ATLANTA --When snack-food makers come out with bizarre new hybrids -- toasted coconut & sea salt Triscuits, anyone? -- we're not afraid to try them.
In honor of Tuesday being National Junk Food Day, here are some of the most bizarre flavor pairings to hit the snack market this year.
Heinz Sriracha Ketchup Amy Roberts: Why would you want Sriracha-flavored ketchup when you most likely already have ketchup and Sriracha sauce at home and can mix them yourself? Because you are lazy. That's OK. We are, too.
This ketchup blend has less Sriracha than you might think but just the right amount of kick. I wasn't sure until I tried some on a breakfast sandwich from the CNN food court, and then I was hooked. I'm totally going to start buying this.
Julie In: Sriracha -- good. Ketchup -- good. Sriracha ketchup -- undecided.
I like the kick of Sriracha at the end and the balancing sweetness of the ketchup, but the hint of garlic seems out of place. I like garlic on its own, but here, it seemed like a third wheel interfering in the marriage of Sriracha and ketchup. (Disclaimer: I did not try it on a breakfast sandwich.)
Amp Energy Zero Blueberry White Grape drink
Julie: My primary thought after one sip was: This is awesome! I love this feeling. I love the rush. I feel powerful. I can feel the alleged antioxidants from the blueberry and white grape flavoring coursing through my veins. I've tried a lot of energy drinks in my time, and this flavor combination is my favorite.
Amy: "It's sugar-free!" was my primary thought as I felt my heart beating out of my chest after one sip. As an added bonus, the blueberry and white grape combination was unexpectedly good. We also tried the original as a control, which tasted like "hot Mountain Dew," aka my new band name.
General Mills 'Star Wars' cereal
Amy: As a fan of "Star Wars" and sugary cereals, I think this is the best thing to happen to me in my whole life. It's like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms got married and had babies -- fruity babies in the shape of spaceships and light sabers. If you share my passions, this is for you. Darth Vader and Yoda are on the limited-edition boxes now and two more characters will appear on new box designs in October.
Julie: "Star Wars" and cereal seems like an unlikely pairing, but after the first spoonful I made the connection. The fruity cereal and marshmallows transported me to "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" -- before I discovered the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup and it was still acceptable to act out fight sequences from "Star Wars." (I still act out the scenes, but it's not as cute when you're an adult.) The double dose of nostalgia was so delicious, I had to have seconds.
Trader Joe's Baconesque popcorn
Amy: OK, this is the best thing that's happened to me in my whole life. (This list was done in chronological order.) "Baconesque" refers to bacon flavor, not real bacon, which is good for vegetarians. (The package isn't specifically marked as vegetarian, however, but it is kosher.)
The smoky flavoring combined with the white cheddar is enough to make me say, "Yes, I'm having this popcorn as my dinner. You got a problem with that?" There will not be enough to share.
Julie: I only got a small taste because Amy slapped my hand away when I went back for more. We both liked the white cheddar and the smokiness of the bacon. I'm a card-carrying carnivore and didn't even miss the real bacon.
Kellogg's Special K Popped Delights -- Cocoa with Fudge Drizzle
Amy: Now that the bag of bacon-flavored popcorn is gone, we might as well have something healthy for dessert, right? I wouldn't have picked up these soft rice cakes with chocolate icing on my own, but they were surprisingly tasty. Each serving is packaged separately, and is easy to drop in a lunchbox.
Julie: Rice cakes are no longer the dried-out, flavorless diet food of yesteryear. Be warned that these cakes are small -- not much bigger than a quarter -- but they pack the right dose of chocolatey goodness. I would buy them again, especially if I wanted to feast on a fudge-drizzled treat that's just 60 calories.
Pepperidge Farm Honey Bun Goldfish Grahams
Amy: I'm used to my Goldfish crackers being cheesy, so I didn't have high expectations for these "Teddy Grahams" clones -- let's call them Goldy Grahams. But, you can really taste the honey. Judging from how many I ate while writing this (There are 35 in one serving!), they could be habit-forming. I'm already thinking about how good they would taste over ice cream.
Julie: Once I wrapped my head around the fact that these goldfish don't contain a shred of cheese, I really enjoyed the honey and graham cracker combo. They taste like bite-sized honey buns but also have a nice graham cracker crispness. The taste, size and texture remind me of cereal. I think my next test will be to see how swimmingly they fare in a bowl of milk.
Snyder's of Hanover Gluten-free Hot Buffalo Wing Pretzel Sticks
Julie: Before trying these I thought "gluten-free" was another term for "lacking in flavor," but I've revised my thinking because these taste amazing. They're even crispier than gluten-packed pretzel sticks and are dusted with mild buffalo-wing flavoring. I think my next Super Bowl party will be a little more gluten-free.
Amy: Wait, what Super Bowl party!?! Skipping the snack table might be a bummer for some gluten-free folks, but these pretzels are a worthy stand-in. They're spicy, but not too much. They do have 60 milligrams more sodium per serving than Snyder's regular pretzel sticks, so that might be something to note if you're tracking such things.
Nabisco Toasted Coconut and Sea Salt Triscuits (Martha Stewart edition)
Julie: I like Triscuits, sea salt, and coconut on their own, but combining all three just didn't appeal to me. I wanted to like them but I guess my palate isn't refined enough to parse the distinct flavors. I'll have to make do with the original, good ol' Triscuits.
Amy: They're pretty scratchy, but I liked them! (My palate is even less refined because of all the other Triscuits I eat every day in real life.) This is a limited-edition summer flavor, so they may not be available in all stores.
Sunshine Extra Toasty Cheez-its
Julie: The box says these are the most-requested Cheez-it flavor. I didn't realize Extra Toasty was a flavor -- I just thought it was a desired quality in bedroom slippers. Now that I've tasted them, though, I have to agree I like extra toasty the mosty. The extra bake time brings out the cheese flavor. I would absolutely buy these again.
Amy: Oh no! I disagree. I don't see the draw for something "extra toasted," and I couldn't really tell the difference between these and regular Cheez-its. I'll be sticking with the original, and all their other flavors.