For all the food, drink, snacks and recipes about which Tina and I can write a thousand words, there are so many more that are waiting in the wings.  They look nervously on, some of them eagerly waiting for their moment in the sun, others quietly studying their shoes and edging their way to the back of the crowd.  While any of them would be happy to be a Bud Light Lime, not as many are keen to be a Big Mac Snack Wrap.

In truth, there are more than we can get to, adventurous eaters that we are.  So instead of letting them linger, I offer you quick-hit capsule reviews that you can use.  Prepare yourself for… the LIGHTNING ROUND.


Let’s play!

1.  Cloud No. 9 vodka liqueur


You know me.  You know that I love to give weird stuff a positive review, if only to get people to try it with me, and Cloud No. 9 is some seriously weird stuff:  Australian vodka, distilled from barley, diluted and then cut with the juice of cabernet grapes.  A sort of wine-grape-juice liqueur, its main feature is a shimmering sediment that, when you shake the bottle, gives the liquid a opalescent shine.

So, it kind of looks like you’re drinking nail polish.  While I grant that the first time I sampled this, I was drunk enough to start taking straight shots of it, I maintain two key things:

  • When you start drinking Cloud No. 9, it tastes maybe like pomegranate; by the end, it tastes like clamato.
  • You will never have a worse hangover in your life the next day — I broke my own rule about dirty vodka for this, and I regret it to this day.

Plus, holy Mary, it’s $40 Canadian for a 750mL bottle.  I can get half again as much regular vodka for that and cut it with my own water and grape juice, thanks all the same.

Verdict:  PASS.

2. Vinta Crackers


Wow, two bread products in a row, I know.  This is the non-stop-thrill-ride you’ve been aching for!  What next, low-fat oatmeal?  Toothpaste flavors for the whole family?

You may mock, but sometimes there isn’t anything better than the right cracker at the right time — and it’s getting so that Vinta’s right time is “whenever there is a box near my open, hungering mouth.”  That they’re low in salt and cholesterol is a bonus, because all that really matters is that they have a solid multi-grain flavor I am happy to snack on, and that is a vehicle for almost any godforsaken cheese that Tina comes across.

Plus, if that wasn’t enough, they have commercials that make me proud that smug manner of a person who knew a band before they became popular:

Oh, you like Vinta now?  Pffft, I was eating them while you were still crumbling Ritz in your soup.

Verdict:  HIT!

3. Jones Spellcasting Soda


Hey, you know what?  I used to play D&D in high school.  No no, for real!  So when I tell you that out of the six bottles above, which are labelled…

  • Sneak Attack
  • Potion of Healing
  • Bigby’s Crushing Thirst Destroyer
  • Dwarven Draught
  • Eldritch Blast
  • Illithid Brain Juice

…it should be no surprise at all that I know exactly what every one of them means.  So, while I don’t deny Jones their opportunity to pander to 20-sided dice rollers in the same way they did Magic: The Gathering players or fans of Emily the Strange, I feel I’m qualified to say this to D&D gamers:

Stop encouraging them.  Stop encouraging these people to make geeky shit that makes you look like a total maniac.  Potions of Healing, seriously?  Illithid Brain Juice?  Look, I still have my dice in a pencil case somewhere, but that doesn’t mean I want to put myself in the position where I have to explain a) what an Illithid is, b) why they crave the juice of brains and c) the degree to which I identify myself with one that I think having a bottle of it in my fridge is cool.

Seriously, knock it off.  Buy the books, play the game, have a good time, great.  But this stuff just gives everyone a bad name.

What’s next?  To Hit Armor Class Delicious?

Rating:  PASS.

4. Herr’s Horseradish & Cheddar Chips


A little quick Googling about this particular flavor of Herr’s stabbed a cold lance of fear into my heart, because it looks as though it’s discontinued.  That’s really a shame.

And by a shame, I mean a crying shame.

And by a crying shame, I mean that I am putting all my possessions on a bindle and going to walk the earth, because nothing makes sense any more.

These chips actually taste like horseradish, for all the good or ill of it.  They’re hot like horseradish, they have a kick like it, and the cheddar is really just there to balance it out and help get you through the bag.  While it might be off-putting at first, the next thing you know you’ll be wiping tears off your cheeks and worrying that you might not have bought enough bags.

While most snacks are trying hard to figure out the next best way to taste like a chili pepper, it was a pleasure to find someone who managed to nail an entirely different kind of heat — and did it with such eerie precision.  I hold no illusions that Herr’s “horseradish” flavor is likely a clear fluid in a laboratory vial somewhere, and it’s important to know that I don’t care.

It’s that good, and I’m going to hoard these chips while I can.  I suggest you do the same.

Verdict:  HIT!

And that concludes this week’s LIGHTNING ROUND! Share your thoughts about our picks in the comments, or suggestions for other items that just can’t wait for their own full-fledged article featuring drunken plums, literary figures or me rambling about France!

  • Kristie

    Vinta crackers are the shit, but they’re like 8 billion calories apiece, and when I open a sleeve of crackers, I see it through to the end. In one sitting.

    As for your D&D sodas, you’re talking to the girl who got sorted by the real sorting hat into Ravenclaw, was immensely proud that the hat knew I should be in the smart house, and also plans on marrying Robert Pattinson (who was BOTH Cedric Diggory AND Edward Cullen–two kinds of magic!)

    If you don’t know what any of that paragraph meant, then you’re not a dork. If you do, then you and I can eagerly await the release of Jones’ Transfiguration Punch.

    • Mike

      Oh, I’m sorry, but being a Harry Potter nerd has nowhere near the stigma of being a D&D nerd — the former has a series of books read by gazillions and legitimized in a series of successful movies; the latter has something with the guy who played Jimmy Olson on Lois & Clark.

      I remain embarrassed that I even know who Bigby is, or why his soda flavor should be able to crush anything.

  • Hellcat13

    Vinta crackers are freaking CRACK. The roasted red pepper ones? Crack AND smack, all bundled up in a lovely red box. They make a perfect vehicle for a soft, mild goat cheese. Plus, I love the popping that the little seeds make between my teeth. Mmmmmm. I have some in my lunch today.

  • Kristie

    I waited in line for an hour on Tuesday morning at 8 am to pick up my pre-ordered copy of Halo 3 ODST, and am already about halfway through the campaign mode on “legendary.” Midway through the first battle, I said “this is cool. It’s got the same Halo feel, but with overtones of Call of Duty 4 and scenes like Left 4 Dead.” Does that qualify?

    Also, I played Magic in high school.

    • Mike

      All right, you pass, though I feel as though that’s a dubious honor at best.

  • Kristie

    Oh, and my best friend, Becky, plays D&D and has some kind of high-ranking title like “Grand Dragoon of Wizardry” or whatever. They eat snacks and play in the dark.

    • Mike

      For extra credit, find out from Becky who the trans-dimensional traditional enemies of the Illithids are. If she pulls out the Monstrous Manual, half-points; if she knows off the top of her head, you gain nerd cred by proxy.

  • MtC

    I’ve got bottles of shochu (Japanese barley wine… w/kaji, so it’s like sake), if you want to make your no.9 comparisons. Overall, I find the pre-mixed to usually be vile…

  • Anne

    Oh…I’m a minor nerd, I did play D&D in high school…all the way till I was 25! Some of the names I remember, but 2 kids later, the sieve that is my brain did not retain the details. However…I have the dice, AND D&D mags. My daughters find them fascinating.

    And the Horseradish chips? I found them at a job lot store once. Your description is exactly right! I had one bag…and they were gone the next time I went. I sighed heavily, sad not to share the taste with my husband. Because of course I had the whole bag, hehe.