Viniq Shimmery Liqueur: for Your Glittered Cocktail Needs

JK Grence
Before shaking the bottle, and after. Say it with me now: Oooh, aaah!

The Guilty Pleasure: Viniq Shimmery Liqueur.
Where to Get It: Well-stocked liquor stores and Fry's.
Price: $19.
What it Really Costs: The bottle is 15 inches! Where the hell am I going to put this thing?

It's hard for new products in the spirits category to stand out. This isn't much of a surprise, given that the contents of a liquor store are literally thousands of varieties of the exact same product. So, spirits makers will resort to any number of gimmicks to make their bottle that much more eye-catching and therefore get ordered in a bar or taken home for enjoyment as both beverage and an ersatz objet d'art.

Some of the more noteworthy ones include Hpnotiq, with a cerulean hue not usually seen outside of waters in the Caribbean Sea, and Galliano, with its nearly 18-inch bottle that can't be missed, but also can't be put on quite a few shelves.

More »

Starbucks' New Holiday Chestnut Praline Latte Is Actually Pretty Darn Tasty

JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: Chestnut Praline Latte
Where to Get It: Starbucks, locations every-freaking-where
Price: Five bucks, give or take.
What it Really Costs: As usual per Starbucks, your hipster coffee cred.

When Starbucks releases a new item, my usual reaction is minimal at best. They have so many different seasonal offerings that when something new comes along, I barely bat an eyelash. It's been five years since the last new Starbucks holiday offering, but it certainly doesn't seem like it.

Even though I'm not the biggest fan of Starbucks, I still heed the call of the Green Siren more often than I would care to admit. I can't help it, it's the closest place to my day job to get a cup of joe. And that location has one of the elusive Clover machines, which brews some truly marvelous coffee.

But that's another article.

More »

Cookies and Creme Cookie Butter Might Be the Most Addictive Thing at Trader Joe's

JK Grence

The Guilty Pleasure: Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter
Where to Get It: Trader Joe's
Price: $3.69, are ya out of your mind?
What it Really Costs: Like you needed more fattening food around for the holidays.

One of my very favorite treats to have around the house is Biscoff Spread. In case you aren't familiar, it's a spread with the consistency of peanut butter or Nutella, but is made out of European spice cookies.

I've seen some variations on the product, but none have quite come close to the allure of brand-name Biscoff Spread. Trader Joe's has their own private label version, simply called Cookie Butter. It's good, but it doesn't hold a candle to the real deal.

More »

Pringles' New Holiday Flavors Are Still Weird

JK Grence
Not pictured: Pecan Pie Pringles. I guess that sums up my opinion of them.

The Guilty Pleasure: The annual batch of limited-time holiday Pringles flavors.
Where to Get It: Walmart for the new ones, your favorite grocery for the others.
Price: A buck fifty, give or take.
What it Really Costs: I'm starting to wonder who the hell comes up with these flavors.

The people responsible for new Pringles flavors continue to impress me with their sheer audacity. While it takes Lay's a million dollar contest to try and foist novel chip flavors on an unsuspecting public, Pringles just goes ahead and releases their "you have what flavor?!" chips as limited-time holiday offerings.

There are two new flavors in the Pringles holiday lineup this year, and both of them are variations on popular flavors from years prior. The Cinnamon & Sugar flavor has been extended to the Pringles Tortillas corn chip line. In a somewhat odd twist, the Tortillas one is simply named Cinnamon Sugar. I presume the flavor lost its ampersand on a bender in Cancún.

More »

Battle of the Big, Fake Cronut: Dunkin' Donuts vs. Jack in the Box

JK Grence

Few food trends I've seen have developed such mass appeal as the cronut. While the true Cronut is a registered trademark of Dominique Ansel Bakery, imitations with other names have sprung up around the world.

See also: Cronut™ Battle: Herb Box vs. Karl's Quality Bakery

The croissant/doughnut hybrid has managed to trickle all the way down to the mass-market drive-thru lane in record time. Not one but two different establishments now serve their own versions of the deep-fried laminated pastry. Whose is better? Let's eat.

More »

Online Ordering Overload, Thanks to Taco Bell

JK Grence
Did we really need this?

The Guilty Pleasure: Ordering food via smartphone apps.
Where to Get It: Too damn many places, if you ask me.
Price: Varies, but usually under $10.
What it Really Costs: I suppose that depends on your recreational habits.

What's going on with seemingly every restaurant under the sun jumping on the online ordering bandwagon these days? It was somehow fairly natural that pizza delivery chains kicked off the trend some years ago, but recently it's gone bananas.

These days, you don't even need your computer anymore because seemingly every quick-service chain in town has an app for that. Chipotle has an especially slick one. You can get app-ordered subs from Subway and Jimmy John's. You can even order up burgers and fries from Five Guys.

More »

Papa John's Weird Pizza Department Unveils Fritos Chili Pizza

JK Grence
I'm pretty sure if you order one, the pizza won't be the only thing in the house that's baked.

The Guilty Pleasure: Frito pie on a pizza.
Where to Get It: The Papa John's delivery guy.
Price: $12 for a 14-incher.
What it Really Costs: How much is a bottle of Tums?

I'm quite intrigued by Papa John's R&D department. Every now and again, they release an oddball specialty pizza in an attempt to capture the dining dollars of stereotypical red-blooded 18- to 35-year-old American males.

Some of these, such as a Buffalo chicken pizza, are rather decent, at least for mass-market delivery pizza. Others have been more dubious. The double cheeseburger pizza they released earlier this year is one I'd imagine they would rather forget.

More »

Hey, '90s Kids, Surge Soda Is Back!

JK Grence
Ohmigod ohmigod YES IT'S BACK!

The Guilty Pleasure: Surge soda.
Where to Get It: For now, exclusively on
Price: $14 for a 12-pack.
What it Really Costs: New bigger cans mean even more empty calories per serving!

If you are of a certain age, you may well remember Surge soda. It was Coca-Cola's attempt in the 1990s to gain market share from Pepsi's perennially popular Mountain Dew.

The soda was marketed as an extreme citrus soda. Or, more likely back in the late 1990s, as an XTREME! citrus soda, with splashy graphics and people in commercials participating in intense sporting activities.

More »

Battle of the 2014 Arizona State Fair Corn Dogs

JK Grence

In my humble (but correct) opinion, the quintessential carnival food is the corn dog. I know I can get a (barely passable) corn dog from a number of outlets around town, but there's nothing like savoring a hand-dipped corn dog while basking in the lurid lights of the Arizona State Fair midway.

Some State Fair food vendors give the venerable carnival snack an over-the-top twist in an attempt to get people talking about their specific product. Two different vendors have spicy variations on the corn dog. But, only one can be this year's Arizona State Fair corn dog champion.

More »

Coca-Cola's Freestyle Machine Lets You Customize Your Drink in Amazing Ways

JK Grence
Where the magic happens.

The Guilty Pleasure: A new app for Coca-Cola Freestyle soda machines
Where to Get It: A handful of Freestyle machines, at least for now.
Price: A couple of bucks, give or take. Depends on the restaurant.
What it Really Costs: A potential sharp uptake in high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweetener.

By now, you may be familiar with The Coca-Cola Company's next-generation soda machine, Coca-Cola Freestyle. If you haven't seen one yet, I think they're worth seeking out just for the gee-whiz factor.

You use a touch screen on the machine to select what kind of beverage you want (of 26 different base varieties, including Sprite, Dr Pepper, and of course several versions of Coke), then add optional flavorings (orange Sprite? Sure! Raspberry Coca-Cola Zero? It's mighty fine!). Between the 26 sodas and all of the flavor variations, there's about 150 different drinks available from one soda machine.

But for some, yours truly included, somehow even that isn't quite enough.

More »