Joyless, Sullen Brown Brick

SoyJoy

By: Pharmavite

I Paid: $1.35 for a 1.06-ounce bar (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 1stars


Marketing: 4stars

If you’ve ever wondered what food made by people who hate food might taste like, here’s your answer. SoyJoy dangles the promise of a healthy, delicious candy-bar substitute, but delivers in its place a sullen brown brick that smells like a burnt Fig Newton. Things get worse when the bar, made from whole soy and dried fruit, meets the mouth. All three flavors I sampled were bad in their own way, but they shared a handful of depressing similarities: The texture was dry and mealy. The bottom of each bar looked and tasted as though it had been scorched in the oven. And, as noted, there was a Fig-Newton-minus-the-
moist-and-delicious-fig thing going on.

The Mango Coconut flavor had a perfumy, mango-ish floral note wafting from its dried, bready interior, but this was little relief. What was needed was real moisture, not the distant scent of an orchid plantation. And the bar’s stringy coconut bits explain exactly why people take up an unreasonable prejudice against the “giant seed.”

The Berry flavor was similar: an assault on the palate, a waft of berry scent (more smell than flavor), and then more crumbly dryness. But the worst of the lot, by far, was the entertainingly terrible Raisin Almond; somehow, the raisin note had been corrupted by dark forces and transmuted into something resembling a bad box wine, making the experience not unlike eating a soiled cardboard drink coaster.

It’s hard to fault the brand’s heavily rotated commercials, however: Combining Beatles-era psychedelic animation with an iconoclastic jingle, they can almost fool you into thinking these turgid blocks of adulterated protein might be edible. Don’t believe the hype.

Pringles Select

By: Procter & Gamble

I Paid: $3.29 for an 8-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 3stars

Pringles is universally known as the maker of the unnervingly consistent chips that come in a tennis-ball can. But since early 2007, the company has been pushing an experimental new line of snacks to expand its appeal beyond the lucrative but oversaturated high-school-volleyball-team demographic it has long dominated.

The new line is known as Pringles Select, and the chips it features are smaller, more expensive, and far more creatively flavored than their Cro-Magnon ancestors. And they come in bags, not cans.

Randomly trying two of the eight available flavors yielded surprisingly good results. The Szechuan Barbecue rice crisps promise tang and “spicy peppers”—and actually deliver both. Granted, there’s still plenty of salt, but the Szechuan sauce taste registers clearly, and there’s a mild but noticeable spice burn trailing in each chip’s wake. This version also manages to be lighter than a potato chip without being irritatingly insubstantial like a typical rice chip.

The Cinnamon Sweet Potato chips are victims of their own ambition. By positioning themselves in an ambiguous gulf between sweet and savory, they raise questions as to where the hell they land on the dessert-versus-snack spectrum. Still, they’re not bad: A whiff of cinnamon, a slightly sweet aftertaste, and palpable sweet potato flavor mean that the chips are eminently edible, if not actively delicious.

Other flavors include Sun Dried Tomato, Honey Chipotle Barbecue, and Parmesan Garlic. And at 28 (small) chips per 140- or 150-calorie serving, the Select line promises to be a little less of a diet-killer than regular potato chips.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.