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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Fudge Stripes vs Fudge Striped

As I wander the isles of supermarkets, I look for future post material.  Fudge Stripes have always been on the “to do” list and I forget what was the potential SNS I had lined up was but when I was in a shady mini-mart and saw Robert’s “Fudge Striped” cookies, they made it to the top of the list.

Fudge Stripes:
We started off with the name brand thinking it would be awesome.  These cookies are not amazing.  I can see them being popular in gradeschool classrooms or something but found these to be a bit dry and tasteless.  The “fudge” is some sort of platicy, tasteless drizzle with a coating on the bottom.   They do have a fair crunch so I’d say what this has going for it is texture over taste.  Ethan said these tasted like a crunchy, dry fudgesicle.

Fudge Striped:
The same non-chocolatey chocolate stripes the top and covers the bottom.
The cookie is even dryer or crunchier, however you want to look at it and somehow even more tasteless.  Although Ethan said this tastes like the stick of a fudgesicle, and it actually did.  So perhaps it gets points for tasting like something(?)

Wrap up:
Tie.  Both are very bland and use plasticy chocolate.  If you’re looking to save money, go with Robert’s Fudge Striped because you won’t be missing and intense flavor or favorable texture experience.  I think Girl Scouts sell a similar cookie but I’m not sure.  I will definitely check out the offering next time someone from work brings their daughter in to guilt me into buy a few boxes.

Fudge Stripes or Fudge Striped?

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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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Ahoy! Cape Cod vs Nantucket

I remember when Cape Cod potato chips came out.  I had never had kettle cooked chips and thought they were too hard and tasteless. But I eventually grew to enjoy(?) them.   I’m not too familiar with Nantucket chips but they’re the same style chip and just a ferry ride away from the Cape, so it made sense to compare.

 Cape Cod:
These are light in color and, like all chips do, crumble when bitten into.  But the kettle cooking must do something to make these extra crunchy, which normally I like, but it’s a harsh crunch.  Not terrible, but not as comfortable as a Wise, Lays or Ruffles chip. We found these to be salted proportionately and to have a very mild potato taste, which makes these good for dip since they would let the flavor of the dip shine on it’s own.

These have even more of a hearty crunch, which I’d go so far as to describe as severe. Another difference we noticed was how oily they were.  It was almost like oil came out of the chip when bitten into.  We noticed there was really no detectable potato flavor, and these were definitely saltier as well.  Ethan described them as just “crunch and salt”.

Wrap up:
Interesting how two chips that are so similar in appearance definitely have their differences.  At the time we felt maybe Nantucket was too crunchy, too oily and too salty yet that bag is gone now and there are plenty of Cape Cod chips left.  Ethan said he might have liked the Nantucket more because of the saltiness.  I’m still not a huge fan of this style of chip in general, but I used to really like Cape Cod’s Dark Russet variety, but then they changed that to “Robust Russet” which weren’t as dark.  Anyway, I’m inclined to say Nantucket is the better of these two.

Cape Cod or Nantucket chips?

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Universal face-off: Milky Way vs Mars

Of course I didn’t realise Mars owns Milky Way until after I bought these but when I’m in the store and I see something worthy of comparison I just buy it and look it up when I get home.  Besides, there’s a reason a company produces similar products, and since this blog is about figuring out which one may be the better purchase, we went ahead with the evaluation.   For those who may not know, Milky Way and Mars are fluffy nougat topped with caramel and then coated in chocolate.  Mars is basically the European version of Milky Way and can easily be found in the British food section of any Stop & Shop here in New England, and I would bet it’s worth a shot looking for it in any major super market around the country.

Milky Way:
I noted that this smelled very cocoa-ey, which is always nice that chocolate smells like chocolate.  This was more dense than I remember it being and I’m not sure if I liked that so much.   Ethan thought the flavor was good and didn’t mind the density and said after it warms up in your mouth for a little bit it’s ok.  We both thought the chocolate coating was a bit hard but the nougat-caramel-chocolate ratio was proportioned correctly.

I liked this because it had a cleaner cut, which I know doesn’t matter for taste but it appealed to me somehow.  I also liked that this was a softer bar.  The chocolate, caramel and nougat yielded to the bite very nicely and didn’t have that heaviness that Milky Way has.
Ethan felt there was a “nutty” flavor in this that he didn’t really care for and for that reason he didn’t like it as much

Wrap up:
I would take Mars over Milky Way anytime because of it’s softness and light texture.  Ethan didn’t mind the density of Milky Way and wasn’t a fan of the nutty flavor he detected in Mars. I didn’t taste anything like that in Mars that but I guess we just have different palettes.  SO even though these are both under the same company, they are different enough that one could easily be preferred over the other.

Milky Way or Mars?

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Vienna Fingers vs Cameos

Nabisco and Keebler go at it with their own versions of oval, vanilla creme filled cookies.
I don’t remember having either of these before but it was suggested by a reader and fellow Hollistonian (hometown) to evaluate these since he and his brother have feuded between these two products. Ethan and I tasted and then I brought them into work for further evaluation.

Vienna Fingers:
I felt the cookie part of these were a little dry and tasted like animal crackers.  The creme was okay, nothing great but not a disappointment. Ethan thought these were bland and had a weird aftertaste from the creme.
The two people at worksaid they liked these better than Cameo.

I liked these better. I thought the cookie was more flavorful and the creme was more vanilla-y.  Plus the design on the cookie is all fancy and has a pretty, William Morris-like design.
Ethan didn’t think these were better but liked the overal texture of cookie and creme.  Someone at work said these are “Yummy like Grandma’s house.”

Wrap up:
Depends who you ask.  People at work seemed to like Vienna Fingers more and I really liked Cameos better. Ethan said if they could marry the flavor of Vienna Fingers and the texture of Cameo’s you’d have a perfect product.

Vienna Fingers or Cameos?

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Wispride vs Merkt’s

When I was growing up my aunt used to always serve WisPride Port Wine cheese at events she hosted.  There’s something so awesome about it, my sister and I looked forward to it every time we went there.   My aunt moved to Florida when I was in 5th grade and that was pretty much the end of Port Wine cheese for a while and I have it now as an occasional treat.  It never occurred to me to try a different brand until now so when I saw Merkt’s version at the store I picked it up along with a WisPride and brought them home.

Very spreadable (as the package says) and creamy.  I don’t even know if it’s the cheddar or the port but something gives it a nice tangy taste.  There is also a nice saltiness to the blend. Ethan liked how the cheese and port isn’t too mixed so you can pick out cheese with more or less port.

This was pretty much the same but felt it was a little bit creamier but also a little sharper too.  Ethan thought the port part was somewhat better as well.
After looking at both containers we saw they were both made by the same company so that explained the similar tastes but I think it’s worth noting that Mertk’s is aged for 9 months while WisPrise is aged for 6 months.

Wrap up:
I’ll say this was a tie because they are so similar and if you’re in a store trying to decide between the two you won’t be disappointed with either. For me they were pretty much the same but I will point out that even though both of these were in the fridge after the evaluation, for the rest of the week when Ethan wanted to snack he chose the Merkt’s.

Port Wine Cheese: WisPride or Merkt's?

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Microwave Mac & Cheese: Chef Boyardee vs Hormel


One of my favorite eats is macaroni and cheese.  I love making Alton Brown’s recipe and sometimes I’m in the mood for some old school boxed kit with bright orange powder.   It’s just one of those things that really hits the spot, so  when I saw these single-serving microwave versions, I just had to try.

Chef Boyardee:
This had a cheesy aroma and although the noodles were almost mushy and over cooked, I liked this texture.  It doesn’t look it, but the cheese sauce was kind of watery and bland.  It smelled better than it tasted.  There seemed to be an undertone of beefaroni- somehow, not even in a beefy way but it just did, Ethan and I both felt that way. 

The sauce was more orange, thicker and smelled pretty gross. I wish I could describe this better but we both thought this tasted very “Hormel” which I can only describe as “industrial”. The noodles are more “al dente”. It also somehow had faint trace of meat flavor, which was gross.  Maybe they made this in the same machine as one of their meat products or something, who knows.

Wrap up:
I actually went into this hoping I might be impressed with the concept of microwavable macaroni and cheese but it turns out that this is a terrible idea.  The lesser of two evils here would be Chef Boyardee but it’s hard to actually recommend it.

Chef Mac or Hormel Mac?

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