By: Tony Chachere’s Creole Foods
Suggested Retail Price: $5.99
Injectables! The very name inspires excitement and a whiff of heroin-fueled paranoia. And these marinades come packaged with a lot of flair. First, the cartoony picture of Tony Chachere holding a self-branded syringe: It’s just the sort of warm, Smurf-like image we need before we buy a metal-tipped needle to internally juice our food. His oversize ears and nose suggest a friendly Creole elf. And the fact that the complimentary syringe comes attached to the side of the bottle in a see-through plastic bag is thrilling. You can hardly wait to get the product home so you can pull that puppy out and discover what it’s good for.
And what it’s good for, at least in part, is making the interior of a ham spray a blast of brown corn syrup directly into your face. If physical comedy were one of my judging criteria, I’d give Injectables three stars, at least. As a relatively inexperienced syringe-user, I also managed to shoot myself in the forehead, scare a cat out of the room, and soak a rack of pots and pans.
The Praline Honey Ham marinade—which I drank straight before firing it into the ham and my face—tastes like molasses-tinged corn syrup. And lo and behold, while it does sweeten and possibly even moisten the ham somewhat, it imparts very little of the praline flavor its label promises.
The Creole Style Butter marinade tastes mostly of garlic before being injected into a skin-on chicken breast. After roasting, the marinated meat tastes as though it has been rubbed in oregano or maybe onion rings. While not horrific, it certainly doesn’t compare to any number of marinades you can easily make yourself.
By: Little Debbie Snacks
Suggested Retail Price: $1.59 for a package of 12
When you aim for the mass market, it seems something’s gotta give. More often than not, it’s nutrition or taste. And sometimes it’s both.
Sailing in those dangerous waters, Little Debbie (ever to Hostess snack cakes what Hydrox is to the Oreo) has embraced the 100-calorie craze that’s been sweeping our diet-driven nation.
I sampled two of the company’s new 100-calorie wares: a package each of Triple Fudge Brownies and Nutty Bar Singles. The Triple Fudge Brownies failed to exceed even low expectations. At slightly more than 1 1/2 square inches and less than a third of an inch thick, they look like brownies that have been zapped by an evil shrink ray. Perhaps size was the compromise, leaving flavor intact? No such luck.
They have a vaguely burnt sugar flavor and are strangely lacking in chocolate taste. Texture is an even more dramatic problem. The brownie challenge is usually framed in terms of fudge versus cake, but the Triple Fudge Brownies suggest a third option: beeswax. The nearly flavorless ribbons of “fudge icing” clock in at a mere 3 millimeters wide by 1 2/3 inches long and are purely symbolic of a higher-quality snack food.
Expectations thus lowered still further, a bite into the Nutty Bar Single was—in relative terms—joyful. The Nutty Bar emphasizes the airy wafer that is the snack’s superstructure, and that’s great. It boasts a surprisingly light taste and crispy texture. The chocolate coating is unremarkable but inoffensive, and the peanut butter is applied with an equal amount of restraint. The end result is something like a more sophisticated Twix bar, minus the caramel. If you’re counting calories, this could actually pass for dessert.