By: The Hershey Company
I Paid: $2.99 for a 7-ounce box (prices may vary by region)
There are few better ways to enrage a true lover of chocolate candy than to mention Hershey’s, archetype of shoddy quality and lowbrow conceptualization. From that perspective, Hershey’s-themed cookies sound like a disaster. Why reinvent a bad chocolate bar (or, in the case of Reese’s, a reasonably OK peanut butter dessert) as a cookie?
Cynical answer: You want to extend the brand and capitalize on its “known quantity” appeal for millions of Americans.
Surprising answer: You can springboard off tired favorites and create some shockingly tasty cookies. In this case, that means sandwiched and chocolate-dipped cookies.
The York Dark Chocolate Dipped cookies are better than their namesakes by a long shot; the addition of a dry, crunchy cookie to the chocolate and mint of candy-bar fame creates a passable (and competitively tasty) impression of a Girl Scout Thin Mint.
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Layered cookies are far, far, far better than what they’re named after, and they closely resemble Oreos. They lack a little of Oreos’ intricate texture, but they are within striking distance of an American cookie classic.
The Reese’s Milk Chocolate Layered cookies are also Oreo-esque, with a surprisingly restrained, creamy peanut butter filling. The only cookie that fell short was the Reese’s Milk Chocolate Dipped, which was cloying and syrupy.
I Paid: $4.09 for a 14.5-ounce box (prices may vary by region)
In the world of mass-marketed cheesy snack crackers, Cheez-Its are about as good as it gets. With help from the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the creators of Cheez-Its came up with a process whereby real cheese is worked into the cracker batter (rather than cheese flavoring being applied as a nasty coating after the baking process). This results in a consistent cheese flavor and less artificial powdery crap sticking to your fingers.
Now Cheez-Its have been rolled out in a new “Two Flavors — One Box” format, offering the duo of Zesty Queso and Cheddar Blanco or the pairing of Sharp Cheddar and Parmesan.
Out of an inherent respect for Cheez-Its, I gambled that all four flavors would be discernible in a blind testing. And sure enough, they all shone through. The Parmesan crackers taste, mon dieu, like Parm! The Zesty Queso crackers have a mild but clear stab of jalapeño to them. The Sharp Cheddar has a bit of real cheddary bite, and the Cheddar Blanco is comparatively mild.
Why the shock? The name of the game with most mass-marketed foods is for the label to say (or imply), “This tastes like a steak”; for the item in question to look and smell like a steak; but then for it to taste like cardboard covered in steak sauce. Cheez-Its, to their eternal credit, are made with real cheese, and the result is a damned snappy collection of snack crackers.