Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Kotas Reviews Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Oreos

Man, it's be a crazy year for Oreos, eh? Lots of new flavors, contest controversy and several returning limited editions, such as Cinnamon Roll, that appear to be falling into the "seasonal" brand label. Still, it doesn't mean there aren't dozens of other flavors to explore! I'm sure we're not at all sick of them yet. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's dive into Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie Oreos.

New!
Well, here we are. Another pie flavored Oreo. Past examples haven't really conveyed a lot of "pie-ness", but there's only so much you can do with a cookie. Frankly, I think they are just using it to denote "graham cookie" instead of a vanilla or chocolate cookie. Whatever. The package looks fine, but much like Bioware games generally have a decent story, Nabisco doesn't get to crow about their excellent packaging anymore. In fact, it's sort of expected that Oreo packaging will be good from now on. Still, that's quite a pie they are displaying, eh? Let's see what lies inside!

It's the little differences that count.
Well, I can't say I'm shocked. It looks about what I'd expect a chocolate peanut butter cookie to look like. I'm not a fan of the "split color" look, but it does make for an obvious comparison. I personally think they should just have it split length wise, and do a half-layer of chocolate and a half-layer of peanut butter, laid down so that each bite gets some of each type of creme. Oh well, maybe that's harder than this weird dollop half method. Definitely smells of peanut butter and graham cracker, but the chocolate really isn't present in the scent.

Upon tasting them, they mostly taste like a peanut butter cookie. The graham flavor comes through, certainly, but there is little to no chocolate about these cookies, no matter what the color of the creme says. The peanut butter flavor is overwhelming, tasting a lot like Nutter Butter cookies, but not quite. There is something that might be chocolate in there if you really concentrate, but otherwise? Non-existent. It's not terrible, if you like peanut butter cookies, but it's certainly nothing special or Oreo-y. I think the traditional chocolate cookie would have been a lot better here, or even one chocolate cookie and one graham cookie. As it stands, it's an Oreo trying really hard to be a Nutter Butter cookie. Don't quit your day job, Oreo.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 0 Faces. It's fine, I guess, but I don't think the world needed a More Different Peanut Butter Oreo. If you want a peanut butter creme cookie with a bit of chocolate, just dip a Nutter Butter into a chocolate spread and enjoy that. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Kotas Reviews Kettle Corn Oreos

Man, I don't know how Nabisco does it. They have been cranking out Oreo flavors so fast my head is spinning and my pancreas cries out in horror. I mean, sheesh people! Let us have a bit of a breather! Maybe eat something else for once! Oh well, onward ho, right? Today's specimen is a weird one anyway. Let's dive right in to Kettle Corn Oreos.

Sure, why the hell not? EVERYTHING IS WEIRD NOW.
I'll lay it out for you, I'm not a big fan of kettle corn. It always claims to be "salty-sweet" or something but every time I've had it there has been something a little off with it. I can never quite place what exactly is wrong but I've never had a Kettle Corn Experience that rose above the level of "Well, I guess it's fine" and usually go into the "meh" bucket. So I can honestly say I did not have high hopes for a cookie version of it. How would they get the savory bits into a freakin' Oreo? Oh well, at least the packaging is nice. Still, I've come to accept that Nabsico's food package art standard is high. Let's rip it open.

HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW?!
Yeah, it's about what I expected. Vanilla cookie, some sort of sweet creme...wait, are those actual bits of popcorn in there? Why, yes it...oh, it's puffed millet. Says so on the package. Still, that's an awfully strong commitment to theme and I can respect that. There is a VERY "cereal grain" scent over this, that kind of reminds me of Corn Pops cereal. Sweet and corny, just like I like my pick up lines. Anyway, let's eat!

You know, I'm a proud man. One given to strong opinions and a strong defense of those opinions. I pride myself on having at least some idea of what I'm talking about, and I like to think that my food opinions are respected. Today I have to take my hat off to Nabisco, for giving me something I didn't even know I wanted. For you see fellow food explorers, these cookies taste nothing like Kettle Corn. However they do taste almost exactly like Corn Pops in cookie form. I LOVE Corn Pops. They are one of my favorite breakfast cereals, but having them in a cookie? Well friends, this is delicious. You may not have nailed "kettle corn" Nabisco, but ya done real good. I salute you.

On the FACE Rating Scale, these get 2 Corned Smiley Faces. It ain't exactly kettle corn, but it is much better than actually having kettle corn flavor in my opinion. If you were expecting actual kettle corn flavor, look elsewhere, but you will be missing out on a darn good cookie. Who would have guessed, eh?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Kotas Reviews Pina Colada Oreos

Well, that was a great two weeks of Spring we had wasn't it, eh? Alas, actual nice weather is very rapidly giving way to the muggy hot soupiness of Summer. However, the return of Demon Summer does bring with it a predilection for tropical drinks on a beach. Unfortunately, there's none of that crap 'round here, so I guess I'll have to settle for like the 15th best thing. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's take a gander at Pina Colada Oreos!

Better than getting caught in the rain, maybe.
So we have yet another drink themed Oreo to deal with this year. What is it with Oreos and drinks lately? Who put you up to this guys? Oh, right. Well, we'll just step away from that and focus on what's in front of us, shall we? Honestly, as much as I love rum, I'm not a fan of coconut and so the pina colada has held little fascination for me. It can be quite refreshing on a hot day under two or three suns worth of heat, but I don't really seek them out. My grandmother was very fond of them and would always get them when we went out to eat on Florida vacations. This one's for you, Grandma. Sadly, I think that much like the majority of my adult life, it's gonna be a little disappointing for you.

She would have appreciated that joke. If not the awful color palette here.
The choice of "thin" here was a good one I feel. These kind of things are such that a little goes a Looooong Way into flavor country. The vanilla cookie also compliments rather than contrasts with flavors like coconut, and "chocolate" has no place in a pina colada, no matter what Applebee's might say. The scent coming off of these things is pure "store bought pina colada mixer", so it's got that going for it. Let's have a bite!

Yeah, this is basically pina colada mix in cookie cream format smeared on vanilla cookies. I must give credit where credit is due in that they created exactly what they set out to create. Sadly, what they set out to create is something I neither wanted nor particularly like. At least it doesn't have a huge chemical taste to it, unlike the Cherry Cola ones. 

On the FACE Rating System, I give this 0 Faces. It is exactly what it says on the tin package, but it's just not something I like. It's not offensive, just not for me. If you have a hankerin' for pina colada mix, these are probably right up your alley. I'll just be three alleys over drinking rum. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Kotas Reviews Cherry Cola Oreos

While not the first time a major corporation had some sort of "competition" to see what new flavors of a product would be hitting store shelves later on, the Frito-Lay, "Do Us a Flavor" campaign was the first to make it a semi-regular occurrence on the grocery store shelves. Pretty soon, everyone was getting into the act. So, I guess Nabisco had to horn in on that particular market as well! Let's eat some more Oreos. Ladies and Gentleman, today we pop open Cherry Cola Oreos.

 
Looks like I'm going to have to JUMP!
Le sigh. Honestly, I'm getting sort of burnt out on Oreo flavors. There are just so many that if you squint they almost all run together in a panoply of ever more ridiculous ideas to sandwich between two wafer cookies. Still, I must applaud them for continually putting out new and interesting, if not always the best tasting, products. This particular endeavor marks the first time that I know of where Nabisco solicited ideas from the general public. Kudos to you for having gone years without having to do this to shore up flagging sales! Ahem. 

Well, the packaging is good. Not amazing, but it gets the job done. Cherry. Cola. Cherry and Cola together. Oreos that are colored. Serviceable. Now, cherry cola is a secret pleasure from my youth. before its introduction as an actual product in 1985, Cherry Coke was something that the local Ponderosa Steak House used to offer as something of treat for the kiddos, of which I was one. I loved that iteration, and I loved it in a can or from a fountain when Coke made it a staple of their line. Oh what happy times. I'm not as huge a fan these days, as it's a bit sweeter than I like in a soda, but it's still good and invokes fond memories. Will these cookies stack up? Let's rip it open.

Well, I guess they couldn't color the white icing brown in this case...not that it's stopped them before.
Well, it smells a lot like those fake cola gummy things mixed with chocolate cookie upon opening the package. It's not bad, but quite artificial. These things twist off pretty easy, exposing the dual red and white filling. Supposedly, these have pop rock type candies in them to give them a "fizz". I'm sure that's fine. Let's eat! 

First, these are incredibly artificial. There's some fake cherry flavor, a heaping helping of fake cola flavor, and something resembling a standard Oreo underneath. The pop rock bits dutifully fizz in the food hole, as promised. However, it is all topped with this nauseating chemical taste that is fighting a war with the other flavors for dominance. It hasn't won yet, but man is it giving it its all. It tastes like what I imagine a trench warfare battlefield in Candy Land would taste like. Sweet and disturbing all at once. No thank you.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Frowny Faces. I didn't spit it out, but I only had few cookies out of obligation to try and understand the flavor. The rest were foisted off on relatives for disposal. Others have claimed they "aren't bad", but I really didn't care for them. Not poison, but totally not worth it. Unless you want to experience the hellscape that is War in the Gumdrop Mountains.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Kotas Reviews Mozzarella N' Marinara Ruffles

Well, it's quickly approaching the nightmarish hellscape known as "summer" around these parts. Pity we didn't actually have a spring to go with it, eh? Still, these times call for backyard fare to feast upon as we pay tribute to the glorious excesses of the year. What better way to do that than with a new and totally different potato chip flavor! Ladies and gentlemen, today we crunch into Mozzarella and Marinara Ruffles.

Sure, let's go with that.
I can honestly say I've never been eating potato chips and gone "You know what this needs? Marinara sauce!" Seriously, who approved this? I mean, I get it. Mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce are delicious, but do we really need them in chip form? Wouldn't that ease of access simply reduce the delight in eating a good mozzarella stick? No? Fine. The artwork on this is pretty good, with a solid picture of what they were going for, along with the actual product. I haven't harped on this too much but kudos to you food manufacturers for actually putting representative pictures of your product on the bag. Let's rip it open!

Not exactly the most exciting picture, is it?
Well, they smell kind of like tomato sauce I guess. They certainly have some sort of flavor dust, but it's not particularly stand out now is it? The little green flecks I guess are a nod to oregano or other herbs that separate tomato sauce from marinara maybe? Whatever, let's eat. 

Okay, these taste alright. Definitely some tomato sauce from a jar type flavors here, but nothing too significant. Some mild cheese flavors that I associate with mozzarella, but not definitively mozzarella flavor. It's not bad, but it's not particularly good. I guess if you dumped a jar of Prego over some regular Ruffles, scraped a few shavings of mozzarella on it, and then baked it, you might approximate the taste. I think I'm pretty whelmed by this.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 0 Faces. They aren't bad, but they are nothing special. If you just need something different yet unlikely to anger you, these fit the bill, but so do a number of other chip flavors. I'd probably pass these by.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Kotas Reviews Crunchy Espresso M&Ms

Man what a crazy month. So many things have come out to talk about, right as I'm completely swamped with work and other stuff. Alas, right? Anyway, all this work has made me very sleepy, and as we all know the best caffeine jolt you can buy is straight up coffee...or IS IT? Ladies and Gentlemen, today we look at Crunchy Espresso M&Ms.

Here we go, lads and lasses!
So, in my college days I was quite the addict of chocolate covered espresso beans. They had a lovely chocolate flavor, a good solid crunch, and a burst of coffee flavor. However, they also had an excessive bitterness which is okay, but was more something I endured rather than enjoyed greatly. It wasn't bad, but it was often too much. It always seemed to be that these things should taste better then they actually did. As I got older, I stopped eating them for a variety of reasons and they safely moved into the nostalgic part of my flavor memory. 

Briefly jogged by a remarkably whelming version of these a couple of years ago, it was with only a bit of trepidation that I picked up the package. This package is pretty solid. Overwhelmingly brown, but hey, who can't love an M&M sipping coffee, eh? EH? Maybe it's just me. Let's open it up and see what Mars hath wrought.

Yeah, that's the color palette of a latte all right.
The color scheme is on theme, which is the nicest thing I can say about it. Still, a candy doesn't have to be visually spectacular to be delicious, does it? Nope! Let me tell you, these are good. Astoundingly good. They are a nice mix of chocolate and coffee flavors, and the crunchy bit adds some texture without being annoying or chemical tasting. As I said to my spouse, these things taste like I remember chocolate covered espresso beans tasting. I may have devoured an entire bag in one sitting. Maybe.

On the FACE Rating System, these get a caffeine buzzed 3 Smiley Faces, taking the crown as my new favorite M&M. If I weren't trying to not eat everything in sight, I would buy a huge bag of these to munch on all the time. If you like coffee and chocolate, go get some and eat up! You won't regret it!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Kotas Reviews Raspberry Crispy M&Ms

Novelty in confection is a continual churn of ideas, that really only got out of hand recently. There was a time, dear readers, when the addition of Mint M&Ms was heralded as both a good thing and as a sign of the decline of our stolid values and traditions. After all, it was only over decades of time did the variations of Peanut and Almond were added, along with the concept of holiday variants. These were, however, just as simple redecoration of the same familiar candy. Boy, what a long way we've come since then. Ladies and Gentlemen, let's dig into Raspberry Crispy M&Ms.

Yeah Red, we're just as baffled as you.
So, I do occasionally get requests to review things, and even rarer, I actually get to review them. Luckily, someone got this out in front of me early on and I was able to get my hands on some that didn't come in "Shame Size". Ah, the Crispy M&M. First introduced in 1999, discontinued in 2005, and then brought back 10 years later, I've never much cared for the Crispy version of these delectable little fat pills. For whatever reason, the crispy part always had a weird ass chemical flavor to it, as I've stated before. So, I wasn't terribly enthused to be giving these a shot. Oh well, I owe it to [REDACTED] to eat these things. Let's Do It!

Tasteful muted colors is not exactly what I was expecting.
Well, they look pretty good. I think they might be a little bigger than regular M&Ms, but that's to be expected given they have a crispy bit inside. The color scheme is...less radical than I anticipated, as the red is much less bright than I thought it would be based on the packaging. It's more wine colored than anything. There's definitely a hint of raspberry in the scent. But no one really cares if it's a tasteful display, only that it displays excellent taste. Let's eat!

You know, I think they finally got the recipe right this time. Good chocolate flavor, a nice bit of crisp texture from the crispy, and good, but not overwhelming raspberry taste. There's also a distinct lack of "chemical" flavor that usually accompanies the Crispy variety. Now, this could simply be a side effect of the raspberry flavoring covering it up, but damn if it don't work well. These are pretty darn good!

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Smiley Faces. I rather like these, and could see myself picking up some when I wanted M&Ms, but not standard M&Ms. Definitely a better flavor outing than the freakin' Chili Nut M&Ms. If you like raspberry and chocolate, definitely give these a try!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kotas Reviews Hershey's Gold Peanuts and Pretzels

What is it about gas stations that make them the perfect place to find new or weird snacks? Does anyone (besides me) go into a gas station with the intention of finding new or interesting things to try? Is this some sort of compulsion that only I have, yet somehow is catered to by most major convenience store chains? Did I take too many drugs? The answer to all of this and more is "I dunno, probably". With that in mind, let's take a look at Hershey's Gold Peanuts and Pretzels.

Go for the gold...colored wrapper!
If you've been reading this blog for a while, it is absolutely no secret that white chocolate and I generally don't get along. It's fine, but I will pass it up for most other confections if available. Still, some of the flavored white chocolates are decent, mostly because they no longer taste like white chocolate. Which brings us to today's treat, the Hershey's Gold Peanuts and Pretzels. I saw this in the gas station while loading up on lotto ticket (yes, ticket. Not a typo) and thought "oh hey, something new from Hershey's! Sort of, I guess." and picked one up to try.

Turns out, this is Hershey's first new candy bar since 1993, when they debuted the Cookies & Creme bar. Whodathunk it, eh? I thought maybe it had been put out as a Winter Olympics promotion, and well, I might be right, given it came out December 1st of last year. Still, I do love caramel, pretzels, and occasionally peanuts mixed in with those two things. How could I refuse? Let's eat!

Well, at least it's not grey.
I gotta be honest. This doesn't look all that appetizing. Tan isn't a great color in a candy, and while I appreciate the attempt to differentiate it from their other candy bars, the weird offset "break" pattern for the subsections of the bar makes me thing you are just trying to put one over on me and sell me less candy per bar. I don't actually think that is the case here, but it sure does look like you are tryin' to downsize me candy! Smells pretty good though, peanutty and caramelly certainly. Obviously not much pretzel, but hey, whatchagonnado? OM NOM NOM, that's what!

Well, this is decently tasty! The caramel flavor is there, but not overwhelming, and the peanut/pretzel combo works surprisingly well with no flavor really masking any other. There isn't much pretzel flavor here beyond "salt" and a bit of extra crunch here and there, but it's still a decent candy. Color me surprised, really. My kid also enjoyed it, so that's a point in its favor. Best of all, it really doesn't taste a ton like white chocolate, even though that is clearly the base.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Smiley. It's not amazing, but for something new from Hershey's, they did a good job of making an interesting candy. Good enough for the occasional indulgence, but probably not good enough for me to buy a ton of. Granted, I try not to eat much Hershey's to start with, but long trips in the car just got a bit more caramelly. Give this one a try!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Kotas Reviews Doritos Flamas

Every now and again I get a taste for spicy snacks. While it isn't a constant thing, sometimes I just need to make sure my sinuses are empty and my palette is a little scorched, just to bring everything back into focus. Not every spicy snack will do, though. I like my spicy snacks with a really solid flavor and a good amount, but not too much, spice. Lucky for me, there seem to be a ton of options that meet this requirement. Here's one now! Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a look at Doritos Flamas!

This packaging isn't confused at all. No siree.
The gas station is a magical wonderland of weird food. Limited edition stuff, re-releases, and in my local area (and lots of other local areas I've been to) a plethora of snacks from South of the Border. Many of which are super good and/or super weird. In this case, it's Doritos Flamas, a lovely treat that sums up America's view on all snacks Mexican as being "chili lime", which admittedly a LOT of them are flavored with this combo. So, I guess I'm an international critic now? The Mystery Box says yes. OBEY! Ahem, anyway...let's take a gander at these.

Bold, red, and made of terror! And lime! Lime terror?
They are suuuuuper red. Nature's warning color red. Finger staining red. Did I mention they were red? Well, they are. But not a consistent red. The Flavor Dust here is super unreliable in concentration, as the yellow chip shows through randomly on some chips, and "not at all" on others. The scent is incredibly strong with both chili and amazingly chemical-ish lime notes, along with a hint of just "hot", which is totally a scent. I've had similar flavorings before, from a brand called "Taki", which weren't my favorite, but hey, what could it hurt? Let's eat!

Well, these are certainly spicy, but what I can't say is that they have no flavor to go along with that spice. Holy crap, the LIME. It just saturates every bite and, coupled with the chili and a weird chemical taste is just BIZARRE on the tongue. Personally, I find whatever artificial lime flavor they use on tortilla chips to be somewhat unpleasant, and this flavoring is no exception. It's just so fake and chemical tasting! In addition, it almost but not quite COMPLETELY overwhelms any of the other flavors, except of course "hot". There is a chili flavor under all this, but it doesn't stand out. I think though if they had left off the lime part, these would be pretty good! As it stands though, they are not the greatest thing ever. 

On the FACE Rating System, these get 1 Frowny Face. They aren't poison in a bag, they simply do not work at all for me. The chemical lime flavor is sour and nasty, but is mitigated by the decent chili and "hot" notes. It did also unclog my sinuses. I finished the (admittedly small) bag, but I won't get these again. However, if you love spicy things AND think the "hint of lime" tortilla chips are the bomb, you will probably love these. To each their own.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Kotas Reviews Tullamore Dew Caribbean Rum Cask Finish

Ah, St. Patrick's Day. A beloved holiday originally invented as a way to celebrate the persecution of druids in Ireland that has since morphed into yet another excuse for people to imbibe too much booze. Man that got dark quick. Anycrap, let's talk whiskey! As long time readers of my blog are aware, I only discovered my enjoyment of whiskey after the start of the current rye boom. Bourbon, rye, and the finest of scotch I've covered, but I never really tasted much Irish whiskey until recently. So, let's see how my latest find does. Lads and Lassies, wee tots of 21 years or older, let's ease our throat with the real old mountain dew, Tullamore Dew Caribbean Rum Cask Finish.

Top o' the mornin' to ya!
Since I'm a heathen drinker at heart, I tend to buy booze on either recommendation from friends, or by "feel". By which I mean "does the bottle look cool, and is the price right"? So when I popped into my local liquor store to get ready for St. Patrick's Day, I saw this stuff sitting by the counter, on sale. Oh hey, that's a good price for a bottle of booze at $23! So I grabbed it and took it home, not realizing that a) it was a pretty new product and b) different from standard Tullamore Dew. The brand is currently owned by William Grant & Sons, which is (wait for it) a Scottish company more known for their Scotch. Still, they own a distillery in Tullamore, and source other components from other Irish distilleries. Hooray? Let's crack it open.

The perfect drink to get you going in the morning.
Well, it's whiskey alright, but this one was aged in barrels that originally held rum. If you don't think that makes a difference, well, let me be the first to say that you are incorrect. The nose of this is definitely whiskey, but it has some of the same sweet vanilla hints as rum, along with a bright wheat scent. Not knowing much about Irish whiskey, I can only really compare it to bourbon and rye. Clean, is how I would describe it. It does not stay on the palette, and it has no spiciness like most rye has. The rum top flavor is there, but it takes a back seat to the whiskey flavoring. I can't say how it compares to regular Tullamore Dew, but you know, I like it. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 2 Smiley Faces. It's got a bit of rumness to it, which I like, and it doesn't linger. If I had to impart an emotion to this drink, it would be "cheerful". The price is also really good, at less than $30 (at least as of the time of this writing). The liquor shop employee also raved about my excellent choice in booze, and I can't say he was wrong. If you need to Irish up your coffee (or jam jar, in my case) this fits the bill and adds a touch of uniqueness with the rum flavors. Give it a whirl! 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Kotas Reviews McDonald's Szechuan Sauce

Once in a great long while, a movement begins. Usually with a simple offhand remark or joke, it swells into something bigger than the creators ever intended. People begin repeating it, almost incessantly. It spreads through whatever niche community it started in, and may, if popular enough, slither out into the wider pop cultural world. Then someone in a corporate board room decides they can make a quick buck, and it all comes crashing down around their heads. Ladies and Gentlemen, today we review McDonald's Szechuan Dipping Sauce.

As much as they were legally allowed to give me.
Man, what to say that hasn't already been said, eh? For those of you who live in rocks or caves, in the late 1990s, to promote the then new Disney movie Mulan, McDonalds released a limited time only Szechuan Sauce for their McNuggets, and after the movie left theaters, so did this sauce leave McDonalds to be mostly forgotten...until April 1, 2017, when Rick and Morty's Season 3 Premiere aired. Rick and Morty is a hilarious take on the "kid and scientist team up for adventures" subgenre of science fiction. I'm a fan of the show, so of course I loved the Season 3 opener, which wrapped up a bunch of stuff from Season 2 and was very entertaining. However, we're not here to talk about Rick and Morty. One of the running gags in the episode was Rick's desire to obtain the Szechuan Sauce again, even though they don't make it any more. At the end of the episode he even goes on a rant about how it is the only thing that makes him happy, and so on and so forth. Good joke, really.

The fandom took to this like...well, me on a variety of weird foods. It became quite the meme on the Reddits and other places, culminating in a petition to bring back the sauce. McDonalds, smelling nerd money, decided to whip up a few batches and send them to one of the show creators. Then, smelling more nerd money, they decided to have a "one day only" release of the sauce at stores. This went...poorly. Go check out the nonsense for yourself, but people flipped their fucking shit for this sauce, going so far as to harass workers when they ran out, and in general be bad sports. It caused a bit of a ruckus, is what I'm saying. McDonalds, after the whole mess died down a bit, decided to release a whole bunch of the sauce to stores in the winter and well, it's finally here. So, was it worth rioting over? Let's find out!

Spoiler: No, it wasn't.
Well, it certainly looks different from their usual sauces. I'm a Sweet and Sour man myself, and this smelled a bit like that, along with soy sauce. So, how does it taste? Well, I rather liked it. Probably my favorite of all the McDonalds dipping sauces, actually. Tastes like Sweet and Sour mixed with teriyaki sauce and some vague spice. Just enough to bring a bit of heat, and nothing more. Given that I happen to like Sweet and Sour sauce AND teriyaki sauce, this mix does right by me. So, yeah, my new favorite sauce for when I eat at McDonalds. That said...it's not mind blowing. It's good, but it totally wasn't worth the hype (or a car for that matter). Still, I'll be eating this until I can't whenever I go to McDonalds. Which, with a 4 year old, is more frequently than I would like. At least their new tenders are good.

On the FACE Rating System, this sauce gets 2 Portal Guns, er Smileys. It's a damn fine fast food sauce for your chicken (or burgers, hey man, I don't judge) and has supplanted Sweet and Sour as my favorite. However, it's still just a fast food dipping sauce, so don't think it will change your life or anything. If you like fast food dipping sauces, give this one a whirl (if you can), but like, don't go out of your way too much to get it. Certainly don't trade a car for it!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Kotas Reviews Sweet Heat Starburst

Sometimes a food trend comes along and is just something I don't understand. Sriracha sauce is fine and all, but did it need to be in almost everything? Probably not. Then there are food trends that I both don't understand and are stupid from the get go. Ugh, let's get this over with. Ladies and gentlemen, today we look at Sweet Heat Starburst.

Behold the agent of your downfall.
 Who the fuck asked for this shit, eh? As I've stated before, just adding 'hot' to something does not make it more interesting or fun. It just makes it hot. Well, not everything needs to be hot, damn it! I have to wonder who on the executive board of Wrigley said "Oh man, I love Starburst, but imagine if I could burn the shit out of my mouth while enjoying their juicy fruit flavor! That would be great!" Well, not only did that person NOT get dragged screaming out of a board meeting in a straight jacket, they apparently got put into the position of New Product Design! LOOK AT THIS! It's BLACK PACKAGING for shit's sake! Let's rip it open.

Not pictured: My everlasting hatred.
I have to admit, at least the wrappers for the individual taffy bits have little flames on them, to warn you away from trying them. They all have clever names like "Flaming Orange" or "Fiery Watermelon", none of which really make any damn sense in the context of "juice fruit flavors". How do they taste? Well, they taste like Starburst, and then they taste like burning. At least the flavor has the decency to put the heat after the fruit (however THAT happened). The fruit flavors are fine, but the hot adds NOTHING to them and in fact detracts most harshly from their taste. I ate one of each flavor, just to see, and I will not be touching these again. Fuck off, candy spawn of Mephisto!

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Frowny Faces. I guess if you like fruit that is immediately followed by agony, maybe you'd like this. Me? I hate it. It's an insult to candy lovers everywhere, and I swear it was made as a joke just to piss people off. Why would anyone have thought this was a good idea? I may never know. Stay away!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Kotas Reviews Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos

Hola Amigos! Now that Winter is slowly (or not so slowly, amirite?) leaving us, time to get back to what we do best: Eat new flavors from Nabisco. I don't know about the rest of you, but Hazelnut and Chocolate are two flavors that pair extremely well together. From Ferrero Rocher to Nutella, people have been obsessing about this combination in "semi-fancy" treats for decades. Well, Nabisco just had to horn in on that action, eh? Of course it did. Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a gander at Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos.

Legally distinct from Nutella!
Image Source:http://www.brandeating.com/2018/01/oreo-welcomes-2018-with-chocolate-hazelnut-and-cinnamon-flavors.html
Honestly, I love the taste of chocolate hazelnut things and Nutella has always been my favorite way to ingest it. I dip fruit in it, smear it on cupcakes, or just plain bread and make a sandwich out of it. Mixes well with peanut butter too! It's damn tasty is what I'm saying. Naturally, I saw these Oreos and was all "Hot diggity dawg, I bet these are amazing!" Anycrap, the packaging is bog standard for limited edition Oreos at this point. Nothing outstanding, but nothing terrible either. I'm sort of surprised they went with the vanilla Oreo on this one, but I guess I kind of get it. Chocolate on chocolate might be a little overwhelming. Let's see how they look!

Yup, that's a chocolate looking Oreo all right.
Well, they smell very Chocolate Hazelnut, that's for sure. The vanilla from the cookie though is much more noticeable than I would have thought. So, how does it taste? Kind of disappointing. It's certainly chocolate hazelnut, but the vanilla in the cookie really mutes the flavor and makes it taste a lot less strongly that I would expect. It's good, but not nearly as good as I would have thought. I feel that the chocolate cookie, as counter intuitive as it might seem, would have been the better choice. The extra bit of bitterness from the chocolate cookie would enhance the hazelnut part instead of mostly drowning it out. The cream itself is a little less chocolatey than I would like as well, though if I mash two cookies together in some sort of Double-Stuf nightmare, that tasted about right. 

On the FACE Rating System, I give these 1 Smiley Face. Pretty good, but not quite as good as I would have hoped. Still, it's not bad, and I'd eat them again. If you don't like Hazelnut, these have nothing to offer you, and if you don't mind a strong vanilla overtone, these may be right up your alley. Grab some and see for yourself!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Kotas Reviews Hot and Spicy Cinnamon Oreos

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! A time when marketing moguls have convinced us all that there is exactly ONE day a year during which we can really show our love for a significant other, and the best way to express that love is with a stuffed bear emblazoned with a heart. Also with candy. Because always candy. So of course Nabisco is gonna try and horn in on that sweet sweet Valentine's money, right? Right! Today we're looking at Hot and Spicy Cinnamon Oreos.

Made with love...and pain.
Well, I'm pretty sure no one ever asked for this and yet, here it is. This Limited Edition wonder sports a jaunty heart theme, made up of Legally Distinct Cinnamon Candy From Red Hots, and a picture of the Oreo itself. Red is nature's warning color folks! Seriously though, it is a remarkably nice piece of packaging for conveying what kind of cookie you are getting yourself into. Let's tear it open and see what's inside.

You know you wanna. Come oooooooon.
Well, they certainly smell like cinnamon Oreos. There is no hint of trickery or tomfoolery with these. It just lays it out there, and you can take it or leave it as you wish. Would that all businesses were as upfront with their wares as Nabisco has been lately. But, ultimately, the truth is in the tasting. Let's eat!

Yup, this is exactly what I would expect if you took Red Hots, ground them into paste, mixed them with a little bit of Oreo filling, and put it in a cookie. A bit underwhelming really. I appreciate the fact that the cinnamon burn is muted, but the flavor itself is very meh. It's cinnamon yes, but 'nuthin' but cinnamon' just isn't that great a flavor to start with, and who would mix it with Chocolate of all things? Chocolate and Cinnamon generally do not go all that well together in my opinion, so this cookie is just a solution looking for a problem. For a Valentine's Day special, you sure are unloved Cinnamon Oreo. 

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frownie Face. It certainly is exactly what it says on the tin, er package, but what it is just isn't very good. It's not bad, it's just something I never wanted. The fact that I've now tried it only affirms my original conclusion of "no one would want that". If you really like Red Hots, maybe this might be for you. But really, outside of that very particular fetish, stay away. Go find a bear to hug.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Kotas Reviews Doritos BLAZE

Well well, another Superb Owl come and gone. Our household spent the noble affair...not watching the game, as illness has swept through House Kotas. Still, I heard some birds won, and that's good for birds everywhere, right? Right! Still, you ain't here for my pathetic attempts to talk about sports ball. There was, however, a snack brought to prominence by a relatively high budget ad, starting a certain Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones and Knights of Badassdom fame. So strap on your flame retardant clothing, it's time for us to take a look at Doritos Blaze.

And the dragon comes in the NIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!
Okay, I sort of love the art on the bag, which I feel would be best served airbrushed onto the side of a van. There is a tortilla chip, coated in red dust, ON FIRE, with vague Steve Ditko background elements that convey...weird. It's weird and I love it. Still, it's not the outside that counts, but what lies within! Let's crack it open.

This is less rad than I thought it would be, given the bag art.
Well, they are definitely the same as on the package. Tortilla chips coated in the angriest looking Mars Red flavor dust I've ever seen. The scent is at once burning, but cloying, with a hint of spicy goodness and various other seasonings I can't place. Let's eat! HOLY JEEZ those are spicy! Now, they aren't nearly as mouth destroying as certain other things I've reviewed, but they will clear the old sinus cavities and the burn lingers a bit. However, they ALSO have an amazing hot salsa type flavor that does exactly what I would hope all really spicy foods do: Hit you hard with the flavor, and THEN let you feel the burn. And what a burn! These chips do not fuck around...but I found myself happily chomping them down. The flavor is intense and the burn is really, really hot. But not unbearably hot. Why, I didn't even need milk after this! Nice job walking that line of flavor to burn ratio Frito-Lay.

On the FACE Rating System, these get 2 Smiley Faces. I certainly wouldn't want them all the time because the consequences of that would be...well, very burny, but if I really want some super spicy flavor filled Doritos, these are my go to pick. If you like really spicy food, you owe yourself a bag of these. If you don't like spicy food though, avoid these, because the name isn't a lie.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Kotas Reviews the Fried Twinkie

Las Vegas is a town like no other. Giant man-made monuments to consumption and hubris dot the desert landscape, and light up the night with neon and promises of pleasures legal and illicit. Everywhere you go there is someone who wants to put a drink in your hand and a smile on your face. They have a surprisingly high number of aquariums for some reason. Then there is the food, OH THE FOOD! It is glorious in both quality and quantity, though not always at the same time, but occasionally you get the best of both worlds. Then...you don't. I'm just back from a whirlwind tour of some of the most Buffet buffets Vegas has to offer, and from there I turn to today's promised glory. Ladies and gentlemen, let's take a look at the glory of the Fried Twinkie.

TA DAAAAAA!
While feasting at the glorious MGM Grand Champagne Brunch (what a steal, if you drink 3-4 mimosas...and who doesn't?), I came across a whole platter of doughnuts and the like. Nestled next to it was a small pile of the legendary Fried Twinkies, left there almost as an afterthought. Of COURSE I had to snag one. I mean, look at it! The outside has a crisp shell, which leads me to believe this particular variety was dipped in batter first. I'll be honest, it smells heavenly, with a lovely sweet vanilla aroma that makes this thing seem super special. It mostly looks like a Twinkie, but really it could be any old fried cylinder of dough. Let's crack it open!

Stacked all fancy like, because reasons!
Well, it's...pretty much just some fried cake at this point. There is only the barest bit of "not quite as solid as the rest of this" in the middle that hints that perhaps at some point there might have been some filling. Otherwise it's just another doughnut. A sub PAR doughnut. The texture and taste of the crisp outside is quite nice, but the cake inside just got kind of tough and chewy. There's no filling to contrast with, presumably because it has been super-heated and thus dispersed through the cake itself rather than being the burst of sugary sweetness we are used to in a regular non-fried Twinkie. It's not bad, but it's not particularly good either. I expected better of you, Twinkie. Or maybe I should blame those who could not appreciate you for what you are but instead sought to make you more than what you could possibly become. Tough call, really.

On the FACE Rating System, this gets 1 Frowny Face. It's not awful, but it is very disappointing. Maybe it could be improved with a more "tempura" light fry sort of a affair, but as presented here it's a big old pile of meh. If you are in the MGM Grand Buffet and see one, you might as well try it for yourself, but as a stand alone product I would pass.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Kotas Reviews Dark Souls the Board Game

Alright folks, I know how it is. You're out praising the sun, maybe having just left a bonfire, and suddenly some Smough shows up and wallops you with a giant hammer. It can really get you down is what I'm saying. So, what better way to blow off a little steam than with a board game? Oh wait, You Died. Ladies and Gentleman, today we review the Dark Souls Board Game.

Behold the majesty!
I'll level with you folks: I've never really played Dark Souls. I messed around with it for maybe 30 minutes one time and watched a few game play videos, but Dark Souls really was never my thing. I'm mostly a PC gamer too, so action games haven't been in my wheelhouse in years. I only just recently got a USB controller even! However, some of my friends are super into not only the games, but all the lore surrounding the games. I gotta admit that the visual storytelling is pretty awesome in the Dark Souls universe. I ain't a hater, but it's just not my thing. So when it was suggested "Hey, let's try the Dark Souls board game" I was a little scared I wouldn't be able to "get it" since I really knew only what I had absorbed from my friends talking about it. Lucky for me, I was totally wrong!

So many pieces! SO MANY! This was our fight with the mini-boss.
First things first, this box? It is huge. Like, at least twice as thick as a standard board game box. Second? The very first thing to greet you when you open the box is a big ol' sign that says "You Died" This lets you know what you are in for. Third, there are a metric fuckton of pieces here. Cards, counters, dice (custom dice no less!), more cards, character layouts, wooden cubes, even more cards and two heckin' big boxes of miniatures. All the components are pretty high quality, but the miniatures look amazing. The first time we set  this up, it took a while due to have to punch out and organize a bunch of stuff, but the second time was a lot faster setup.

The basic game is a dungeon crawl, where you seek out a Mini-Boss and then a Boss. Once the Boss is defeated you win the game. Players start at a bonfire that has a number of "sparks" based on the number of players. They move through rooms, and have encounters. Each encounter is dictated by a card drawn from a stack of them, and there are different stacks of encounter cards for different difficulty levels. Once in an encounter, players have to defeat all monsters. If they succeed, they get 2 Souls (a currency used for everything from treasure draws to character upgrades) per player and any bonus goodies they might find. If any player dies, or they decide to retreat, they lose and head back to the bonfire. All their "per spark" abilities reset (Estus Flasks, usable once per spark, Luck Tokens that allow a die reroll, etc), but so do all encounters for the current board. If the players run out of sparks, and then one of them dies, the game is over with a loss for the players. After defeating the Mini-Boss, the number of sparks resets.

Each character has basic "per spark" abilities listed above and a Heroic Ability that also resets per Spark. These vary from Amazing to Decent in power level. Characters also have gear they equip, and upgrade with various treasure cards. Combat seems complicated at first glance, but once you get the hang of it it's pretty straightforward. Enemies move and attack in predetermined ways based on who's turn it is or who is closest to them. There is a single Stress/Health track on each player card that has ten boxes. When you sprint (move more than one square) or use certain attacks, you gain stress (black cubes) in your track. When you are hit by a monster and do not Dodge or Absorb the hit, you take Damage, which gives you red cubes in your track. Stress is healed by 2 cubes each time it is your turn, Health only heals from spells or miracles, or the Estus Flask, which clears your track entirely when used. If you ever fill your 10 square track, You Die. 

The game play loop is as follows: Defeat encounters to gain Souls to spend on Treasure and Upgrades to defeat Harder Encounters and ultimately the Mini-Boss and Boss. Players can even choose to voluntarily rest at the bonfire (and thus use up a Spark) to reset encounters to farm up Souls. You will definitely need better gear to take on the Mini-Boss than what you start with, and some characters upgrade better than others. The Assassin for example kind of has a crap weapon, but is the best at Dodging and gaining spells. The Knight on the other hand has good armor and weapons to start, but his upgrades aren't as flashy, the Knight generally gets hit repeatedly, and is riskier to play. There is considerable depth here and a lot to think about. This game is also ball-breakingly hard at times, especially if you get unlucky with your draws.

Our first run through was cut short due to exhaustion, but we though the encounters, while challenging, were very doable. For the second game, we made all sorts of plans on optimal farming routes and so forth...and then on our second encounter we drew a lone Sentinel. We eventually referred to him as "Buttman" because not only did he beat our butts twice, but he was being such a butthole about it. Once we got some better upgrades we were much more able to take on a Sentinel, but boy we sure were worried about seeing one on an encounter card. Bosses are monstrous too. We opted for the Boss of Orenstein and Smough, because apparently we hate ourselves and they are BEASTS to defeat, basically wiping the floor with us (though we put the hurt on Smough) and while we did have a couple of Sparks after that, we elected to call it there due to the lateness of the hour.

On the FACE Rating System, this game gets 3 Smiley Faces. It is an awesome dungeon crawl experience that (I'm told) manages to capture the feel of playing Dark Souls almost perfectly, with lots of tactical options and interesting decision points. I really enjoyed my playthroughs and would love to play it again, however this is not a casual game. A full playthrough would probably take up an entire day, so only pull it out when you can dedicate the time to it. It also only supports 4 players, so if your group is larger, someone gets left out. Definitely strap on your Claymore and give this game a try if your taste in games runs to long and complex. Praise the Sun!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Kotas Reviews Mixtape Massacre

Ah, love that new year smell! It smells of cheap sparkling wine and flannel for some reason. So! With 2017 behind us, I will repeat my oft broken goal of "try not to review so much damn food this year" and then proceed to not review food. Today we tackle something a bit different. Ladies and Gentleman, let's get back to the 80s with Mixtape Massacre.

A face only a legally distinct from Jason Vorhee's Mother could love.
Mixtape Massacre is a board game by BrightLight Games, that began life as a Kickstarter project back in 2015. An expansion for the game, Black Masque, was also Kickstarted this past summer. It has decent reviews and a really striking presentation. I mean, look at that box art! The conceit for this game is that you play as one of several 80s horror movie inspired killers, stalking the citizens of Tall Oaks and brawling with your fellow murderers in a gleeful tongue in cheek spree of a game with the goal to collect 10 kill trophies and thus become the Master of Massacre. 

Nostalgia for 80s horror (and the 80s in general really) drips from every component, from the "knife" health counters to the fact that the back of the various cards are styled like VHS and music tapes, this thing gets 5 stars out of 5 for presentation. I was super hyped to play this game and gleefully cackled as we set up the board. My particular avatar for this bloody fun? The Legend, a weird mashup of Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees. Truly this was to be something special.

The glory of Tall Oaks, I guess.
Then we actually started to, ya know, play the game. OH HOW MISLEAD WE WERE. So, the idea is that you start on a square with a knife on it, and move to a location to have an encounter with a victim, then roll to murder them. So the first few turns progressed like this. Roll to move, maybe hit a Bonus Square. If you do, draw a card. Take two unavoidable damage for...reasons. Next turn, roll to move, almost make it to murder someone. Next turn, finally get to a location, draw for victim...bam, hit by a car, take two unavoidable damage. It was literally 4 turns before ANYONE got to roll to murder someone and then...they failed and got sent back to start. Wash, rinse, repeat. After a few more rounds a couple people had one or two kills, but most of us were down to half health due to various unavoidable damage from card draws or bad rolls, and most of us were on or near our starting squares. 

Finally someone got on a lucky roll and started a Killing Spree. So, when you finally murder someone, you can go on a Kill Spree. Your movement roll is doubled, and as long as you keep killing, you keep taking turns. Up to this point most sprees had lasted all of a single roll, because the distance to one location was fairly far away. This time our intrepid hero killed someone in the middle of the board, which has several locations within 3 squares of each other AND this person managed to avoid all the shitty draws, probably because we drew them all already. So they end up winning the game. What was nice though was that while they were on the streak, it actually felt like a killing spree rather than slowly podding around, getting hit by cars or shot in the face by police before your inevitable return to the starting square. This was the only time the game actually felt something that resembled "fun". 

My group decided that maybe we just had a run of bad luck, so we reset, reshuffled, and played again. Things went slightly better, but it was still just plodding around, trying to get lucky enough to go on a kill streak and just win it. There is not a lot of complexity to the rules, nor much interesting to do. Each character has a special ability, but they felt super not impactful or interesting at all. Mostly, we just tried not to get hit by a car and be hopeful a bunch of nerds would show up in our draws so we could end the game faster. I ended up on a spree and winning that one, but instead of the satisfaction of slaughtering a bunch of sexed up teens, I had the relief that it was finally over and the disappointment that I even wasted time playing the game a second time. 

On the FACE Rating System, Mixtape Massacre gets 2 Frowny Faces. The theme is super entertaining, but is not reflected in the actual game play. The game mechanics themselves are simplistic at best, and downright boring at worst. What is really disappointing is that with a bit of playtesting and polish, there could be a decent game here. I went into this expecting the amazing fun of Friday the 13th, and would have even settled for the hilarious badness of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but what I got was the plodding boredom of The Ring 2. I really wanted to like this, but I just can't. What really boggles me is how well reviewed this is! I guess it could be fun if I were like, super drunk. Please don't buy this, but if you can play without paying and have a lot of booze, you might consider opening the box looking at all the awesome and hilarious artwork, and then going to play something actually fun.