don't have a Nintendo account. The process was not as easy for my spouse's phone, since the cable transfer app refused to open on the Moto G4 she'd been using, but an alternative method of "restore from backup" went through without issue. Your mileage my vary.

A lot of people have commented on the large top and bottom bezels this thing has, and yeah, they are noticeable and make it slightly harder to use the phone one handed, since the top of the screen is slightly above where my thumb naturally would rest. The screen is gorgeous though with rich colors and snappy responsiveness. No headphone jack is annoying, but since I only used headphones when I was working out (and thus not charging my phone anyway), the included Type-C to headphone adapter works well enough.

The phone itself feels pretty good in the hand, with the aluminum body covered with an easy grip coating. It's super thin too, which might be good for some people but kind of annoyed me until I got a case to give it a little more heft. The fingerprint sensor is on the back, which is super useful for how I use a phone, but again I kept brushing it without meaning to until I got a case. I don't know how anyone uses a phone "naked", but more power to ya! The selfie camera works pretty darn well, but what I was really blown away by was the standard camera. This thing is freakin' amazing 98% of time, taking great photos in many light conditions super fast. Way better than the Nexus 5 camera, that's for sure. The only flaw in it is the software. For reasons I can't determine yet, it will occasionally throw an error that has to be remedied by closing the app and reopening it. A minor niggle, but one nonetheless.

Processor and RAM are all great, and the phone is incredibly responsive and snappy when opening apps, closing them, etc. The "docked app" feature allowing for split screen use is super cool, and some apps, like Maps, actually work with a picture in a picture mode, which is sweet. The "always on" screen is something I didn't even know I wanted, since I can now look at my phone and see the time and date without having to unlock it. Such a tiny detail, and yet so useful! The battery life is also pretty amazing. Even with heavy use I can go a full day without needed to top up. However, when I DO need to top up, the Fast Charging is actually pretty damn fast. Good work, Google!

I've gushed about this thing for a while, but it does have some problems. The aforementioned "slightly too big for one handed use" issue. The "squeeze to use Google Assistant" is okay, but more often then not I find myself accidentally triggering it, even with the sensitivity turned down. The new Google Assistant screen doesn't let me swipe away stuff I don't like. I now have to hit the ellipsis menu and pick 'Hide', which is a few more steps than it should take. All small things. What isn't small? The Price. This is definitely a flagship phone and it comes with a price to match. I paid full retail for this thing (because I'm on an MVNO Bring Your Own Phone plan) and it hurt me a bit to pay that much for something this small and relatively fragile. Still, as a buddy of mine once said "You are going to use it every day for years. Buy the best you can and enjoy every moment rather than settle and keep being annoyed." I'm pretty sure someone said that anyway. Right?

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 3 Smiley Faces. I love this phone and I have been singing its praises to anyone who has asked me about it. It is a slick bit of tech and improves upon every use I had for my phone in almost every way. It has a few niggles, and the price is pretty high, but its still a great phone and I wouldn't want any other one. At least until next year's model comes out, amirite?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Kotas Reviews the Starbucks Zombie Frappucino

Happy Halloween everyone! The perfect holiday. You get to wear costumes, gorge on candy, and leave neighbors with vague threats if your demands aren't met! How cool is that, eh? I've always enjoyed Halloween, for its focus on scares and sweets, and this year is no exception. Of course, this year I'll be escorting a little superhero around for candy goodness, but that doesn't mean I can't get a little something creepy for myself, now does it? Well, I couldn't do that, so I settled for today's offering. Ladies and Gentlemen, today we look at the Limited Time Only Starbucks Zombie Frappucino.

The Horror...the Horror...
Starbucks did a pretty darn good job with their Unicorn Frappucino, so I guess it's no surprise that they would once again dip into "mythical creatures" for inspiration. Finding this wasn't too hard this go around, mostly because now I know where to go for the limited edition stuff...the local grocery store outlet! People forget that it is there so when the main Starbucks has nothing, the one in the local store probably has plenty. Anyway, it is clear that Starbucks is trying to have both visual and flavor appeal with these. LOOK AT THIS! It looks both awful and amazing at the same time.

The base product is sickly green, with a rim of mocha "blood" topped by a pinkish brainlooking dollop of whipped cream. I'm not sure I ever considered what a 'Zombie' drink would look like, but damned if that doesn't look perfect, eh? The mocha ring actually "bleeds" into the drink!

Like so!
It's deliciously gross looking and yet enticing at the same time. Like Funyons. Still, that's not what is important now is it? You didn't buy this to just look at it, and neither did I! Well, it tastes...surprisingly bland compared to how it looks. The barista and I compared notes and we concluded that it was "Green Apple Laffy Taffy" flavored, though I think the marketing says it's supposed to be "Caramel Apple" flavored. If there is caramel in this, I couldn't find it. The chocolate adds very little to this, as does the whipped cream. Sure, they taste fine together, but they are mostly overwhelmed by the flavor of the base drink, which basically is "okay" at best. Kind of a disappointment really, because it looks amazing, but the drink itself is very...meh.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 spooky scary skeleton Faces. It looks amazing, and is wonderfully themed, but the flavor leaves a lot to be desired. I can't really recommend it unless you are super into odd flavored drinks, but if you get one you won't be sad. Just maybe a little let down. Now, if you will excuse me, I've a pumpkin to mutilate. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Kotas Reviews Lindt Lindor Pumpkin Spice Milk Chocolate Truffles

Well friends, we are coming to the close of another Pumpkin Spice season. It still reigns supreme in the Fall Flavors Smackdown despite some serious competitors. But that doesn't mean this old dog of a taste can learn some new tricks. And some "almost fancy" ones at that. Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a gander at Lindt Lindor Pumpkin Spice Milk Chocolate Truffles.

Is it Lindt or Lindor? Does anyone know? Oh wait, that's the PRODUCT...
Lindt is a Swiss Chocolate maker and they mostly sell individually wrapped truffles. They come in a wide variety of flavors and are no stranger to Limited Edition ones depending on the season. I tend to think they are good, but not great. Other chocolate makers make better truffles, but most of the better ones don't come in easy to share pre-wrapped versions, so you know, these are a staple of my holiday gifting and consumption. I guess they decided it was time to break into that lucrative "Fall Candy" market by coming out with these Pumpkin Spice editions.

The packaging is pretty distinctive. Each flavor in the Lindor line gets a specific color, so it's not a surprise that Orange would be for the pumpkin spice version. I also really like the leaf motif that accents the bag. This is also one of the few "fancy candies" to have a clear bit so you can see a visible measure of your shame. Moving on!

A vicious murder, observed by a bystander.
Yep, it's a chocolate truffle all right. Lindt chocolate has always had a very waxy feel to it and these somehow feel even waxier to the touch. The scent has some hints of pumpkin and nutmeg, but otherwise is just milk chocolate. Slicing it open reveals chocolate truffle filling that is surprisingly NOT orange, but definitely smells like it's been flavored. The taste is pretty good, a little waxy, but very smooth chocolate with some notes of pumpkin and "spice". Mostly, I taste chocolate but you can definitely tell that it has a flavor and that they tried. Nice work, really.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets a single Smiley Face. While they may not be my favorite chocolate, Lindt Lindor Truffles are nigh ubiquitous and this flavor does justice to the concept of Pumpkin Spice. It's not cloying or overwhelming, but it makes itself known on the tongue. If you like Lindt truffles, give these a try and you will probably like them. If you hate pumpkin spice and all things flavored with it, these will not change your opinion.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Kotas Reviews Mystery Oreos

October is one of my favorite months ever. Oktoberfest beer is still widely available. The weather goes from "sweet lord I'm hot" to "a lovely chill breeze". My lawn stops growing and thus no mowing. And Halloween is at the end of the month. I LOVE Halloween. Costumes, spooky stories, horror movies, and a very Addams Family aesthetic permeate the local area. Plus, the holiday is about candy extortion. So, naturally, I'd want to have some sort of mystery to solve right? Of course! So, let's take a look at Mystery Oreos.

Well, I do sort of love the packaging. It's got the traditional "oddity" swirl decoration, with a big old regular Oreo in the middle...but what sort of creme is it??? Only the foodgineers at Nabisco know what they are going for. The fact that I can theoretically win $50,000 for guessing correctly is also the cherry on the mystery sundae here. Let's crack it open.

Holy crap. These things smell like concentrated Froot Loops. They look, however, just like ordinary Double Stuf Oreos, which, I suppose, is the point. Still, the cookie is clearly going to be chocolate, so the creme must be flavored with something that at least doesn't clash too much with that. Oh goodness it smells artificial. Let's eat!

Well, I don't know what the hell these things are supposed to be, but the sure taste citrusy to me! They do retain that Froot Loop-ish flavor, but I think what they are actually aiming for is Italian Ice, Lime Flavor. It's not sour enough to be lemon flavor (and tastes very different from their Lemon Oreos), and it's different from their Lime flavor, certainly, but it isn't very "Orange", and since those are the three main citrus products, I don't have a lot more choices. At first I thought it was close to Orange Creamsicle, but it's got a bit too much "zing" and not enough "cream" for that to be true. It's pretty good though, since I keep eating them. It is very mysterious!

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 Smiley Face. Certainly worth trying, but I doubt I'll buy more than this one package. I'm not sure what the flavor is, but I made my bet on Lime Italian Ice. To all who enter the contest, I wish you luck! Weird, yet effective, marketing this is.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Kotas Reviews Cookie Butter Oreos

Every so often I just have to wonder at a product. Some products are just so baffling that they make me ponder if we as a species have any idea what the hell we are doing. Still, life without variety isn't worth living, am I right? Perhaps! So let's take a look at today's experiment: Cookie Butter Oreos.

Cookie butter is a food spread made from crushed cookies, generally of the Speculoos style, mixed with fat, butter, and other nummy bits. I've seen it a few time in the store, but never felt compelled to try any. I mean, I guess it's like apple butter, but with cookies? Maybe it's good on toast? I have no idea what to do with this, though I guess you could make some sort of cookie ball thing with it. 

Well, this is at least a step up from the "Cookies and Cream" flavor fiasco but I still am a little confused by these. You are making a cookie that has the flavor of pulverized cookies? Uh, sure? Anyway, the package is exactly what you would expect from these, though it helpfully points out these are Graham Oreos and not your standard vanilla. I like the incorporation of "Limited Edition" as a stamp into the "cookie" in the Cookie Butter. Nice work, unnamed intern! Let's rip it open.

Tan in the place where you are, now look left...

These smell exactly like Biscoff cookies, which makes sense as those are the only brand of speculoos cookie I am aware of. The taste? The taste is like...a Biscoff cookie, but in paste form, with a touch of graham flavor. It tastes pretty decent really, but I am just left wondering WHY? So, cookie butter is made from ground up cookies, which you then took and made back INTO a cookie. Perhaps you could have, I don't know, saved a step and just never ground up the cookie? I suppose that doesn't really fit the Oreo "theme" but this probably didn't need to exist. Still, doesn't taste bad.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. I think they taste alright, but you can get that same taste from other cookies without needing to go through this...process. I am mostly just left confused. If you use Cookie Butter to make, say, a cake, that makes sense, as you are transforming the cookies into Cake format and thus the grinding may make it work better. But...these are just making a cookie from cookie butter. Which is like making a cow out of ground beef. Sure, it resembles a cow, but you were better off just leaving the poor thing alone.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Kotas Reviews Wasabi Doritos

Yeah, let's just say that "SPAM Week" isn't gonna be a thing. The reasons for that are many and varied, but mostly "I ain't eatin' Spam for dinner every day". Also my salt levels are higher than a Twitch streamer playing Cuphead. Anywho, it's time to move on to something both familiar and different at the same time. Something much more..fusion-y. Ladies, Gentlemen, Peasants from a Medieval Village, today Kotas Reviews Wasabi Doritos. 

The hip new food trend from, uh, seven years ago was fusion cuisine. You know, Asian Fusion, Indian Fusion, [INSERT ETHIC FOOD TYPE HERE] Fusion, I could go on forever. Of course, the usual "fusion" is "Generic American" which is how we got cheeseburger tempura rolls down at the local sushi hut. Still, it takes a while for these sorts of things to trickle down into the greater snack world, precisely because a lot of such dishes are extremely hard to translate into a snack food. Enter the humble wasabi pea. Wasabi is, of course, the spicy little dab of green paste one gets on the side of sushi. It is incredibly spicy, like horseradish (which is often used to make 'wasabi paste' and honestly probably the only kind of wasabi I've ever had), but the burn is short lived, and it has a solid flavor on top. The perfect spicy condiment, but not for everyone. I rather like it, but I know others who detest it. Still, it goes great on peas, which are surprisingly snackable despite having incredible levels of sinus clearing heat. I love wasabi peas, but I can only eat small amounts of them...or rather, I SHOULD only eat small amounts of them. Because reasons. Anyway, that's a lot of lead up to the question at hand: Is it any good on a tortilla chip?

Okay, somewhat less green than the bag indicated.
Well, the scent is strikingly similar to wasabi peas, though perhaps not as sharp. The color is exactly what I would expect, though the yellow of the corn chip obviously lightens the overall effect. This Mexican-Japanese fusion dish has all the hallmarks of a classic in the presentation, but how is the flavor? In a word, delicious. It mostly tastes like wasabi peas, only with "corn chip" instead of "dried pea" and it's fantastic. The wasabi flavor is strong and well distributed, and it even has a decent kick, though not as much as I would like from a Wasabi chip. Still, it is amazingly munchable, much moreso than the wasabi peas precisely because the heat isn't quite as strong. Super tasty and would go great with a cucumber roll or three. I personally think it could be a bit spicier without ruining the effect, but that's probably down to a personal preference.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 3 Smiley Faces. It is Exactly What It Says On The Tin, and I want more of them. I even prefer them over my previous spicy Dorito flavor of Spicy Sweet Chili, though I still think Cool Ranch is the Dorito Flavor King. If you like spicy foods, and especially if you like wasabi peas, do yourself a favor and get a bag or eight. I'll come over and help you eat them!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Kotas Reviews Bacon Spam

There is a long and storied tradition among the Kotases involving the consumption of tinned meat. From that glorious sausage from Vienna to the humble corned beef hash, meat from a can has been a staple member of the pantry for a long time. No matter how awful for us it really is. So, I guess we're gonna review Spam flavors now. Welcome to Spam...Week? Partial Week? Something! Today, ladies and gentlemen, we review Bacon Spam.

Bacon is everywhere these days.
So, I kinda love Spam. First introduced in 1937 by the Hormel company, this pork, ham (isn't that redundant?), potato starch, and sodium nitrate classic was popularized around the world during World War II, when it became a staple of United States Army rations. It has gone on to become a culinary staple in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, and is an ingredient in the fusion food Spam Musubi. My culinary journey with Spam starts with my father frying up slices to serve as a lunch fashioned from "whatever the hell we had in the cupboard". Since then, I acquired a taste for the super salty, vaguely unidentifiable pork meat from a distinct can, and would generally keep some in my pantry for use on "days when I didn't feel like eating well, but still didn't want to go out." The only two varieties I knew of were "Spam" and "Spam Lite" (a misnomer if ever there was one, because ah jeez, look at that ingredient list). Still, I suppose the modern requirement for "many flavors" infests everything. Hence today's subject, Bacon Spam. 

The can itself is incredibly distinct, though this particular one has the easy open pull tab, rather than the old fashioned "key" model that used to be the only way to get Spam. The only distinguishing feature between this and an ordinary can of Spam is the "ribbon" design with the world "Bacon" on it. Sure, bacon flavored everything is "all the rage", though at this point it's probably overdone. Unlike Spam, which you CAN eat without preparation. Let's crack open this sucker!

Shown fried, because I'm not a savage.
Well, it smells distinctly of Spam (yes, it's a unique scent), very pork-ish with a hint of something chemical. It doesn't really smell any different from regular Spam though. It slices fine, and the color is exactly like normal Spam. Frying it releases several delicious scents, but still it is very much the same as non-Bacon Spam. Perhaps a bit smokier, but it's hard to tell. So, how does it taste?

Do you like Spam? Then you will like this. It might have a touch more "smoke" flavor than normal Spam, but really? If you served it to me without the label, I would never know it wasn't normal Spam. That said, it's pretty tasty, if you like pork. Because this is incredibly pork flavored. It was originally designed as a way to sell more pork shoulder, so...mission accomplished? Anyway, it's Spam. You know what you are getting.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 Smiley Faces. I enjoy the hell out of Spam, and this is basically "Slightly Different Spam", so I like it. Would I pick it over regular Spam? Probably not, given it's basically the same thing with a different label. It costs the same though, which gives it a leg up on some other "limited edition" flavor nonsense I've seen in the past. If you like Spam, you will like this. If you don't like Spam, don't bother.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Kotas Reviews Hydrox Cookies

Legacy is an important thing for a lot of folk. Most people want to be remembered fondly when they are gone, either by millions of others, or even just a few family. What we do in the present is how we will be viewed in the future, and we hope that view is a good one. Some products reach this level of cult status: Coca-Cola with cane sugar, the Encharito (for reasons no one can explain to me) and even a limited time promotional dipping sauce. Even more legendary are products that everyone thinks are rip offs, but actually came first. Today, we look at one of those, the humble Hydrox Cookie.

Further adding to our Peak Nostalgia crisis.
I think it is pretty obvious by now that I fucking love Oreos. When I was growing up, I always saw Hydrox as Just Another Shitty Generic version of my beloved Oreos, that could never possibly be as good. I never got a chance to put that to the test, as my parents never purchased them, and by the time I was old enough to buy them myself, why would I bother with what I considered to be an inferior product? So, what the hell is a Hydrox anyway?

According to one of my favorite websites, the Hydrox cookie was originally brought to market in 1908 by the Sunshine Biscuits company, 4 years before the introduction of Oreo. The trend in marketing at the time was "purity", so the creators tried to come up with a name that would inspire thoughts of purity. Turns out apparently "purity" equals "hydrogen and oxygen". So, these are really Water Cookies! Isn't that special? These cookies have a small cult following that is as obsessive about their perceived superiority to the Hydrox to the Oreo. This led to Leaf Brands not only taking over the trademark from Kellogg, but going to great lengths to get the original recipe and in 2015, restart production. And here we are.

Let's see what we've got here.

Well, that was anticlimactic.
I can tell you this, the scent is a much richer Chocolate than that of Oreos. The vanilla creme is incredibly sticky, so the "twist off test" is a miserable failure. The creme itself is incredibly sweet, almost painfully sweet and not very vanilla, which makes sense given the chocolate of the cookie is SUPER strong. Oddly, the marketing claims the creme is LESS sweet, which I find hard to believe. Together they taste fairly decent, but the cookie is very durable on top of its intense flavor, which makes these kind of hard to actually eat. You'll put in some work to munch these suckers down. It is hard to describe these in reference to Oreos, but the word "Unrefined" is what I would use. It is a stronger, more intense flavoring, but the cookie is incredibly crunchy and the creme is very sticky and their flavors do not blend together smoothly. These are pretty good cookies, but they are basically a "decent generic" rather than a unique and special flavor all their own. Special shout out though to those who love to dip their Oreos in milk. These bastards will soak it all up and come out swinging with a nice crunch. In fact, I will declare that these are the superior dunking cookie. The milk softens the cookie (and adds some needed mitigation of the intense chocolate flavor), but because the cookie starts off so tough, you still get a nice satisfying crunch when you eat it.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 Smiley Face. They are tasty, but only in so far as they are "pretty good if you don't have Oreos". I am sure there are those out there that find these to be the superior cookie, but this is not the cookie for me and my delicate palate. They cost the same as Oreos, so slotting them in for a try shouldn't be too difficult. Maybe you will find your new favorite cookie, especially if you only eat them with milk. I'll stick to my usurper cookies, thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Kotas Reviews Smokin' Hot Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups

In my long life, I've had a strange relationship to spicy foods. As a wee lad, I detested them (a trait my kid seems to have inherited) and would actively avoid anything described as "spicy". However, as time passed, by high school I had learned to appreciate some small level of spice in foods. By college, I was happily eating fairly spicy foods and now I will sometimes get frisky and get "top level hot" at restaurants. Sometimes. Still, there is a weird trend as of late of putting spicy into things what not ought to be spicy. So of COURSE I had to try it. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you the Smokin' Hot Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cup.

Dare to Share indeed.
So, gas stations have amazing shit sometimes, and this is one of those things. My long suffering spouse bought this for me on one of our semi-regular Lotto Ticket Purchases. The cashier, I'm told, said "Wow, not a single other person has bought these. Tell ya what. Lemme give you a coupon. Just let me know how they are." If that's not a ringing endorsement, I can't tell you what is. What a fucking train wreck of a snack food product, eh? Peanut Butter Cups from Butterfinger I can actually conceive of, but why the FUCK would you put spicy hot anything in them? I guess because spicy boiled peanuts maybe? Or "chocolate with pepper in it"? I dunno, I'm not a flavorgineer. Anyway, the packaging is about what I would expect, with what looks like a challenge printed on it. Well Nestle, Challenge Accepted.

Sure, why the fuck not?
So, I guess "rounded cornered square" is acceptable for peanut butter cups now? Fine, whatever. The chocolate shell feels very...plastic-y and greasy, like you'd expect from cheap chocolate knock off peanut butter cups. This does not bode well. Let's crack it open.

Well, no ghosts in there. That's something.
Yeah, okay it's a peanut butter cup. It also has a nice ratio of peanut butter to chocolate. The chocolate is still a bit waxy, but it's not crumbly, and that helps a lot in the peanut butter cup experience. But none of you care about the subtle aesthetics of this thing now do you? Let's eat! 

Well, that wasn't so bad, in fact that was pretty go...OH GOD WHY? WHYYYYYY? This thing hits like a freight train of pain that is also on fire. Maybe it was just the one I ate, but good LORD the spice on this is strong. It's a shame too, because the actual peanut butter cup was tasty. A bit less sweet than a Reeses cup, good peanut butter flavor. The chocolate isn't as good, but it's also way better than I thought it would be, so all in all a different but comparable sort of treat. Until the dragon breathes fire down your throat. The heat adds NOTHING to the flavor of this candy, it is just there for the sake of being there, which I detest. Way to ruin a perfectly good candy, Nestle!

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 Frowny Faces. An otherwise decent candy ruined by some stupid marketing trend about Hot & Spicy Nonsense. There was a reason no one bought these, and I didn't eat more than one. In fact, I think I threw out the remainders after my spouse had one. No. Just NO.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kotas Reviews Caramel Apple Pop Tarts

Well, looks like Caramel Apple has joined the general pool of fall seasonal flavors. Hooray I guess? It was the new hot flavor of 2015, and now it's just another mainstream regular. So clearly we had to have it crammed into a Pop Tart. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a gander at Caramel Apple Pop Tarts.

Does this really need "Limited Edition"? No. It does not.
Honestly, I've never seen the big damn deal about Caramel Apples. They are kind of messy, annoying to eat, and the proportion of caramel to apple is never proper unless you serve it up sliced, and slicing one of these things up (as opposed to dipping apple slices in caramel sauce, which is the proper way to do this) is a pain in the ass. But well, here we are. I'll say, they made a bold choice in using a green apple for the decoration, since in food flavor land those are generally considered to be...significantly more tart than a standard red apple. The packaging is otherwise meh, and I don't know why it kind of looks like there is a hint of snowflakes or whatever in the swirly designs. Did you recycle this from your gingerbread Pop Tarts? Le sigh, let's get on with it.

Brown and green. The perfect color for a tasty pastry.
You know, these look mildly unappetizing, what with the toxic waste green drizzle on it. Still, it smells kind of like apples and maybe caramel. Let's crack one open and peer into the drippy, gooey insides!

Oozing is a fair description here.
This is another "flavor striped" version of a Pop Tart, much like their S'mores offering. There's a stripe of obviously "apple" filling and then some beige goo that is clearly supposed to be caramel flavoring. Honestly, the flavor is reasonable for this sort of thing. There is an apple component that is recognizable, but the caramel is weak enough that it's just sort of sugary without context. It mutes the apple-ness, which I think is a problem. These would be a lot better if the whole filling was the apple stuff, and let the caramel notes come from the frosted parts. As it stands it's kind of a muddle in the mouth.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. They are, at best, okay. I will finish the box, but I would probably never pick these over a more standard flavor, even if I was in the mood for something else. Give them a try, because hey, at least they aren't any more expensive than any other Pop Tart.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Kotas Reviews Apple Pie Oreos

We're deep into fall now my hearties! At least, I THOUGHT we were, until this touch of summer came back to haunt us. Damn it, Summer. Let Autumn have its turn! Still, the progress of food products continues, as we enter that most dreaded of flavor seasons, Pumpkin Spice. So screw that, let's have a pie! Or at least, something resembling pie? Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time we looked at Apple Pie Oreos.

As American as...uh, itself. I guess.
It's no secret that I love pie, and a well made apple pie is truly one of the pinnacles of piecraft. Still, apple is one of those flavors that, even when it's kinda bad, it's still pretty good. Plus, it hasn't really been "done" as a flavor much, with the more popular Green Apple and Caramel Apple flavors having their day in the sun. I like most any apple pie, though I concede it is often very difficult to eat in a convenient way if you are "sans flatware". If only there was some sort of way to get all that flavor into a small, portable package you could eat with just your hands! Oh wait...

Well, the packaging is pretty good. I would have expected the base color to be yellow, but the nice big ol' slice of apple pie stands out nicely from the blue. The little ribbon design stating these are Graham cookies (WHERE IS MY KEY LIME OREO NABISCO? WHERE?) calls back to pie contests and the cookie there. Let's open it up.

Well, it's very..beige.
This is not the best color I've seen on a cookie. It's okay, but beige makes me think of "house about to be sold so any personality has to be covered by blandness". The scent is apple-graham-ish, which you know, makes sense. I guess the graham part is supposed to be a graham cracker crust, but apple pies aren't generally known for their graham cracker crust (KEY LIME PIE OREO! IT SCREAMS AT YOU NABISCO!). It is a better choice than the standard "vanilla" cookie, so let's just give them the benefit of the doubt here. How does it taste?

It does taste like apple pie, just not the apple pie you'd expect. So, a McDonald's apple pie is loosely a pie, and more a turnover. It also has a distinct "fake flavor" chemical taste along with the hyper sugarized apple taste. That is exactly what these cookies remind me of, so I guess mission accomplished? Is this actually what I wanted? I don't know, better eat a couple more. Also, my kid likes them, which is always a plus.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Smiley Faces. They are in fact Apple Pie Cookies, though I don't think this is exactly what I had in mind when I envisioned an apple pie in cookie form. They are sweet, and different, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to get them, except maybe for a fall themed party or something like that. I've eaten a few, and I really see no need to eat any more, but they are different and who knows? Maybe you will love them.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Kotas Reviews West of Loathing

Well, howdy there partner! We don't get too many people lookin' for NON-food reviews 'round these parts, but I tell ya what. You set a spell and we'll cram your ear full of some high falutin' newfangled review goodness. Or, you know, maybe not. Still, it's been a while since I last did a non-food review, and boy have we got a nice one today. As you all may recall, I enjoy the games quite a bit, especially the games what are on the video. So let's take a look at one that has a...unique pedigree. Ladies, Gentlemen, Cowfolk of all ages, let's take a look at West of Loathing.

With Booze! Because of course.
Picture taken from
Way back in the mists of time known as "the early 2000s", browser based games were just starting to become a thing. The most well known of these is of course the Free to Play MMORPG called Runescape, which still runs to this day. It supported itself with advertising showing on the game play screen, as well as offering subscriptions and other store items. This of course inspired a host of other browser based games, because hey, Web 2.0 and all that, right? Still, Runescape was Java-based, and thus required additional downloads to play, even if they were incorporated in the browser. But, what if you could play in a more leisurely, turn based sort of way? 

Enter Kingdom of Loathing. First published in 2003, this game is a full browser based, turn based Dragon Warrior style RPG with a decidedly minimalist, hand-crafted aesthetic and the humor of a Dad convention run by snarky 90s teens. I discovered it in 2005-2006, when it caught on like wildfire among my coworkers at a help desk job, and it ate a LOT of my time. I loved the jokes, the stick figure "Hey, I could totally draw that" aesthetic, the goofy items, and the surprisingly deep combat and adventure systems. It also is still running to this day, and supports itself with donations.

So what happens when the people who made Kingdom of Loathing go and make an actual game that you can buy for real money? You get West of Loathing of course! Because apparently Western games are all the rage (or about to be, see the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 and Wild West Online titles), the fine folks at Asymmetric Games put out their spin on the genre, combining the wit of Kingdom of Loathing, with a wild send up of Western tropes and cliches. From the Options menu, you know this is going to be one of THOSE games. As you can see, the aesthetic is a black and white, hand sketched stick-figure style of art and yet it has a color-blind mode option, with the tool tip of "You never know". That is exactly the kind of game you are going to get, so saddle up, you are in for a bumpy ride.

You start off in your hastily sketched home dreaming of being one of three classes: The Muscle based Cow Puncher, all about melee combat and, well, punching cows, The Mysticality based Beanslinger, who uses bean based magic to smite his or her foes, and my personal favorite, the Moxie based Snake Oiler, using the power of snakes to poison and slither through the world. There are three other stats, Guts, Gumption, and Glamour which add various secondary bonuses and also determine your Liver, Spleen, and Stomach capacity, which determines the number of Booze, Potion, or Food items you can consume for bonuses each game day. Yes, you heard right, you throw back Booze to gain stat buffs. I love this game for that. 

Anyway, after saying goodbye to your family and moseying through the credits, you end up in the town of Boring Springs, after the semi-cataclysmic event When the Cows Came Home. Did I mention there were demonic cows? Yeah, that's a thing. Your goal here is to get to Dirtwater, but you'll need a horse to do it. And thus you start going through the various starter quests where you will get your hat, your horse, and your helper. The hat is based on your class, there are 4 horses, and 4 potential helpers to acquire, though you can only have one of each. There's even an optional "Hard Mode" to find. Already there's gonna be some replayability here. The story doesn't change though, but the details...those do change. 

Combat is turn-based and grid-based (ish). You pick an action, your helper picks and action, and then the bad guys do their thing. Wash, rinse, repeat. Sometimes you go first or sometimes the bad guys get the jump on you (based on your Speed). Your class skills usually require Action Points (AP) to work, and most of them don't use up your turn to use, though attacks always do. My Snake Oiler was able to buff himself pretty high before letting loose a fan of bullets which pretty much murders any single target. Items can be used in combat and using them doesn't generally take up your turn either, so you could, for example, heave a giant pile of dynamite at a foe before you officially "attack" it. Some skills work on the grid, such as "hitting a line" and the like, but the grid interaction is pretty weak.
Experience points are earned for fighting, conversations, interactions, quests, and lots of other things. These points are spent to boost your stats and your skills. The game also has an option for automatic expenditure of points, or you can always divvy them up yourself. I tend to go with "autopick" for a first play through, but you do you man. The skills are all appropriately themed: The Cow Puncher has a buffing skill called "Beef Up", whose icon is a picture of a steak. The Snake Oiler has a skill called Snake Whip, where you literally whip an enemy with a snake. The Beanslinger slings Lava Favas, which explode. There are elemental damage types lifted wholly from Kingdom of Loathing: Hot, Stench, Spooky, Cold, and Sleaze. That's right, you too can inflict Stench damage if you so choose.  

Poke around everywhere to see what you can do, because many things are interactable. There are numerous puzzles to solve, some fetch type quests, and so on. Most are pretty straightforward, but there are a few tougher puzzles that may require some additional thought. Nothing is a real brain buster though. This ain't West of Professor Layton after all. There are lots of optional things, and you CAN absolutely screw up a few bits permanently. Still, nothing you do will cause you to lose the game or get so stuck as to be unable to complete the content. Just lots of sidequests you may or may not complete. There are even multiple ways to get through the main quest, though a primary path is always suggested to you. 

All in all, my romp through the West of Loathing has been an enjoyable one, but there are a few things that aren't great. For one, you can't get through every single option in one playthrough, which mildly pains the completionist in me. For another, the windowed mode is a bit janky, without a proper "windowed full-screen" mode to make tabbing back and forth to things (like say, a blog post) easier. There is replayability, and yes speed runs are going to be a thing in this game, but a LOT of the content is the same stuff with only slight variations (hilarious though they may be). The art style is definitely a "love it or hate it" kind of thing, as is the humor.

On the FACE Rating System, West of Loathing gets 3 Hat Wearing Smileys. I adore this game and if you love lightweight RPGs that don't take 80 hours to finish (though it may take around 20), this will be right up your alley. The Western theme is glorious, the jokes land well, the combat is surprisingly good, and it has a Stupid Walks option. What more could you ask for? Whiskey, the answer is always whiskey.