Reese’s vs Palmer

 There are few things that are so awesomely paired as chocolate and peanut butter.  I sometimes wonder how it became a match made in heaven.  If you go on youtube and search Reese’s PB cups,  you will find a variety of commercials depicting a couple scenarios.  I can’t decide which is my favorite, the guy on the spaceship eating a chocolate bar and bumping into the robot eating a can of peanut butter or the night at the opera where the male singer holding a tub of peanut butter falls onto the female singer with a chocolate bar.
However it happened, the candy world is a better place because of it.
The only other version of Reese’s I could find was in the miniature version and made by palmer.  I think Russell Stover makes them too but only as sugar-free.

These had a very smooth texture and familiar chocolate taste.  I know everyone has their own recipe but for what it is (mass produced product) there is something about Hershey chocolate that is usually pretty good- although I have had the occasional below-par Hershey’s item  The peanut butter is the star of the show.  Ethan described the chocolate as just being a vehicle for the peanut butter.  This PB is sweet, but not too sweet and just the right amount of salt.  That, with just the right amount of chocolate makes these a perfect two-bite treat.

These were okay.  The chocolate was better than I expected, although a little harder.  It wasn’t exact but I thought similar enough to Reese’s to give Palmer some props.  I thought the peanut butter was pretty decent, it did seem a little drier than Reese’s though.  Ethan felt it had a bit of a burnt taste that was similar to the terrible Mrs. Freshly’s Nutty Buddy bars.  I agreed it did have a hint of burnt but I really didn’t mind these.

Wrap up:
I have to say Reese’s knows what they’re doing.  These have a perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter and more times than not, the peanut butter is deliciously moist and the chocolate has just enough softness to compliment the PB texture.  Ethan would definitely go with Reese’s and probably given a choice, I would too. I feel it’s worth pointing out that Palmer does satisfy the chocolate and peanut butter craving pretty well.  It’s like Joan to John Cusack, maybe, I don’t know.  Plus Palmer’s were only $1 at Dollar Tree so sometimes knowing you got a bargain makes things taste better too.

Reese's or Palmer PB cups?

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Stouffers vs Red Baron

Ah, French Bread Pizza!  Also known in some school cafeterias as “Pizza Boat”.  There’s something about French Bread Pizza that seems to be liked by most people (except my mom) and I think Stouffer’s is more popular but I’m not sure. I did notice that in my area (lesser Boston) Stouffer’s FB Pizza was in all stores and even in mini-marts.  Although most stores carried Red Baron products, only one store (Shaw’s) carried the French Bread option.  The tasters for this were Ethan, myself and our friends Marc and Sarah.  I am going by my notes from a couple of weeks ago and didn’t quote who said what but I remember we basically agreed on these.  Let’s see what we thought!

We found the sauce to be disappointing and bland.  The bread had a bit of gumminess even though it was cooked enough on the outside.  Because of that, we did find the outer edges to be somewhat enjoyable because of the crunch.  The cheese lacked flavor and the pepperoni was the most flavorful ingredient because of the spices.  Other than that, we found this to be pretty bland.

Red Baron:
Someone said this was “visually fresher”.  We found the sauce to be more flavorful and was described as “zesty”.  It was also noted that the bread was thicker than Stouffer’s and seemed to be a little off on the bread-to-topping ratio. I think it was Ethan who said it “Keeps it character and integrity” which I’m not exactly sure what he meant but he can comment and explain if need be : )

Wrap up:
We went with the Baron on this one.  Stouffer’s had a better bread-to-topping ratio but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of flavor.  Maybe Red Baron wasn’t all that great either but compared to Stouffer’s it delivered more flavor and didn’t have a gummy-like dough texture, so that was enough to make it the winner.

Stouffer's or Red Baron?

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Glad there’s only one of: Bacon Egg & Cheese Combos

I almost don’t know where to start.  I guess I’ll start with saying there are some flavors of Combos that are good, like Nacho Cheese and Cheeseburger, but when I saw these I thought “Sick, I have to try though!”  So knowing that Ethan hates egg, I skipped him and brought these to work.  Only two people, Becca and Brendan, were even brave enough to consider when I emailed them to come over to my desk to try these.  I think I lost Becca immediately when she looked at the package and said “Ew…New?”  Then I opened it and they would only smell the Combos.  Brendan said they smelled like dog treats, Becca agreed and then they walked away, sans Combos.
So I conducted this evaluation solo.  

Okay, so they didn’t smell great. I wasn’t expecting them to smell good either, but for all the horror they induced with Becca and Brendan, these were pretty uneventful.
After the plain crunchy cracker, the center tasted mildly like egg and a little bit of cheese.   I was surprised that they really lacked bacon flavor considering how easy it would be to add smoke (or at least imitation smoke) flavor to jazz it up.  They weren’t the worst thing in the world, but I definitely would not buy these again.  Some flavors, like egg, should not be artificially replicated.
I don’t see these featured on the Combos website, so I guess they’re discontinued already – probably a good thing.

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Combos

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Peeps vs Shmellows


I know, it’s a little over 2 weeks past Halloween but I was at a dollar store today and saw some pumpkin Peeps, I was going to pass on them but then saw a second rate version in the same discount basket.  They had me at “Hallo”, but what really sealed the deal was their name, “Shmellows”.   Both had freshness dates that were good into 2009 so I felt it was a still a fair evaluation- plus at 25¢ a pop, how could I pass on them?

Ethan has not been a fan of Peeps in the past but he thought these were better than what he remembered them tasting like.  He liked how they dissolved and thought they didn’t taste too sugary.   I liked the light texture and bounciness of the marshmallow but always find chewing right into sugar crystals a bit too intense.  They seemed to lack any real flavor but Ethan said he liked the subtle marshmallow taste.

These were more dense with an orange color marshmallow.  I felt that these had a taste that was so familiar but could not put my finger on it.  Ethan thought they had an orangey flavor and that they were like a giant cereal marshmallow, but soft.  I didn’t mind these in general but it did bother me that I could not say what they tasted like.

Wrap up:
Ethan preferred the Peeps due to their light texture, mild flavor and said they were “smooth”. I am torn between these two because I wasn’t crazy about either but like Ethan, found the texture of the Peeps better but was intrigued by the puzzling flavor (that Ethan says was orange but I think it was something else) of Shmallows.   Plus they were shaped more like pumpkins which I think should count for something.

Peeps or Shmellows?

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Ruffles vs Ridgies

I wasn’t able to find any information on this, but I believe Ruffles was the first chip with ridges. I always have a soft spot in my heart for Ruffles, not because they taste better than other chips but I will never forget Halloween of 1985 when one house was giving out full-size bags of Ruffles AND they let us pick the flavor we wanted(I chose Sour Cream and Onion).  I still get a little shiver of excitement just thinking about what a treat that was.
Wise has a version of ridged chips called Ridgies which I’ve never had but felt they just scream “second rate”.

Ruffles have a nice, light texture and a good amount of salt. These were strong enough to confidently scoop up dip. They were kind of greasy but then again it IS a potato chip. One thing we noticed was they kind of didn’t taste like anything. If someone told me these were made of paper, I might believe it.
Ethan detected some mystery flavor that he could not put his finger on but he liked it. I tried to figure it out but just didn’t taste anything unusual so I’m not sure what it was.

Ridgies were more browned and had a good solid crunch. They were a little thicker in texture, Ethan felt they were a little too hard. These were less salty than Ruffles but had much more potato flavor, which to me made a huge difference. I found myself enjoying these more because of that but Ethan wasn’t too impressed.

Wrap up:
Split decision. Ethan preferred the texture, saltiness and “mystery flavor” of Ruffles but I was a fan of the strong potato flavor of Ridgies and liked their hearty texture.  I will agree with Jon that the evil eye logo is a little unsettling because it looks angry, although it does fit with the challenge “Dare to dip”. 

Ruffles or Ridgies?

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Nilla Wafers vs Vanilla Wafers

From looking at these boxes, I imagine the package designer for Stauffer’s is a disgruntled former Nabisco worker who vowed his revenge by fooling pre-occupied shoppers into grabbing Vanilla instead of Nilla wafers.  “Not creative enough, huh?  I’ll show them!”    Just a thought : )
It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve had a Nilla wafer and never had a knock off, but when I saw the Vanilla wafers at Job Lot, I couldn’t resist leaving them on the shelf.  This evaluation involved myself and Ethan and then I brought them into work where people wrote thier feedback on a piece of paper. 

Nilla Wafer:
We noted the pleasant vanilla aroma right from opening the bag.  These have a soft crunch and a couple of co-workers noted that these “melt in the mouth”.  These were a little too delicate for dunking but I liked to take a bite and drink some milk and let it dissolve that way.  One co-worker described these as “too soft”.  It seemed everyone agreed that these had very good vanilla flavor which Ethan said was “very inoffensive” (?)   Another comment from work was “You think of Nilla when you think of wafers!”

Vanilla Wafer:
These had a much rougher texture. They felt dryer just by touching them and had a very loud crunch when bitten into and it crumbled into hard pieces.  This cookie did not absorb milk well at all.  The vanilla flavor was too strong and artificial.  Ethan described these wafers as the bottom of a soft serve cone with vanilla ice cream in the grid at the bottom, which is good but does not work as a cookie. 
Some comments from co-workers were that these were stale tasting (although the date on the box said it was good for another 6 months) too hard, too crunchy, too rough.  The same person who wrote the Nilla Wafers were “too soft” wrote that these were “crunchy and good”.

Wrap up:
Nilla Wafers were the clear winner.  It won people over with it’s subtle texture and mild flavor.  The Stauffer’s version was too rough and dry with a poor quality vanilla flavor so it just didn’t have a lot going for it.  Although they did have one fan at work.
I’ve scanned the feedback sheet because I know I left some comments out, but if interested you can read for yourself by clicking here.

Nilla or Vanilla?

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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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