31 Days of Junk: Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks (#11)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I was on my third glass of wine (2014 Syrah, Gainey Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley) when I remembered I hadn’t eaten my #31DaysOfJunk candy for the day. Suddenly, I was struck with a bit of a dilemma: what candy would pair well with a wine that features flavors like dark fruit, chocolate, and black pepper?

I would have gone with some Hershey’s Miniatures—they probably would’ve been pretty perfect, in fact—but I’ll be danged if I didn’t already review them earlier in the week. My other options included sour things, marshmallowy things, and a few candy corn/mellowcreme style treats—none of which really called out to me and my purple tongue.

I eventually decided on Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks. For whatever reason, I felt the zip and effervescence of the ‘rocks would pair nicely with the juicy, big flavor of this delicious goddamn wine I’m currently in the middle of drinking.

And pair well I think they did. Look, you can never really go wrong with Pop Rocks. Their packaging is great (gotta love bright colors on a black background) and the product itself is pure magic: it feels like you’re eating carbonated moon dust or something.

The flavor here isn’t anything out of the ordinary—straight-up orange. And the thing about Pop Rocks is the flavor is never overpowering. It’s present, but the main draw is the popping action. That’s what you come from, that’s what takes center stage. So the subtle flavoring made it a good choice to pair with this wine. Have I mentioned how delicious it is? Seriously, if you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara County along the 1, I highly recommend stopping by one of their many wineries. So many great wines out there!

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31 Days of Junk: Skeleteens Black Lemonade (#10)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Sometime in my youth, I discovered The Skeleteens line of sodas. It was at our local Spencer’s Gifts (at the mall, of course) where I found their soft drinks; drinks with names like “Love Potion #69”, “Brainwash”, and “Black Lemonade”. With their jagged, hand-written lettering, and labels adorned with illustrated skeleton parts, I couldn’t pass them up. I was, after all, almost 13-years-old—the magic age for this type of shit.

There they sat, in my room, up on a shelf, displayed for all visitors to see, right alongside a Michael Myers mask, a lava lamp, a pair of drumsticks, and a few bowling pins I’d spraypainted silver. What can I say, I was a weird kid.

Years later (and I do mean years), I decided, for whatever reason, to finally crack them open and try them. Curiosity had gotten the best of me. I wanted to keep the bottles, but I didn’t want to waste the (possibly spoiled) soda, so I took a swig from each bottle. What can I say, I was a weird kid.

Flash forward literally 20 years. I am walking through The Farmers Market in Los Angeles when, to my utter astonishment, I see a bottle of The Skeleteens Black Lemonade through the window of a soda shop; up on a shelf, gathering dust, like the one I had all those years ago. Suddenly, I was 13 again, and the memories of these sodas I’d long forgotten came flooding back. I had to have them again.

I miraculously found all three of them—Love Potion #69, Brainwash, and Black Lemonade—at the liquor store BevMo, of all places. I couldn’t believe these things still existed, let alone were still being produced!

Here’s the craziest part: the first sip of Black Lemonade brought it all back. I totally remember how it tasted! Holy lord, do I remember. It’s like time stopped for two decades, and suddenly I was in my bedroom in Southern Illinois again, sipping the expired black swill.

It’s super lemony on the nose, almost like a bathroom air freshener. And super tart and tangy in the mouth; the kind that pinches you under the jawline. Plus it burns when you swallow it. Seriously, it burns, like you’re drinking jalapeno juice or something. But then, I don’t know what else you’d expect from a drink called Black Lemonade, featuring a skull and crossbones on its label.

Perhaps the thing that makes this line of sodas stand out is their ingredients. Black Lemonade features, “…an herbal blend consisting of Siberian, American and Korean Ginseng, African Capsicum, Brazilian Guarana, Ginkgo Biloba, Kola Nut, Echinacea, Clove, Sage, Skullcap (Mad Dog Weed), Kava Kava”. I distinctly remember being afraid of those ingredients when I drank from the bottles so many years ago, and to be honest, I’m a little leery now.

Here’s to your health!

31 Days of Junk: Trader Joe’s Candy Corn Popcorn (#9)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Quick: what does candy corn taste like? Tastes like…candy corn, right?

To me, candy corn isn’t a flavor but an experience. What candy corn is supposed to taste like is secondary to the actual act of eating the candy corn.

The semi-gloss surface giving way to a soft, waxy body with each tiny bite–starting with the white tip, or perhaps from the other end. Or by the palmful, letting the little triangular pieces sit in your mouth, your tongue examining the smoothness of each side, over and over.

Candy corn is seasonal, so just seeing them–before you even eat them–can illicit feelings of fall. Images of grey afternoons and wet sidewalks, red and yellow leaves, comfy sweaters and gathered family, all are conjured up just by looking at the little tri-colored candies.

Or how a freshly opened bag simply smells of confection, sweet and soft, unspecific–but somehow specific to candy corn.

So to say something is “candy corn-flavored” is to take away the aspects of what makes candy corn candy corn. Because really, candy corn doesn’t have a unique flavor. Jelly Belly has said that the flavor is “a blend of creamy fondant, rich marshmallow and warm vanilla notes”. So essentially, birthday cake. Candy corn tastes like birthday cake.

And it’s true: Trader Joe’s Candy Corn Popcorn tastes exactly like yummy, buttery birthday cake. The colored corn helps sell the idea, but ultimately, nothing can replicate the experience of eating actual candy corn.

Still, the popcorn is delicious, and this little bag didn’t stand a chance. If you like kettle corn, or caramel corn, or any sort of shellacked popped corn, you will love this.

31 Days of Junk: Jones Soda “Blood Orange” (#8)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

I don’t remember how old I was when I and my friends discovered Jones Soda—14 or 15, probably—but I do remember what an impact it had on us as a group. At the time, our punk rock inklings were starting to mineralize; our obsession with art, and counter-culture, and whatever it was we thought was the meaning of life (skateboarding and watching movies), all coming together, coalescing to create who we were as young people and future adults. And suddenly, we had the perfect beverage which embodied all of that and more: Jones Soda.

Artsy photographs, a different one on each bottle, instead of a repetitive boring logo? Photos which could be submitted by anyone—even us? It was a game-changer. We’d had enough of Coca-Cola! We were through with Mug Root Beer. No more Surge! We wanted Jones Soda! And have Jones Soda, we did: we drank the stuff religiously, shelling out our allowances for over-priced 4-packs of the stuff.

It’s how I imagine Gen Xers felt when OK Soda came out.

I mention all of this because I probably haven’t had Jones Soda since then—so 20 years, give or take. (Good lord, where does the time go?) Wait, I take it back: last year, I did have a sip of some of their Thanksgiving-flavored sodas at a party. (Which were from the year 2005; we were drinking sodas that were 12-years-old.) All of this is to say: I haven’t had a proper, unexpired Jones Soda in a very long time.

I also haven’t had a blood orange in a very long time either, so I’m not sure if the flavor of this Halloweeny treat is spot-on. But it’s definitely orangey. Much like the soda I drank last week for #31DaysOfJunk, this one also tastes like a melted popsicle. That’s my biggest takeaway: Jones Soda Blood Orange tastes like a melted orange popsicle. So, y’know, good and sugary.

It has a brilliant, almost glowing, orange color to it. Downright iridescent! I will still take this over Surge any day of the week.

31 Days of Junk: Hershey’s Miniatures (#7)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

Does any candy scream “AUTUMN!” more than these Hershey’s Miniatures? I think not. There is something very nostalgic about the foil-tipping on the little bars. Bronze, silver, metallic orange and red. When I see these at the store, I know summer is officially over.

As a kid, I just wanted the dark chocolate ones. That’s all I cared about. As an adult, however, I’m less judgy and will take whatever I can get. I’ve developed a surprising affinity for Mr. Goodbar. Krackel is still my least favorite, though. Just never cared for crisped rice in my candies—sue me!

However, I did have a revolutionary idea last week about how to use these babies in a new way: add them to s’mores! Sure, the tiny Hershey bar would be redundant. But Mr. Goodbar, heck even Krackel, on a s’more? This must be how Al Gore felt when he invented the Internet.

Finally, as a staunch traditionist and purist when it comes to meaningless things from my youth that I hold dear, it surprises me to say this, but: it’d be cool if they included some new mini versions—maybe a one-time thing, for a special occasion? I’d love mini versions of a Symphony bar, 5th Avenue, or Take 5!

31 Days of Junk: Ben & Jerry’s Pumpkin Cheesecake (#6)

Last October (2017), I made it a goal to drink 31 different beers—a new one each day—by the end of the month. Incredibly, I was successful in my attempt, which I dubbed #31FallBeers (look it up on any form of social media!) This year, I wanted to try something similar, but there were two important changes I needed to make. Firstly, I wanted to be able to expound more, so I decided against social media blurbs in favor of long-form posts on my site. Second: it needed to be much, much cheaper than drinking 31 different beers. The result? #31DaysOfJunk. Strap in and hold on tight, and please enjoy this month-long odyssey into the sugary, fatty belly of the autumnal beast.

The people at Ben & Jerry’s are great at what they do. Their ice cream creations remind me of the scene from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, where the kids eat the three-course meal pills. The little pills, unimpressive to the eye, end up containing incredible flavors and subtle nuances that the kids are able to describe in detail after eating. That’s how I feel whenever I try a new Ben & Jerry ice cream flavor.

It’d be easy to phone the pumpkin cheesecake flavor in. Lots of sugar, lots of cream, a bit of pumpkiny flavor. Boom, you’re done. But that’s where ol’ B&J stand out among their frozen dairy peers. There’s no other way for me to describe the flavor than just saying it tastes exactly like cheesecake. And that’s such a weirdly specific flavor to nail, but they do it!

I’m admittedly not a fan of cheesecake, so a few bites were enough for me. There is a graham cracker swirl, which I found a little too grainy for my tastes. Normally, I can scarf down a pint of Americone Dream in one sitting, but I had to put this one away after a couple of spoonfuls. But kudos to the Ben & Jerry folks for creating an absolutely spot-on ice cream version of pumpkin cheesecake.

Horrorstuffs & humor / don't tell yer granny

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