Monday, November 20, 2017

Turkey Gravy & Pumpkin Pie Chips

You knew your boy Brian wasn’t going to let the 2017 Holiday Season go by without reviewing these Thanksgiving-themed chips. Right, dawg? Oh, wait — people aren’t saying dawg anymore in 2017? Noted. Moving on: did he say Thanksgiving chips? Yes! Break out your best pilgrims and indians attire, break bread, cornbread ‘natch, and gather ‘round to hear tale of 2017’s most radical holiday-themed edibles. No, I’m not talking about Uncle Frank’s eggnog-flavored weed brownies either.

Coming up first is the main event. Thanksgiving’s signature dish. If this were Survivor Series this would be The Ultimate Warriors vs. The Heenan Family. In a beautiful brown bag bare witness to a succulent bird on a platter next to a gravy boat. Yes a gravy boat. I love it that that’s an actual thing. Where were your parents when they purchased their first gravy boat? Was it an unseasonably warm day? Were they shopping at JCPenney?

Behold the chips the fine folks at Boulder Canyon Authentic Foods bestowed upon us. This is the type of amazing that’ll make listening to relatives’ uncouth political punditry less punishing.

Joined by my brave daughter Yukari we both dug right in. No forks and sadly no stuffing or cranberry sauce within reach but what we discovered was tastier than we could have hoped for.

The verdict is in and these are astoundingly good. Like positively the best Thanksgiving-flavored foodstuff in recorded history. You can get the turkey seasoning upfront but it’s the gravy chaser that’s all the rage. I can say they somewhat resemble Lay’s Southern Biscuits & Gravy chips (which I also like) but are their own, unique thing. In terms of chip quality they’re fresh and crunchy, too. Just an all-around awesome snack that kept getting better the more we ate.

Then it was time for dessert and you know, love it or loathe it, Thanksgiving ain’t going to pass by without you seeing at least a dozen pumpkin pies in your vicinity. A nice light brown bag rocks a dish not dissimilar from grandma’s serving plates topped with a generous slice of pumpkin pie complete with a dollop of whipped cream.

These chips were a lot more colorful with an orangish shade that called to mind fall leaves and autumnal feels.

Wow! These things are insanely flavorful. Like they skipped right over subtle and used a sledgehammer. I can imagine the factory smelled like a nutmeg candle as they pumped these out. I’m someone who likes pumpkin pie just fine with copious amounts of whipped cream atop it so if you’re also not completely enthralled with pumpkin pie I’d say worry not. While sweet these chips aren’t overly strong in the pumpkin flavoring although it’s definitely there and there’s just a little bit of that salty chip aftertaste to cut through a bit of the sweeter notes. These were also wonderful but something I’d need to eat in small quantities.

After much deliberation we decided we needed to select one winner to carry on the candied yam crown. And we certainly didn’t mind another round of tastings as these chips are glorious.

We both picked Turkey & Gravy! Great minds think alike. I can’t gush over these enough. And trust me, if you bump into me at the store or library, I’m going to break out dogeared crinkled photos of these like they’re photos of grandchildren and pridefully show them to you. Halloween was stellar this year, and Christmas holds much promise and joy, but Thanksgiving won the holiday war this year with these delicious delights.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Hope it’s a wonderful day. I’m thankful for all of you and your support and friendship. Here’s some older RtW Thanksgiving fun: Thanksgiving Gumballs, Pomegranate 7 Up, and Bacon Soda.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mountain Dew Holiday Brew

I first came across this merry and mirthful beverage just yesterday while taking my daughter to get some Pok√©mon cards. I scanned the label with a speed not unlike Yuga Khan and was disappointed to see it wasn’t an entirely new recipe but instead a hybrid of two preexisting Dew flavors. I was hoping for a tart berry or splash of cinnamon. I’d dreamt of Linda Cardellini but woke up to Linda McMahon.

Now this isn’t the first time I’ve tackled seasonal beverages on RtW. In fact they’ve become all the rage in recent years. Going way back I’ve investigated the mysterious Fred Claus Icee and would be remiss not to tip my hat to Pomegranate 7 Up. Labeled as the “Ultimate Holiday Blend” the Holiday Brew is a combo of Mountain Dew & Mountain Dew: Code Red. Code Red premiered in 2001 to acclaim infusing Dew with a “rush of cherry flavor”. It’s still around today and is as common in rec centers as false bravado.

You gals and guys want to know how is tastes so let me don my Clark Kent investigative apparel and report the facts. I like it. I definitely found it more palatable and pleasurable than I’d expected. Sure, I would have loved a new holiday flavor, one that we’d look back on in tearful remembrance in a decade, but this not only tastes pretty good but also somehow captures a Christmas-y zest. It’s bright and bubbly. In the last year or so I’ve switched to diet sodas (Mellow Yellow Zero is solid if you’re into citrus pops) when I do imbibe in sugary or faux-sugary drinks but I drank this guilt free.

I even gave Yukari a sip. She doesn’t drink soda normally but was curious and feeling the giving holiday spirit I couldn’t resist. It’s not a drink to chug while washing down your sandwich or after a jog, it’s designed and done best when sipping sporadically, preferably within eyeshot of old-fashioned blinking Christmas lights, a model train, or while cruising in a warm car admiring people’s holiday lights and yard decorations.

This is a welcome edition to the blossoming 2017 holiday junk food scene and gives hope that Pepsi Co. will continue experimenting with holiday-specific beverages in the future. Grab a couple soon and open one up next time you pop in Christmas Evil on Blu-ray and kick up your pajama-ensconced legs.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Some of My Favorite Plush Toys

The idea for this article has been germinating for years until just recently I began building it like the Doozers constructing scaffolding throughout Fraggle Rock. I moved out of my parents’ for the first time in 2005 and since then have resided at various addresses from sundry apartment complexes to palatial suites and maybe even a flat above a duo Chinese takeout restaurant/laundromat. In white trash bags I’ve lugged dozens of stuffed animals and misc. plush dolls of a myriad sort. Most of these are from my youth or my teenage “collector” years where I actually had the disposable income to buy Super Mario stuff off eBay.

Like most boys of the ’80’s my real toy fascination sprung from that decade’s glorious array of action figures. From G.I. Joe, to Battle Beasts and Army Ants, even Food Fighters, a ragtag gang of anthropomorphic food adorned in military attire. I couldn’t have been the only boy who penned an ode to Burgerdier General, right? But I amassed an intriguing assortment of plush toys over the years as well. Many found a home in a net crudely hung like a hammock in the corner of my bedroom with various sports balls and a cylindrical poster container I’d often wear over my arm and pretend was a missile launcher or laser canon. Now they’ll finally see the light of day and get the reappraisal and appreciation they’ve richly deserved all these years. I have enough plush toys to do several installments so perhaps one day you’ll get the pleasure of meeting some more of my soft pals but for now meet the gang!

Back in 1988 everyone’s favorite cat-munching, wisecracking alien ALF invaded Burger King (here’s video evidence). You’d receive ALF in one of four themed outfits. Pictured here was the “Cookin’ With Alf” version (sans the pot of chili or feline stew or whatever the hell he was making). There was also “Beach Party” with Hawaiian shirt and surfboard, “Melmac Rock” with electric guitar, and “Take Me, Alf To the Ballgame” with a jersey and ball glove. My appreciation for ALF didn’t really blossom until much later in the mid-2000’s when I revisited it on DVD and totally fell in love with the show. It’s one of a small handful that really hold up in terms of entertainment value outside of nostalgia itself. I’d always wondered why he had a brown mustache and just solved that mystery for myself. He doesn’t rock facial hair in the other 3 versions nor on the show so I guess the designers just found it appropriately chef-like. I’ll have to pop my head back in the kitchen next time I’m at Red Lobster and see if the guy prepping the salads has a Rollie Fingers-like mustache.

Introducing Zugly! I don’t have a lot of vivid or specific memories attached to this one but he was around my room rubbing shoulders with Fozzy Bear and the like. Some quick research shows a lot of people received these as gifts around ’85-’87 and in reading forums many have held onto them all these years and have now passed them on to their own children! Monsters and other grotesqueries were all the rage in the 1980’s. There was My Pet Monster and Madballs, of course, and as this video shows Zugly wanted in on that action. Seeing my Zugly in his original packaging via a Google search calls to mind he’d previously been ensconced in a hot pink chain with lock and key I suppose to suppress him were he to give into his more savage tendencies or try to run off with your half-full pack of Watermelon Bonkers.

Pasqually E. Pieplate from Chuck E. Cheese’s! So right out the gate in my eyes and heart Chuck E. Cheese’s is an American institution. It deserves its own article in tribute or even more. But today I’m focusing on Pasqually. And I’ve got to tell you: going down the rabbit hole was deep and wondrous. A few searches later and I was inundated in Pasqually history, images of various animatronic iterations, and hours of crudely shot and uploaded video. Somewhere around the age of 19-21 I somewhat unironically held a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s for the first time in roughly 15 years. A group of a half-dozen friends joined me for pizza and arcade games and frankly it was freaking awesome. All you can eat salad bar, Cherry Coke, and Skee-ball beats out just about any other birthday combo. It was at this ersatz birthday shindig I plucked down my two bits and bought myself a Pasqually. It’s one of those love affairs and purchases that you can’t qualify or explain. I felt drawn to this ridiculous character, surely a legitimately offensive Italian stereotype, resplendent with bushy black mustache, handkerchief, and apron. Pasqually’s Tinder profile states that he’s also a pizza chef and an aspiring comedian but we all know him as the drummer for Munch’s Make Believe Band whom you’d better rush out and see in-person soon as rumors are the restaurant and fun zone may be retiring the animatronic characters permanently. For those needing a little more Pieplate fix I’ve got your video hook-up! Here’s a disturbing mustache fail, a pizza-making instructional, a Christmas tune about Sasquatch, and even Pasqually doing the Nae Nae. Now that’s a spicy meatball!

This next one I’ve cherished for years as a particularly unique item. Back in June of 2001 the film A.I. Artificial Intelligence hit theaters nationwide. Directed by Steven Spielberg it was famously a Stanely Kubrick project until he fell ill and handed it off in 1995. For a film to have toys released in the likeliness of its character is all too common and in fact toys of that ilk overrun the toy aisles at Target and elsewhere nowadays. But A.I. wasn’t your average, everyday family film. Coming in at a whopping 146 minutes this PG-13 sci-fi drama told the tale of a robotic boy named David longing to become “real” to regain the love of his human mother. It’s an often emotionally harrowing film dealing with complex themes like death and abandonment. So to have Teddy, David’s android teddy bear, still in (what’s left of its) original packaging is pretty cool and remarkable that it was made in the first place. Certainly this item wasn’t flying off store shelves and racks at KB Toys but likely found a home at specialty shops that were more collector-driven like Media Play or Suncoast Motion Picture Company inside malls. Somewhere I (hopefully still) have a smaller, keychain version of Teddy too!

Boink’rs! The name of a monstrous band of boxing buddies or the fraternity your nephew is presently pledging. This one is showing the ravages of time as its faded, dirty, but still in the fight. Doing some research these slugfest puppets came boxed with a “bop bag” one of those inflatable deals that you could hit, kick, and karate chop and it’d bounce right back for more. Growing up a fan of professional wrestling I’d often upgrade my offense to suplexes and slams until I eventually busted it. Advertised as “The Wacky Punchin’ Action Toy That Never Gets Out Of Hand!” it was surely utilized by big brothers and sisters to terrorize their smaller siblings. Looking, for the very first time, nearly 30 years later, at some of the other Boink’rs battlers I think we got the best one as the yellow, pink, and purple varieties, each sporting a unique sculpt and design, aren’t as appealing to me, although the light blue one does have four eyeballs. Would you rather go 12 rounds with Mike Tyson or break bread with the Boink’rs boxers?