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REVIEW: Herr’s Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Cheese Curls

Against expectations, this oddball snack DOESN’T taste like canned meatballs slurped from a mustache.

Herr's Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Cheese Curls

Look, when you’ve been in the snack game as long as I have, a certain amount of cynicism starts to set in. With every breathless new offering from the major junk food manufacturers, every new combination of artificial flavorings sprayed onto the surface of a crunchy piece of corn something or other, that once-familiar excitement can get harder to muster.

So, then, was my less than enthusiastic approach to tasting Herr’s “Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup” Flavored Cheese Curls.

“I’ve seen it all,” I thought. “There are no more nostalgic flavor combinations for huge manufacturers to mine, no childhood pleasure receptors left un-pinged.” So what if the next big thing in extruded corn snacks was sitting right in front of me? I wasn’t ready to see it. I thought I knew just from looking at these what they would taste like, and couldn’t muster the energy to ride the roller coaster of optimism and vague dissatisfaction, even one more time.

In this case, you guys, I had it all wrong. From the package:

“Just like mom used to make. We invite your mouth to encounter the creamy goodness of buttery grilled cheese combined with the comforting richness of tomato soup. This is a snack experience that will be sure to take your taste buds down memory lane. In fact, you may even call Mom afterwards.”

Can we pause for just a second to reflect on how truly vulgar and salacious this packaging copy is? I didn’t feel like I needed Ed Herr, or really anyone for that matter, “inviting my mouth” on any “encounters,” creamy or otherwise. And I certainly am uncomfortable with the assertion that I’m going to have to call my mom afterwards.

Herr's Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Cheese Curls

It turns out that regular curled cheese puffs are kind of a pain in the ass to eat.

The first thing you notice when you crack the bag, still dusty from the bottom shelf of the Ocean State Job Lot where they were purchased, is a powerful hit of tomato flavoring. Herr’s cheese curls bear the familiar shape of a cheese puff; in this case, the coloring of the flavor dust is a slightly darker orange than on your standard issue puff. They are also kind of oddly straight; there is very little signature curl to these cheese curls, a change I found I quite enjoyed. It turns out that regular curled cheese puffs are kind of a pain in the ass to eat; they always curve the wrong way when they hit the backs of your incisors, and their shape prevents you from stuffing your mouth firewood-style with neat little rows, maximizing efficiency and thereby obesity.

The condensed soup flavoring is strong stuff, here; it’s the first thing you taste with each bite, and instantly reminds you of the cans of soup you probably ate as a child, your mom using the can as a measuring cup a going half water, half milk, because dammit, you kids are drinking up all of the milk and I’m not running some kind of “milk house” and yes that thing I just said makes total sense.

Keep chewing, and the tomato flavor fades into a sharp, tangy cheese flavor, with a slight hint of creaminess, like you’d find on a sour cream and onion potato chip, before finally ending up with some buttery, toasty flavor notes.

Herr's Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Cheese Curls

I didn’t think it was possible, but the chemical trickery works. These really are reminiscent of the classic combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup, delivered in a crunchy, satisfying snack then you can mow through in mere minutes. I had to correct my first impressions, which admittedly were based on the packaging and concept alone. Where I expected a chemical sludge that would MAYBE taste like a hot, exhaled burp from a toddler that just ate an entire can of SpaghettiOs, instead I found a snack worthy of its description. And what’s more, I learned that when it comes to weirdo snacks, it’s always best to approach them with an open, trusting heart, ready to be hurt again.

Written by Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is the author of "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as a frequent contributor to Serious Eats, Brocavore.com, Eat Rockland, Down East Magazine, The L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and more. When not poisoning his body with garbage and then posting sardonic commentary about it on the Internet, he also owns and operates the 'Wich, Please food truck, named Eater.com's "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015.

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