March 19, 2008

Horning in on the Sweet and Salty Craze

Ah, Bugles. Few snack foods can match their salt, satisfying crunch or instrumental allusion. For all intensive purposes, they are vegetarian pork rinds with a regal shape. I don't know about you, but I've never thought to drizzle caramel on my pork rinds. Fortunately, the people at General Mills came up with that idea with their Sweet and Salty Caramel Bugles.

Sweet and salty is a pretty big deal right now in snack food. There are at least 2 million different types of sweet and salty granola bars lining the shelves of most supermarkets, some of which are more satisfying than others. But though those flavors can successfully work in tandem when they're coming from salty peanuts glazed with a little sugar, it's a lot harder to imagine them in harmony on the craggy surface of Little Boy Blue's favorite snack.

Often, strange combinations work. Things that sound disgusting in concept end up tasting delicious. But I won't be trumpeting that as the case here. It isn't that the little caramel bugles taste bad, they just don't taste good. Instead, the flavors and textures mix in a horribly fascinating discord. Eating these things is like watching an episode of Deal or No Deal. You want to stop, but somehow you just can't do it, and pretty soon you've wasted an hour of your life. Well, with Caramel Bugles, you haven't wasted an hour of life, you've wasted a day's caloric intake.

The initial flavor is just odd. It is definitely overwhelmingly caramel, but a misplaced fatty aftertaste lingers. You get that feeling that you've just bitten into a paper towel that was used to dab the grease off bacon -- the one familiar from normal Bugles. Yet a sticky caramel residue lingers on the molars, as if you're chewing a Werther's Original.

On one final sour note, these little snacks don't sit well in the stomach. After eating a bag from a vending machine, I felt like I'd actually swallowed that paper towel soaked in bacon grease. The Bugles were down there playing taps as my appetite for the remainder of the day was laid to rest.

A perversely interesting taste combination manages to snag 2 sporks out of five and keep Caramel Bugles from receiving a one-spork requiem. In the end, this misguided snack doesn't deserve much fanfare.

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