1. What Is And What Was Bueno At The 99¢ Only Store! And Dollar Tree!

    AS my blogging mentor, or blogntor, Sylvia Haynes Darden often says “A good blogger is a frequent and timely blogger.”  Well, she didn’t so much say that as write it on her blog in May of 2007. And the reference is easy to find; it’s her most recent entry – the one that’s mostly about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    So it got me thinking:  I find a lot of What’s Bueno at the 99¢ Only Store and What’s Bueno at Dollar Tree items, but due to my busy schedule and my heavy drinking, it seems I never get around to posting most of them!  And then when I realize I’ve pissed away all this potential blog content, or blogntent, because these items are no longer available I get depressed and I end up drinking more.

    So you know what we’re going to do, you and I? We’re going to jam through a whole mess of these things and finally get them the hell off my computer and into your hearts! Despite the fact that a number of these items are no longer be available!

    …And then we are going to get shit-faced drunk! What happens after that depends entirely on you, but I’m always open to new experiences!

    First up!

    Pearson’s King Size Mint Patties
    Bought at: Dollar Tree
    Availability: Haven’t seen ‘em in months and the last time I did, they was only one left, in a box with a bunch of other miscellaneous candy on the bottom shelf. And it was all smooshed.

    Why they were bueno: You won’t find anything in the way of bargains for regular sized, name brand candy bars at Dollar Tree – those are all priced at 79¢ each now. Pearson’s King Size Mint Patties, while not a big name brand, were also 79¢ – but you got two big patties while those others only gave you one for more money. I’m looking at you, York Peppermint Patty. The taste? Fine! How can you screw up a peppermint patty? These were great and I miss them. What I’d do is I’d have one, and then save the other for later, i.e., after I finished chewing and swallowing the first one.

    New York Pretzel
    Bought at: Dollar Tree
    Availability: Only saw these for about two weeks back in November

    Why they were bueno: As the box says, you’re getting 60% more frozen pretzel than the other leading frozen pretzel. These babies were nice an’ big. I suspect they might have ended up at Dollar Tree because every single box was open, and it looks like this was the result of poor package design or a lack of glue rather than someone opening them. (The pretzels inside were safely sealed in a bag.)  The New York Pretzel website indicates that they do a lot of wholesale / food service industry business, so maybe these pretzels were an unsuccessful attempt to break into the retail frozen pretzel business. A shame, too, they were good.

    Interestingly, Dollar Tree still offers their retail competitor, Bakers Best. And there’s nothing wrong with a box of those frozen pretzels for a buck; they, too are bueno.  It’s just that New York Pretzel was significantly bueno-er.

    Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store
    Availability: Last saw the second week of December
    Why they were bueno: The 99¢ Only Store offers a lot of Quaker granola bar-type stuff. (You might remember my little love affair with Smash Bar…?) With these, you’re not getting the usual eight granola bars, no – you’re getting two extra bars, still for 99¢ only. And perhaps some of you might appreciate the, eugh, “green” aspect of the packaging: No big cardboard box for these to rattle around in. They’re just cleverly bound together by a perforated adhesive sticker and you just tear them off as you eat them at home – or if you’re like most of the thieving shoppers in my neighborhood – in the store without paying for them.

    Personally, for someone like myself who takes great pride in generating enormous amounts of trash each day (My neighbor and I are having a contest!) and can’t be bothered to recycle or try to minimize my household waste footprint, I’d prefer they go back to the box. Still, the plastic each individual bar is wrapped in will no doubt add to that enormous floating pile of garbage in the Pacific, so at least that’s something. Even without the cardboard boxes, I presume they’re still cutting down plenty of  trees. Where else are they getting the sawdust and wood chips these granola bars are made from?

    I’m kidding! I’m kidding, of course, as my attorney insists. They really are delicious!

    Dairy Fresh Dessert Topping
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store and Dollar Tree!
    Availability: Still available at both chains
    Why it’s bueno:  You go into a regular grocery store and try buying a can of aerosol whipped topping for a buck. Go ahead, try. You’ll be arrested is what! Sure, your precious $2.99-a-can “Reddi Wip” may crow about containing “no hydrogenated oils” but for God’s sake, you’re having pie, who the hell cares? Live a little!

    Also, if you’re lucky enough to have a partner who’s as active and creative in the bedroom as my Reymundo is, you’d go broke buying name brand aerosol whipped topping. (Now if you’ll excuse me, he and I need to get to this tub of Chubby Hubby before it melts all over our new Wythe blue Egyptian cotton sheets – 1,200 thread count, baby!)

    Chunky Chips Ahoy!
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store
    Availability: They were around for about a week or so back in February. Long gone now, pal! Long gone!
    Why it was bueno: If someone needs to tell you why getting a full-size package of Chunky Chips Ahoy! for ninety-nine cents only is bueno, then get the hell off my blog right now! No, no, wait, don’t go! I was kidding! God almighty, with, what?, six regulars coming here, I can’t afford to turn anyone away, even the stupid readers!

    Anyway, these Chunky Chips Ahoy! cookies, like other Nabisco products I’ve seen at 99¢ Only, are nearing the end of their shelf-life as stamped on the package, but hell, they weren’t actually expired and they were just as delicious as the day they were baked – presumably by pirates who like unnecessary punctuation as much as I enjoy italicizing.

    V8 Splash Tropical Blend
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store
    Availability: Around for about a month circa March
    Why it was bueno: This stuff was really delicious. Add vodka, and it’s good for you, too!

    I mentioned the availability of V8 Splash Tropical Blend to two different pals and I heard the same exact thing from both of them, “Jesus Christ! V8 mixed with fruit juice?! It sounds disgusting! No wonder it’s at the 99¢ Only store! Why the hell do you shop there?!” No you morons! It’s not regular V8 juice, it’s just carrot juice, which you can’t even taste (thank God) and then a bunch of tropical stuff on top of that.

    And it seems it ended up at the 99¢ Only Store not because it bombed but because these were 32-ounce bottles which have since been discontinued. They do sell this flavor in 64-ounce jugs at your local grocer, but I’m betting you’ll pay a hell of a lot more than two bucks, which is what two of these would have run you. It matters not, however – these babies are all gone!

    Ah, that I had purchased an entire pallet of this nectar of the gods (once you add the booze, anyway) when I had the chance. Seriously, this stuff was so good, there’s even been reports of me drinking it without first properly diluting it 50% with Schmirnoff.

    Country Crock Pumpkin Spice Vegetable Oil Spread
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store
    Availability: Still around, but as you can see above, the supply is dwindling.
    Why it’s bueno: Like you, I love pumpkin pie, and this stuff tastes like if a homemade pumpkin pie and a stick of butter had a baby together – it’s that good. A seasonal product that was in regular supermarkets from Thanksgiving to Christmas, countless thousands of the unsold little tubs of Country Crock then made their way to 99¢ Only after the holidays. Some had already hit the dollar chain by the end of December, so I was able to work my magic in the kitchen and bring the resulting creation to a party we went to on New Year’s Eve.

    Ted’s Country Crock Pumpkin Spice Pie
    Serves four.
    1 – 8-inch refrigerated pie crust (available at the 99¢ Only store)
    5 – 6-oz. tubs of Shedd’s Spread Country Crock Pumpkin Spice Vegetable Oil Spread
    4 – 7-ounce cans of Dairy Fresh Whipped Topping (available at the 99¢ Only store)

    1. Allow Country Crock to soften at room temperature
    2. Using a spatula, slather contents of five margarine tubs into the pie crust, into a sort of mound
    3. Refrigerate for at least two hours
    4. Slice into fourths, and serve with a full can Dairy Fresh Whipped Topping alongside each slice

    We brought enough pies for all the other guests and just about everyone was surprised when I told them, at the exact moment everyone had a great big mouthful, that this wasn’t regular pumpkin pie filling (though it could pass for it in color and texture), but rather flavored margarine. Finally, a New Year’s Eve party when I’m not the only one vomiting!

    Topsy Turvy Planters
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store and Dollar Tree
    Availability: As of this writing, you can’t enter either chain without tripping over a display of them.
    Why they’re bueno: They were selling these for anywhere from $8 to $18 (or more if you bought them off the informercial – like an idiot) just a year or so ago. So at just a dollar, you’re saving all kinds of money on these now!  They were even slightly higher than a buck at Big Lots just a few months ago! Sure, these are nothing you would buy otherwise, but that’s besides the point. I bought one each, like an idiot, of the Hummingbird Hangout planter and the Hot Pepper planter (not shown). With any luck, you just might read all about my luck with them in an upcoming post. And that luck refers more to me having any of you actually visiting this blog again than you having an opportunity to read about it.

    SuperPretzel Poppers
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store
    Availability: I think they’re still around. They’re in the frozen section.
    Why it’s bueno: These things microwave up in mere seconds –  thirty-five, to be exact – but then comes the agonizing two-minute wait for them to cool. The only kind they had were these sort of “sweet cream cheese”-filled ones with “graham cracker topping.”  So they did not resemble pretzels at all in form nor flavor.  In fact, after heating them…

    …some of their cheese oozed out and they reminded me almost of little steamer clams with their siphon muscle extended, and just the sight of these brought me back to my youth when as a boy I’d harvest clams by the hundreds in the tidal mudflats at Tod’s Point in Greenwich (near the nude section of the beach). Once I’d filled my little red Radio Flyer wagon I’d sell them by the sand pail-full for a quarter on the side of the Post Road across from Caldors. Of course the price went down as the sun got hotter and they (and I) began stinking.

    Where was I?

    Ah, yes – they may look sort of like rounded steamer clams, or not, I guess, but that’s where the similarities end. Because these things were delicious. If steamer clams tasted as sweet as these SuperPretzel Poppers, I’d have eaten them all myself and not sold a one. And then where would we be?  Those steamer clams paid my way through blogging school.

    And finally…

    Marani Vodka
    Bought at: The 99¢ Only Store
    Availability: Saw ’em a month ago at only one location – Washington Blvd in West Los Angeles, and I haven’t been back there since. Knowing of this location’s proximity to Venice and Santa Monica – the twin homeless capitals of the world – I bet the supply was quickly exhausted; each bottle having been sucked dry under the Santa Monica Pier by one of the colorful (and pungent) “locals”  who then stumbled over to the Hot Dog On A Stick stand by the beach volleyball courts to ogle the girls making lemonade. Hell, I know I would. (Don’t tell Reymundo.)
    Why it was bueno: It’s just a wee little bottle of vodka – Armenian vodka – but if there’s one thing those Armenians know, it’s how to grow more body hair than us Slovaks and chain smoke cigarettes while doing it. Oh, and make vodka, presumably.

    Or do they? The bottle actually listed powdered skim milk as an ingredient. Regardless, these are your little airline cocktail-size bottles – just a coupla ounces. But who can say no for a buck? Plus that’s real cork in the stopper. Hell, if my people were responsible for a vodka packaged in a classy frosted glass bottle with real cork in the stopper, I guess I’d be pushy and rude, too. I’m kidding, I’m kidding; I love all people – especially a people who can make a vodka as delicious as this.

    Anyway, we did it, you and I!  We got through a whole bunch of these things; now you know what is bueno and what was bueno at both the 99¢ Only Store and Dollar Tree, and most importantly, I’m able to finally get all these stupid photos off my desktop.

    And as promised, to celebrate, we’ll pop open a couple dozen mini bottles of Marani and see where the night takes us. But first I’m going to disable the camera function on our phones. Just in case.

    Posted by on May 21, 2012, 5:03 AM.

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