Mystery Doritos Jacked

Well well well…what’s this all about, Doritos?

2 of 3 mysteries

2 of 3 mysteries

Test flavors?  I only got two of them, there is also “blue” (2653).  The numbers don’t seem to indicate anything.

There seems to be some sort of contest involving the winning of a grand in gold.  I guess Doritos were feeling shown up by Lays ‘Do Us A Flavor’ and weird Pringles flavors.  No more ‘let’s have a mystery flavor’, they decided to blast out THREE.

mystery contest - win GOLD!

mystery contest – win GOLD!

Popping them open…

orangey-red mysteries

orangey-red mysteries

The orange (404) is…orangey.  The red (855) is…wow, that’s pretty red.  Trying orange…

orange mystery

orange mystery

They smell like normal Doritos.  These are completely jacked up with flavor powder.  So it turns out I’m pretty bad at guessing flavors.  Taking a lick I get a blast of citrus,  but I can’t say I know what flavor they’re going for.  Another attempt at Mountain Dew Doritos?  Maybe some sort of alcoholic fruity drink?  Tequila Sunrise?  Maybe Margarita?

mystery orange ingredients

mystery orange ingredients

Brown sugar?  Well, they are sweet.  Molasses.  Onion, garlic…lime and orange juice solids!  30 fake colors…Shaun T isn’t going to be happy about this…

Oh well, on to red…

red mystery

red mystery

Ooooh, red.  Again, pounded with powder.  These smelled very much like the enchilada variety.  Tastewise I get a buffalo wing-y vibe – not a real hot wing, just the junk food snack equivalent – you know what that tastes like.

mystery red ingredients

mystery red ingredients

Paprika up high.  Sour cream?  Cayenne pepper sauce – yeah, these are nicely spicy.  You can taste the vinegar.  Onion, garlic, cheddar…buttermilk.  Aha!  I thought I tasted blue cheese!  Yeah, I’m going with some sort of hot wing flavor.  Which they already have.  Confused = me.

So, anyway, that’s what I got.  With my luck it’s the blue that’s fantastic, the one I passed up.  I’ll be able to finish these, but right now neither one is blowing me away.

The only hit on the web I’m seeing is from Advertising Age.  And supposedly they’re not supposed to be on shelves until tomorrow (Saturday the 19th).  Whoo-hoo!

Found at: Clifton Park Price Chopper

(Thanks to our friendly neighborhood Junk Food Guy for his Twitterfication of this post – you can read his reviews here and stalk him at Twitter here)

Zen on State in Schenectady

Boy, there sure is a lot of hype out there for the “Asian fusion” spot in Schenectady, Zen, at 469 State (basically across from Proctors).

It’s been open now for about a year and we finally made our way there on a recent weekend night to give it a shot. I mean, c’mon…THE HYPE! We didn’t make reservations, which seems to be a mistake, but they fit us in within probably 10-15 minutes. No biggie. There were a couple of larger parties along with groups of 2-4 or so.

It is a pretty nice looking place. Very sort of upscale Asian, everyone pretty much knows what that looks like. I sort of liked the strings of large paper lantern things along the windows, some of which lit up.

Service was really good all around, I will definitely give them that. Also, most people looked like they were having a blast. It’s a fun place to have a leisurely dinner with friends, it appears. There’s also a large bar and the flowing libations probably help with the genial atmosphere. Price-wise, it’s not cheap, but not really expensive such that a fun group outing doesn’t end with a buzzkill when the check comes.

We were there more for the food, though. And, really, that’s where their problems lie. I’d write a fancy schmancy review (Wait. Would I?), but this guy already summed it up exactly as I would, so it seems like nothing has changed in the past 6 months or so:

“There are a number of flashy drinks on the bar menu; it seems like they’re going more for the happy hour vibe than serious dining. That said, this place is a formidable spot for gathering with a bunch of friends, splitting some appetizers, and having some drinks.”

Everything LOOKS fantastic, very well presented. It’s just that everything is just sort of bland or m’eh. Nothing really jumped out as BAD, I just think for the price it should actually be GOOD.

A lot of entrees come with either a salad or miso soup. I had the soup and found it uninteresting. And salty. But I expect miso soup to be salty. There were fun little teeny cubes of tofu in it as well as what I think were mushrooms with a really strong flavor that leaned towards offputting, but I’m not a big mushroom person, so take that with a grain of salt (sorry). I had maybe 1/3 of it, I had ordered an appetizer, too, in order to sample more items, so filling up on soup that I didn’t really want wasn’t on the agenda. The salad looked a bit ridiculous. If you’re of a certain age you maybe used to get a little iceberg lettuce ‘salad’ with the better school ‘hot lunch’ items, like pizza. Some scraps of iceberg lettuce, a grape tomato, some red onion or whatever with some sort of vague dressing, probably something with some ginger. I’d get that over the soup, though (I’m not really big into soup but have had tasty miso before, so thought I’d give it a shot).

I tried the gyoza, “pan seared pork dumplings” as an appetizer. I don’t usually get appetizers, but I was really hungry and I figured if I didn’t like either that or the entrée at least hopefully I’d get filled up. I want to say there were 6 of them, not big, not small, 2-bite sized. The texture was nice and they were hot. The flavor varied widely across them, indicating a mostly-mixed filling and local preparation. Mass-produced, frozen/reheated dumplings would never be so different tasting from one to the next. The dipping sauce (soy sauce-based?) was cold – I don’t know why I’m always surprised when dipping sauces at Asian restaurants are ice cold for hot food, but I am. And I still don’t get it. Sorry. It added a little flavor to the mostly flavorless dumplings. The last 2 were pretty good, I think they had more pork or something instead of some greens, or maybe just more salt. Overall, it was a lot more salt in the belly, though.

For the entrée, I was really looking forward to the Zen’s Beef Short Ribs ($16) – “Marinated tender short ribs in fruity tangy flavored sauce”. C’mon, short ribs are awesome. Fruity tangy sauce? Sign me up. A reasonable portion of them came with the aforementioned soup and a generous scoop of nice sticky rice (you can choose white or brown – both were really well cooked, fresh, and nice and sticky). Sadly, the short ribs themselves, bone included, were hard to eat and not that tasty. If I was at home I’d have given up and picked these up by the bone and nibbled the meat off from around them. Instead, I had to try to cut the meat off them, without having them go flying off my plate, in little bits at a time. It was really awkward and just sort of made me madder and madder as I ate. Not like boiling mad, just mad like, ‘Why are they prepared this way? This is so dumb. I’m glad that I’m almost done.’

As for flavor, well, a more factual representation would be “Teriyaki marinated chewy short ribs in teriyaki sauce with an occasional bit of orange zest.” The meat was not tender, it took some chewing, especially the closer to the bone you got. I gave up trying to get much of the meat off the bone because it just wasn’t worth the payoff. Fortunately the rice helped cover up some of the super saltiness of the teriyaki slathered meat. I distinctly recall two bites where I got a blast of orange flavor that had to have been a bit of zest – I couldn’t see it since it was all a brown slurry over the ribs, but the taste jumped out at me. Those bites were pretty interesting and made me wish that these really did have a “fruity tangy flavored sauce” – which, of course, is what I thought I had ordered.

Did I mention everything was really salty?

The other entrée was an unspectacular, but again, not BAD chicken dish with some veggies. Just, you know, whatever.

88% at Urbanspoon.

4.0 stars at Yelp. Wide range of reviews, but oddly even some of the bad reviews have high ratings. Presumably because they had a good time despite the ‘tasteless’ food, waits of ‘forever’ for food, terrible service, etc.

80% recommended, 4+ stars at Tripadvisor.

The Gazette reviewed it in February…well, mostly just described it and the menu.  They seemed to like the short ribs…or at least liked that they weren’t fatty.  The duck didn’t get rave reviews.

I dunno. I guess we’re not hip enough for this joint. Well, OK, there’s no way in hell we’re hip enough for just about anywhere that has ever earned a rating of ‘trendy’. I don’t see any reason why we’d go back. However, I would refer you to some of the more positive reviews and menu items that others had more luck with and especially if you just want to get some drinks with friends before a show or something. I think you’ll have more luck.

Review – Angie’s Holidrizzle Frosted Cupcake Kettle Corn

You know those generic soft sugar cookies that all the supermarkets have in the bakery section with the hard sugar frosting layers on top?

Do you think this review is going to go well for Angies’s given the line above?  Exactly.

excellent packaging

excellent packaging

No doubt Angie’s went all out with the packaging for the Holidrizzle Frosted Cupcake Kettle Corn, it looks fantastic and cheery and totally dolled up for Easter.  Easter bunny and eggs hidden in the grass and everything.  I was really excited about trying this, it sounded great, looked great, the Gingerbread Holidrizzle Kettle Corn is fantastic, and SPRINKLES!

I picked these up at Target a while ago and finally got around to popping them open.



There wasn’t going to be much of a shot of these tasting like “purely fresh-baked” cupcakes.  But I had high hopes for the frosting drizzle.



Doesn’t look bad.  And, yes, plenty of festive sprinkles.  The kettle corn itself is fine, Angie’s makes a fine kettle corn.  However, where it all goes wrong is the Holidrizzle.  Instead of a tasty cupcake frosting, we get a hard, plasticky, fake-tasting coating just like those supermarket cookies.  Plus some crunchy sprinkles.  The smell in the bag is immediately reminiscent of any generic vanilla flavored bakery item.

Texturally, they’re fine.  The hard-drying frosting is presumably what keeps the kettle corn from getting soft, which is appreciated.  I can that a lot of thought went into this, it just doesn’t work, the flavor isn’t there.  Unlike the luxurious tasting Gingerbread version, this is just a let down.  Maybe children will like it.

I think you can find something better to fill your Easter baskets.  Better luck next time, Angie’s.

Found at: Mohawk Commons Target, Niskayuna


Update: I ate two more pieces of this and then had to throw the bag out.  Yeesh.

Ottimo Pizza, Schenectady and the pizza hunt

This is maybe a bit premature as it is based on only a single visit, but if we go back I’ll expand.

Ottimo Pizza is at the corner of Gerling and Rosa in Schenectady and boasts “Brick Oven Pizza”.  I finally decided to give them a try to see if they might want to be our go-to pizza place in the area.  After a decade, I’m saddened to report that our struggle goes on.  Hard to believe, but after living in several other states, NY is the one where we just can’t find a place to reliably be the spot to just call and get a pizza on a Friday night.  For a while, that place was Capo de Pizza and I guess most people know about Greg Kasmerek’s history, so I won’t get into it here.  Anyway, after Capo closed the search was on.  Say what you will (or must), their pizza was a fantastic deal and delicious.

Home Style was the spot for a while, but after a few too many experiences with rudeness, mixed up orders, and prices that we couldn’t justify paying (especially the markup for toppings, of which there was practically none, like one mushroom per slice), we dropped Home Style.  I can’t say if that was temporary, they may have corrected things, so I can’t comment on their recent status, but they lost us as customers.  That said, the place is still packed, so I guess most people are still satisfied with them.

Then for a long time we were really pretty happy with Pizza Buono on Van Antwerp.  Price was reasonable for what you got, pizza was tasty, they got orders right (why is that so hard for so many pizza joints?), good topping flavor and coverage, etc.  Then, a few years ago, things got a little off and we no longer felt like we were getting a good value or good pizza.  I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was sold to the current owner a bit after that.  Anyway, we tried here and there without luck and eventually gave Pizza Buono another try and it was back to being really good.  Good-to-great value, yummy, etc.  The owner, a nutritionist, started playing up the local ingredients, available wheat crust, and has recently added a full blown juice bar.  I think she keeps bees and sells honey, too.  Anyway, things were good until the past few months.  The crust has gotten thinner, to the point of being floppy and annoying.  We also appreciated the generous pizza sizes, but it seems like they decided to get more careful about how much dough they were using, but just kept rolling out huge pizzas, even with less dough, resulting in, as Bilbo might say, a feeling like butter scraped over too much bread.

Enter Ottimo.  I’d heard good and bad about them and finally decided the time was right to try some pizza and wings.  How about a review in bullet points?

  • Pizza looked like it had been sitting, despite my picking it up at the time I was told it would be ready.  You know how the cheese starts to harden, etc.  Like that.  Not a deal breaker, especially on what seemed to be a really busy night given the bustle of the employees, there was like a half dozen people in there (although I saw no other customers in my 5 minute visit).  It was hot and everything, but the cheese didn’t have any stretch and my first slice felt like the second, after it’s sat on the counter for 15 minutes.
  • Very thin.  I know some people are all about the thin crust.  Well, I like some heft to my crust, just a bit.  I don’t want the ‘flop’.  Not bad, but not my preferred pizza.  And shouldn’t thin crust be crispy, especially with a hot brick oven pizza?  that was my understanding, but as it’s not my thing, maybe I’m wrong.
  • Very disappointing dough.  Bread-like and tasteless.  I didn’t get any seasoning flavor from the crust, nor any yeasty goodness that’s the calling card of dough that has been mixed and allowed to sit and develop flavor.  This, more than anything, is where I would recommend they up their effort.
  • I don’t know what to say about the sauce.  It was…fine?  It didn’t stand out as either great or bad, not offensive or exciting.  Fine.
  • Price was good, size was spot-on for what I ordered, topping coverage was good and flavorful.
  • Service was friendly+.  As I said, it looked busy, but I was greeted heartily.  Out of the blue, I was encouraged to take a 2-liter of soda with my order.  Umm…OK.  Sure!
  • I got boneless wings because they’re just easier to eat.  I know that they aren’t going to tell me how their regular bone-in wings are, but it is what it is.  They were well cooked and tasty chicken, although a bit sloppily sauced.  They either never took a trip into a bowl for saucing or didn’t spend much time there.  Instead they seemed to have the sauce ladled over them in a hurry.  It was OK though, there was plenty and it tasted good.  I’m nitpicking here with them, I liked them.  I would get them again.
  • I guess they sell slices, although at least when I was in there I saw a single cheese pizza in the case, looking like it had been there quite a while.

So.  Do we have a winner?  I don’t think so.  Really, the floppy thin crust is the reason I’m not sure I’ll be back.  If I want thin, floppy crust I’ll probably just call Pizza Buono.  And I’ll hope that they figure it out again.  Or else, well, the search goes on.  And more homemade pizza, especially with grilling season just about here.

Ottimo doesn’t seem to have a web site, their menu can be found on the Facebook page, linked above.  Overall, I’d say it was good enough and a decent enough value to say, “Give them a try and see what you think for yourself.”

Surprise! Fruit Punch Oreos at Walmart

Whoa!  Where did these come from?  Settling in with the Sunday paper today I glance through the Walmart grocery items and see this:

Fruit Punch Oreos at Walmart

Fruit Punch Oreos at Walmart

Walmart exclusive Limited Edition Fruit Punch Oreo?!  Internet search turns up nothing on these, if there’s anything about these, it’s buried, get zero in the first couple of pages of hits using the simple “fruit punch oreo” search.  They’re not even on ebay, yet.

Update – 3/31 – Glenville Supercenter – Fail.  Neighborhood Market Niskayuna/Schenectady – Fail.

Update – 4/1 – Clifton Park Supercenter – Fail.  And now the Junk Food Guy has already gotten his Dorito cheese powder covered mitts on them.  Grrr…  Seriously?  If you’re going to advertise a new product in your weekly flyer – YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY HAVE THAT PRODUCT IN STOCK SOMEWHERE!

Munch Pak, back on track

I really hadn’t planned on mentioning my Munch Pak subscription again unless they sent me something really unusual and spectacular.  In fact, after last month I was actually thinking of giving it up, there wasn’t much value for the money, to be honest, in that box and a couple of things really stunk.

March munchings

March munchings

But when March’s box hit our doorstep today…wow!  Look at that thing!  I’m not going to list the whole inventory, but I was blown away.  Oreos, THREE kinds of Pocky (strawberry cream, chocolate pie, and green tea again), two kinds of Japanese crackers, Hello Panda crackers, two granola bars, a pack of Big League Chew, some UK mints, a whole box of strawberry pastry things, barbecue jerky…yeah, the Tuna salad and crackers, that’s a little odd.  And that’s not even everything in the box.

Tough act to follow, but yeah, they’ll keep us as customers for at least another month.