Salsa: Pace vs Tostitos

I used to hate salsa, then sometime during college, I worked at a “Tex-Mex” restaurant and got used to it.  Not really into it like some peoplebecause I’m not big on spicy foods but I learned to appreciate it as a dip/condiment.  While I’m lucky enough to be visiting my sister Elaine and brother-in-law Zac,  we conducted an evaluation with Zac’s favorite, Pace and the salsa next to it on the shelf,Tostitos.

Pace has what Zac describes a “fresh” taste for a cooked, jarred salsa.  Elaine said it’s not as shelfy tasting as most other jarred salsas and we all agreed it had a good amount of spice for a medium heat salsa.
I felt the heat may have been a little too much for me but I do have a low tolerance for spicy.  I did like the chunkiness of this salsa as did Elaine and Zac.

Zac pointed out this has a strong tomato paste flavor and although the jalapeno flavor is detected this was pretty bland overall.
We all agreed this was more jarred tasting than Pace and although it has a very simple, natural ingredient list, had a processed, soupy quality to it.

Wrap up:
Pace wins because of it’s fresher tasting flavor and chunckier texture.  Even though it was alittle spicey for me,  I’ve tried mild which just tastes like tomato sauce so I would still stick with the medium for flavor.

Pace or Tostitos

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Magic Shell vs Hershey’s Shell

Magic Shell was introduced in the 80’s at some point.  My sister and I were so excited to try it.  I tried to find a commercial for it on YouTube but there aren’t any.  I just remember we were impressed and got permission to bring it into the house.  Most supermarkets don’t carry an equivalent but I found Hershey’s Shell at Target.
Both claim “Freezes in seconds!” on their label and both are chocolate or chocolate fudge “flavored” syrup.

Magic Shell:
I let this sit for probably about a minute  while I was taking pictures of the Hershey’s and when Ethan and I tasted it, it still had some non-hardened areas.  When I cracked the top with my spoon, it yielded softly and while it was definitely harder than plain syrup, it was not the hardened cracked coating I thought it was supposed to create.
The favor is okay, Ethan found it hard to describe as anything other than “alright”.  There was nothing wrong with it, just your average milk chocolate flavor.

Hershey’s Shell:
I poured this on after the Magic Shell and it solidified faster as well as forming an actual hard coating that broke into pieces instead of just “mushing”.  In fact I had to chip away at it where the syrup met the bowl, that’s how serious this was.  Hershey’s is less sweet and has more of a dark chocolate flavor.  A more intense product all around.

Wrap up:
I was surprised that Magic Shell wasn’t as awesome as I remembered, especially since it’s the original hard shell syrup.   I have to say I really preferred the Hershey’s because of the crunchy coating and I like dark chocolate AND it wasn’t a waxy “mockolate” tasting flavor that I have been finding in a lot of chocolate products lately.  It was a rich, satisfying semi-sweet flavor.
Ethan preferred the Magic Shell because he’s not a fan of dark chocolate and didn’t mind the softer coating.

Magic Shell or Hershey's Shell?

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Pizza Bites vs Pizza Rolls

Ethan is a devoted Pizza Rolls fan.  Every now and then we get a free trial membership to BJ’s and during those times there is always a giant box of Pizza Rolls in our freezer.   I found these equivalent Pizza Bites at a discount supermarket in Woonsocket, RI.

Pizza Bites:
The inside of these were kind of weird to me.  It was a thick goop of oregano-flavor.  It didn’t taste like sauce and it didn’t taste like cheese.  I had actually forgot these were supposed to be pepperoni flavor.  Ethan and I both thought the dough tasted like cardboard.  Ethan also added that these did not taste like pizza (hard to believe!)

Pizza Rolls:
The filling in these actually tasted like tomato and cheese. There were even little chunks of pepperoni (or what was supposed to be pepperoni).  the dough was thinner and not as cardboardy.   While these weren’t awesome Ethan said they “almost” taste like pizza, which is better than not at all, like Pizza Bites.

Wrap up:
It’s not a big surprise that Ethan preferred the Pizza Rolls.  I noticed that he didn’t seem blown away by them for this evaluation but does really likes these, so I feel like these are supposed to be enjoyable but not really satisfy like a real pizza.
I would pick the pizza rolls because of it’s actual taste of sauce and cheese while pizza bites are just bland and tasteless except for oregano.

Pizza Bites or Pizza Rolls

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Marshmallow Fluff vs Solo Creme

Marshmallow Fuff was created some 75 years ago here in Massachusetts.  I’m guessing that’s why people here are so loyal to it.  You’ll find a container in most kitchens around here but I ever noticed if it’s popular outside of New England.  I had never even seen a competing brand until I went to my local discount store and saw this “Marshmallow Creme”.  Both have fudge recipes on the back.  I should probably try sometime but today we tried it just straight out of the container. 
Fluff has pretty thick consistency.   We did also make “Fluffernutters” (peanut butter and fluff sandwiches) and this stuff really grips onto the knife, bread, peanut butter, face etc..  I can’t imagine what it must be like at the factory cleaning the equipment.
Even though it’s thick, it’s smooth and does  provide a creamy texture against the coarseness of peanut butter (we like chunky PB – Teddie’s is the best but I’ll save that for another post). The flavor is mild but has just enough vanilla to give it a marshmallow-ey taste.

Marshmallow Creme had a somewhat lighter consistency and was easier to spread because of that.   It also seemed a little “slick” in texture which reminded me of plastic.
The flavor was interesting because we expected it to taste like Fluff, and it did taste like marshmallow but instead of a pure vanilla flavor it tasted like what we can only describe as the little marshmallows that are in cereals like Lucky Charms and such.  It was actually kind of interesting to taste that flavor in this smooth format instead of dry little crunchy things in milk.

Wrap up:
I wasn’t crazy about either but Ethan preferred the Fluff.  I guess I’d say I liked the flavor of Fluff better but found the Glue-like consistency to be too much. I didn’t feel this qualified to compare since it has such different ingredients, but my all time favorite is Suzanne’s Ricemellow Creme.  This is made with brown rice syrup and is super light and fluffy.  It’s kind of between fluff and whipped creme. It’s awesome and I highly recommend trying it. 

Marshmallow Fluff or Creme?

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Cheese Balls: Planters vs Utz

When I did my cheese curls post I mentioned how I wish we could have tested cheese balls but Planter’s discontinued their canister snacks products (that are not nuts).  Those were Ethan’s childhood favorite he wanted to test those.
I don’t know when Planter’s cheese balls were discontinued but there is a petition to bring them back.  There seems to be something magical about the Blockbuster Video stores in Portland, OR because that’s where a reader in Portland, OR says they are the only place that sells them. I searched the Blockbuster’s around here to no avail.  Anyway, from the kindness of her heart she sent me 2 (two) cannisters of these rare treats and it made a very awesome early Christmas present for Ethan 🙂   Not only is she a fantastic person, but she makes very cool jewelry and the least I can do to repay this kindness is ask you to check out her site:

At last!  Ethan was pretty excited to eat these yet cautious because sometimes things don’t taste as good as you remember them (as has been the case with a few items we’ve evaluated so far).  As soon as Ethan popped on of these in his mouth he nodded his head and said it tasted just how he remembered.  I don’t have a past connection with these but was impressed by the tangy cheese flavor and excellent “meltability”.  There is also a pleasant buttery taste to these.  Ethan’s said they just taste “right” and that was pretty much all that needed to be said considering he’s such loyal fan.

These are considerably larger than Planter’s and also somewhat “rougher”.  They do not have good meltability but do have decent cheese flavor although it goes away fast, which I guess gives the corn flavor a chance to shine.  Ethan though these tasted pretty good too but recalled a time in the past where he ate too many and felt kind of sick.  Although I guess you might feel sick if you eat too much of anything. 

Wrap up:
Ethan still prefers his blast from the past, Planters, but did acknowledge that Utz was a good runner up.  They make a pretty good cheese ball, but I feel the meltability of Planters is what keeps it ahead.  Either would be acceptable for a cheese ball craving but Planters still gets the A+.

Cheese Balls: Planters or Utz?

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Turkey Jerky: Jack vs Joe

Finding a Thanksgiving related snack wasn’t easy.  I saw Jack Links Turkey Jerky at Target but had trouble finding a competitor.  Ethan was such a good sport and drove us around to 4 mini-marts, a gas station and a drug store before finding some at Trader Joe’s.  I did find some other interesting brands of beef jerky but that will be for a beef jerky re-match.

Jack Links:
I liked the light color of this and we both thought it smelled good; smokey and meaty.  Chewing it was another thing.  There were a few pieces that were softer but most were hard and plasticy.  Ethan didn’t mind as much and liked it’s “zesty” taste.  Like with Jack’s Beef Jerky, the texture was enough to make me not like this.

Trader Joe’s:
This was darker and didn’t have as strong of a smell as Jack’s but the texture was much better.  We both felt the chew on this was way more enjoyable.  I liked the subtle flavor and the simple ingredients list and that the turkey has no added hormones, nitrates or preservatives.  I felt that the simplicity of the product and ingredients really came though as a more pure tasting product.  That being said, Ethan said they tasted “old”.

Wrap up:
I guess Trader Joe’s wins because I would choose it over Jack Links any time.  The tough plasticy texture of Jack’s is just to much and the flavor was too peppery for me.  Ethan said it would depend on his mood if he had to choose between these two. He liked the flavor of Jack’s better but preferred the softness of Joe’s.
I would have been interested in trying a third party to see if Trader Joe’s is unique with their texture.  If I find another Turkey I’ll post an update.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Jack or Joe?

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Kraft vs Heluva Good

One of our favorite dips is Kraft French Onion. I would like to say that the best non-pre-made, packaged dip is Knorr Vegetable, but we’re doing pre-made tonight.
I picked Heluva Good to compare against Kraft because that was the only other French Onion dip I found on the same trip to the store.  I haven’t had Heluva in a long time and remembered not liking it.  I’m also not crazy about the name either.  I guess it wouldn’t be allowed on the shelves if it said “Hell of a Good”  but either way it sounds kind of “classless”.  Not that Kraft is classy and we all know I’m not (see drinking Mt. Dew in wine glass post), but maybe I was just remembering their old package design with the “rural old timer” (who I get the feeling may not have any teeth) feeding his beard a chip w/ dip.  Maybe the folks at Heluva felt the same because they’ve redesigned their packaging to look a little more modern.

This dip is very creamy, the onion flavor has a slight toastiness to it.  It even had a bit of a toasty beige color.  There is a nice subtle tang and Ethan says it has just enough sweetness.  He also said the mild taste and creaminess are really the features that make this “just good”.

Heluva Good:
I don’t know if they’ve changed their recipe or something but I found myself liking this a lot.  It definitely had much more of a sour cream taste and found it to be “fresh” tasting.  The texture seemed lighter and still maintained a creamy quality.  Ethan didn’t like the sourness and refused to say anything nice about it.

Wrap up:
We went separate ways on this one.  I strayed from “old reliable” Kraft and continued eating the Heluva.  It really impressed me with the fresh taste and more simple ingredient list.  Ethan continued to be loyal to Kraft and stood by all the qualities he liked about it that made it “the best”.

Kraft or Heluva Good?

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Cheez Doodles vs Cheetos Puffs

Personally, I like cheese-powder covered corn puffs as the little ball shaped treats that Planters used to make that came in a canister.  Lately I’ve only  been able to find the ball version from the “Utz” brand so I just went with these products.  But if anyone  knows of another brand of cheese balls (sold in New England or if you could send me some from the outside) feel free to let me know.

Cheez Doodle:
These had a very cheesy smell when we opened the bag, which is always nice – especially when the product claims to be made with real cheese.  It’s worth noting though that the scent of cheese was stronger than the actual taste of cheese.   The Doodle had a satisfying crunch and a light and airy texture.  One of the most important features in a product like this is “meltability” which is when the puff nicely compresses as the tongue smooshes it against the roof of the mouth.  Ethan and I both agreed it excelled in meltability.

Cheetos Puffs:
These did not have as strong a cheese scent when we opened the bag.  The outside texture is somewhat crustier but the over all taste is slightly buttery, which is always a welcomed flavor 🙂  The cheese flavor was okay, I think slightly better because of the butter undertone but other than that, not much different.  These were also more dense than Doodles and that did have an effect on it’s meltability – they were harder to compress in the mouth.

Wrap up:
I’d give it to Cheeze Doodles for it’s meltability, which is what I look forward to with these types of treats, but if you don’t care about that then you might be more inclined to go with Cheetos for the slightly better flavor.  Ethan thought both where fine but was a fan of the Planter’s version so neither was a replacement for that.  In case anyone is wondering, I will conduct a re-match in the future with Cheez Doodles and Jax.

Cheez Doodles or Cheetos Puffs?

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Jell-O vs Swiss Miss

Since I got my wisdom teeth out yesterday, I thought it would be appropriate (and practical) to post about pudding.  Not that it has anything to do with taste but do either of these brands have a mascot anymore?  Granted, Bill Cosby has become increasingly angry as he gets older and the blond with pigtailed braids is somewhat psychotic looking, but it just feels like there should be some sort of “representative” featured on the label.  Ah, if we could only go back to a simpler time when the Cos got worked up about Jell-O pudding and wore sweaters so loud, you needed ear plugs to watch his show.

First up, Jell-O:
When we peeled back the lid, the first thing we noticed was the pleasant chocolate aroma.  The consistency was perfect although Ethan and I both noticed a very slight powderyness when eating this.  The chocolate flavor was pretty decent although the vanilla didn’t seem to taste like anything.  It could just be that chocolate has a stronger flavor and took over the vanilla.  In general, this was a pretty good pudding.

Swiss Miss:
We felt this had an even stronger chocolate aroma.  The consistency was smoother than Jell-O’s, and although I’m sure it was, left no reason to be reminded it was made from powder.
I like dark chocolate and I appreciated the more intense chocolate flavor Swiss Miss had.  While the vanilla was still weaker, it was more detectable than in the Jell-O product.  I found myself liking this a lot.

Wrap up:
No clear winner, we thought both of these were good.  At the risk of upsetting Mr. Cosby, I’ll say that if given a choice, I’d go with Swiss Miss just for the richer chocolate flavor.  Ethan doesn’t like dark chocolate and while Swiss wasn’t “dark chocolate”, he prefered the mellowness of the Jell-O pudding.  Me thinks there shall be a re-match with a possibly more dramatic conclusion, perhaps between Hunts and Kozy Shack. 

Jell-O or Swiss Miss?

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Eskimo Pie vs Klondike Bar

 It was actually kind of hard to find an Eskimo Pie.  I could find E Pie products at my local grocery store but they were pops or sticks of some sort.  I found the “original bar” at my local video game store/arcade.  I grew up eating Klondike Bars as a Saturday night treat and have enjoyed the many varieties they come in, but since Eskimo Pie only comes in vanilla, I  went with the classic Klondike Bar as well.

Eskimo Pie:
The very first thing we noticed was the flavor of the chocolate.  We were really impressed with the velvety texture and strong milk chocolate taste.  The ice cream was very smooth and creamy and provided what I thought was a “soft bite”, which I guess I can’t really describe but would be like the opposite of stale, freezer burnt ice cream.  Ethan said he could taste more chocolate than ice cream in every bite but that wasn’t a bad thing since the chocolate was so good.

Klondike Bar:
With Klondike, the first thing we both noticed was the coffee undertone of the chocolate, which was also a thinner coating.  This was familiar to me from my past experiences, but compared to the Eskimo Pie it seemed to be out of place.  The ice cream was not as creamy and almost seemed watery in comparison to E Pie’s rich and smooth ice cream. 

Wrap up:  
We were pleasantly surprised with Eskimo Pie.  We figured we’d be loyal to Klondike but were really impressed with the quality of both the chocolate and ice cream.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love the Oreo and York’s Peppermint Klondikes, and they have so many great flavors but if I had to choose between these two for “Original” flavor it would be Eskimo Pie all the way.

Eskimo Pie or Klondike Bar?

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