March 29, 2013

Watch out for Wheat Thins during March Madness

Those of you who follow my Twitter feed received a special sneak peek of today's review a week ago. It came in the form of the following picture, which I blasted into the cybersphere from the NCAA Tournament site of Dayton, Ohio.

We visited a stop on that so-called road to the Final Four. The box may say Atlanta, but we were in Dayton, Ohio.
It was my first time taking in tournament games -- Deb, the official fiancee of Rick's Food Critique, and I watched as Temple beat North Carolina State and Indiana topped James Madison -- and I was pleasantly surprised with the venue, University of Dayton Arena. Also pleasantly surprising was the concession stand. It dished out free samples of Wheat Thins.

As you can see from my washed-out photography, one of the flavors offered was Chili Cheese. The other, which is obscured in my picture, was Honey Mustard. You've probably seen them on grocery store shelves yourself, at this point.

If you were to pick up just one of the flavors from said grocery store shelf, I'd recommend going with Honey Mustard. It's much more in-your-face than its Chili Cheese counterpart, and it probably leans closer to the "honey" component than the "mustard." Still, it was hard to leave Deb her share of the Honey Mustard crackers by refraining from reaching for more. They have that elusive eatability factor that leaves you digging in for more before your mouth is even done chewing.

Chili Cheese proved to be tasty, too. I just didn't find it to be as flavorful as its partner in trial packaging. The chili's not a hot chili, and the cheese isn't a smelly one. Together, they create a taste that's pleasant, if a little generic. Personally, I look for more heat from my chili, though. I like it to be able to melt the hair off a yeti.

I'd say the Chili Cheese Wheat Thins merit a solid three sporks out of five. Their Honey Mustard brethren, on the other hand, must have a higher rating, a very solid four sporks.

You could do much worse when looking for something to snack on during this weekend's games.

March 21, 2013

Mountain Dew Kickstart

Is Mountain Dew Kickstart a better way to wake up than Mike and Mike?
A recent trip to the grocery store left me with no question about what my next food review would be. There I was, backing up slowly while innocently inspecting an aisle display, when Mike and Mike in the Morning assaulted me.

Well, their cardboard cutout assaulted me. And when I say they "assaulted me," I mean they made me jump out of my skin because, for one split second, I thought they were real people who I'd almost tripped over.

Most of the time, when I nearly walk into someone, I'm embarrassed and apologize. It happens more than you'd think in the grocery store -- the plethora of food is so overpowering, I'm usually out of my wits. A couple weeks ago I even took some poor lady's cart from in front of her, mistaking it as my own. She had to block my path before I walked away and buried her own selections with my meals.

When I almost walked into Mike and Mike, I wasn't embarrassed. Just unhappy. I make a point of avoiding their show in the morning, as I find it to have as much depth as their cardboard cutout. So I was far from pleased to find them infringing upon my sacred salivating space. Fortunately for them, their flat selves were hawking Mountain Dew Kickstart, which I've been meaning to try.

Kickstart, for those of you who don't suffer through its back-to-back-to-back commercials while watching college basketball on the Internet, is a blend of Mountain Dew and 5 percent fruit juice. And sucralose noncaloric sweetener. And caffeine.

It comes in tall cans of two types: orange citrus and fruit punch. I chose to sample the orange citrus, as it's the one appearing in commercials. The base flavor, if you will.
Kickstart isn't neon enough! It can't be real Mountain Dew!
A few days later I swapped the Kickstart in for my morning coffee. It has a surprisingly natural color, one that doesn't evoke thoughts of the highlighter hues of Mountain Dew at all. The flavor's pretty decent to go along with it. There's a hint of that artificial sweetener, but for once it didn't bother me too much. Maybe I just wasn't awake enough.

Speaking of waking up, Kickstart cans proudly proclaim at their top that they have caffeine. Which they do. They just don't have enough to jolt you into alertness. A 16-ounce can of Kickstart contains 92 mg of caffeine. For comparison, 16 ounces of Starbucks Pike Place Roast has about 330 mg.

A mere 92 mg is apparently no longer enough to kick me awake in the morning. I think I'd rather have coffee. Or, if I'm avoiding java for the day, I'd rather have real, honest-to-goodness, 100 percent fruit juice.

Two cardboard sporks out of five. Maybe I'm just not cut out for Mountain Dew in the morning.

March 13, 2013

Moose Munch

I meant to write this review at the beginning of February.

My intent was to post it sometime after Groundhog Day, when Punxsutawney Phil inevitably sees his shadow, predicts more winter, then scampers back into his hole, leaving us mortals to face the prospect of suffering through the longest 28-day month on the calendar. February can be a brutal time, and I had just the thing to cheer everyone up.

Moose Munch. A little piece of Christmas, held over.

I had to position the Moose Munch far away, out of arm's reach, in order to make it last long enough for photographing.
As you can all see, that plan never came to fruition. A new job came calling -- I haven't figured out how to pay the bills as a full-time food critic yet -- and I had to throw my efforts into moving to a fresh state in an unfamiliar region of the country. Hello, Midwest! Hello, Indiana!

The move is going to be good for reviews, methinks. It's opened a whole new world of Steak'n Shakes, White Castles, and Krogers. Before we get to all of that, though, I have a holdover to write about: the Moose Munch.

Moose Munch, in case you're unfamiliar, is a caramel corn/chocolate/nut mix from the mail-gift company Harry & David. Harold and his buddy Dave pack it in a bunch of gift baskets along with pears, crackers and whatever other foods you can imagine the postman bringing. I associate it with Christmas, because, honestly, when else do you get gift baskets?

Truth be told, you can order from Harry & David year-round. Right now they're pushing Easter gifts on their website. But only in the Christmas season do you see Moose Munch cropping up in grocery stores.

Which is where and when I picked up my small package of Moose Munch. Small packages are my recommended way to buy it, as it's impossible to stop eating once you start. If you bring home a large package, you'll find yourself sitting in a pile of crumbs, wondering where the last hour went and where it took the snack you'd planned to nibble upon all week.

Yes, Moose Munch is that good. It's primarily caramel corn, with some chocolate-coated popped kernels mixed in. Plus, a handful of nuts swim around to change things up. Take care when first opening your package, and don't dig in right away. The different components will have settled into layers. You'll want to mix it all up for the most intense enjoyment.

When mixing, watch out for the "freshness packet." My Moose Munch contained one of those moisture-absorbing packs that carry warnings against consumption. Biting into one might not kill you, but I bet it kills your snack.

After that, I have little to say. If you can't imagine the limitless goodness presented by caramel corn and chocolate-coated popcorn, you need more help than I can give you. Your life must be one long, dark February.

Five sporks out of five for Moose Munch.