Amazon Has a Cheap New Snack Line, and Here's How It Tastes
In yet another aggressive stab at world domination, Amazon has introduced a full line of non-offensive, basic snack-foods for all your masticating pleasures. For some reason, they're dubbing the new venture "Wickedly Prime" -- which, honestly, just makes me think of John Travolta's brain fizzling on national TV. Nevertheless, the stuff is cheap as all heck, available to everyone who has Prime, and can even work for you on a subscription-basis -- assuming your life is in a place where you know you'll need masala butternut squash soup every 30 days, exactly. Must be nice.
But, like Amazon Prime's original programming, some of the offerings are decidedly better than others: for every snacking equivalent of the transcendent Transparent, there's a (not-so-great) culinary analogue of Betas. Presented here is an uncompromising Amazon Prime snacks primer (ugh) separated into five categories: soup, chips, popcorn, nuts, and cookie spreads (we left Wickedly's line of teas out because they are not snacks, sorry).
What a time to be alive and have a functional Prime account.
In an otherwise impressive debut collection of snacks, the sweet spreads are the outlier. You should avoid them at all costs, which should be easy since you need to click on the order button physically to buy them, then confirm your shipping address, then click "OK." It should be easy not to mess this one up. Just don't do it. Here's why:
- Ginger snap flavored cookie spread: I don't know how this happened. I feel like taking a vat of old ginger snap cookies and melting them on top of a '94 Camry's hood in mid-summer Albuquerque would make in a better spread than this right here.
- Cacao truffle spread: You are much better off springing for Nutella, or something similar from Trader Joe's. It's saccharine in just the wrong way. It's not palatable. It doesn't work on toast and crackers. Please, no.
- Salted cacao truffle spread: See above, add salt, expect nothing.
The nuts collection, as of right now, consists of just one entry: almonds. Which are actually not nuts at all, but drupes. But what this category lacks in variety (or actual nuts) it makes up with quality. The soft-shell almonds are some damn fine drupes for snackers on any budget.
They're are a clinic in moderation: they have the right amount of salt, and a shell easy enough to break by hand -- but not soft enough to be fragile and broken when they arrive in their packaging. If you are into nuts like I am, you know that too much salt -- or too unruly a shell -- can ruin what should be a deliciously simple snacking experience. Drupe or no drupe, the soft-shell almonds are what you want and need in a nut-like snack.
These roasted seaweed snacks are like the Ramones of the Wickedly line -- not because seaweed is like ocean grass and that in itself is punk as hell, but because under their surface simplicity lies a whole lot of complexity and depth. Which is a pretty long-winded way to say these basic "health snacks" are actually pretty dope. So give them a chance.
- Sea salt: Again, Amazon's showing incredible depth with their salt application: While many salted seaweed snacks go too far in their brining and end up tasting like the back of Usain Bolt's neck after a 200-meter race, these suckers have just the right amount of savory to make their snacks juuuust right.
- Maui onion: Usually subtlety is key with seafood snacks, and that goes for flavoring, too. The more elaborate, the less appealing. But these maui onions actually are better than the prosaic sea salt option. The flavor is definitely not too overpowering, and it has just the right amount of crunch to trick you into thinking you are eating something that isn't good for you. Which is key. I mean, you are eating seaweed here.
The chips/crisp category is probably the bedrock of Amazon Wickedly's bounty. It's the core. The center fielder of online subscription light snacking. And while nothing in here is a true showstopper, the overall array is solid enough to keep you from blowing your chip budget in your local grocery store. Which, is exactly what Amazon wants. So, good job.
- Plantain chips: Like Shakira, these plantain chips come straight from Colombia. But unlike Shakira, they don't have a lot of flavor or excitement. They are just regular, almost-sweet potato chips. Definitely not bad, but a little too boring to be celebrated by anything more than a brief comparison to Shakira.
- Yellow/blue corn chips: The texture on these standard corn tortilla chips is almost perfect. They have a great crunch, but aren't so hard that they carve up the roof of your mouth. But be warned: they are pretty bland, so eating them without salsa or dip might be underwhelming. They are very big though, so dippin' is easy.
- Pea crisps: This was one of the most pleasant surprises of the whole bunch. I never imagined I could enjoy something with the word "pea" in it so much. But bad news for people who love savory snacks: these are a little more sweet than salty. Hopefully you are into that kind of thing.
- Sweet potato chips: They have the same positives as the plantains and corn chips (solid texture, nice size, good cut) but deliver a little more flavor than their counterparts. These actually contain a nice little burst of sweet potato flavor. But, they're not so potent that they cannibalize any potential dips and spreads one might add. Hummus works especially well here. Respectable showing overall. **Light applause**
When taste-testing all this Amazon-ness, I saved the soups for last. I assumed they would scar an otherwise pleasant snacking journey, as I normally shy away from store-bought soup, despite being a great admirer of Donovan McNabb's mom. But in the end, this soup won me over. This dark horse pleasantly surprised me, which, for mass-produced soup in cardboard containers, is really best-case scenario.
- Black bean: While still a solid soup, the black bean falls victim to the same blandness problems that plague some of the other categories. It's also a little watery. But again, definitely passable.
- Chicken noodle: Two big takeaways here: the chicken is actually really tender and seems to be of high quality, which tricks you into thinking this was not ordered online from a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate. And the broth is definitely not watery or lacking substance. Overall this is one of the better store-bought chicken noodle riffs I've ever had the pleasure of microwaving.
- Masala butternut squash: This was easily the most pleasant surprise of the entire Amazon Wickedly roster. I legitimately took this soup home and put some chicken in it. The only drawback here is that -- uncharacteristically for this list -- the flavor is almost too powerful. But it packs all the flavor of a fresh autumn harvest with a tangy masala-tinge. For once, a gourd has me pumped.
- Minestrone with Italian sausage: Honestly, this tastes like what my nonexistent Italian grandmother would have hypothetically made me if she were not the figment of an overactive imagination.
There is but one lone style of popped corn in Amazon's snack-hopper. But Jesus H. Christmas on a locally sourced candlestick, the sweet and cheesy Popcorn is a blockbuster. Like lovable film nerd Rick Moranis, this popcorn is the ideal mixture of sweet and cheesy. It expertly nails the "bunch of salty and sweet popcorn in the tins with Santa Claus on them that for some reason surface every holiday season" flavor that so few mass-produced food makers can expertly nail. It's weirdly good -- we-might-need-an-intervention good. It's quite frankly an affront to snacking that only Prime members can indulge in this bastion of quality taste. This is the snack that is going to put Amazon's efforts on the map. If you are going to hop on the Wickedly bandwagon, definitely start here. It even raises the question: Why are the snack spreads so bad when the popcorn is so good? Questions for another day, perhaps.