Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread: Grilled Chicken Jalapeno Cheddar and Roasted Turkey and Bacon with Reduced Fat Cheese

The poor man's Hot Pocket, the Lean Pocket, has taken a gourmet twist. Once a Dickensonian tragedy with flavors like Mexican Fiesta, the lowly sandwich has now risen to the top of the frozen food chain, imitating bistro-esque flavors like pretzel bread, croissants, and chicken cordon bleu. Now that the Pocket family is putting on the Ritz, they can look down upon the lowly citizens who consume them and laugh.The Lean Pockets website has even gotten a little sarcastic with all the low-fat entitlement they can now tout. While perusing the diverse community of flavors, the site informed me that another Pocket could be cooked while I was "wasting my time" on this website, and that the breakfast Pocket was an "actual reason to open my eyes in the morning." Maybe if I was a shut-in, but not quite. However, the new Pretzel Bread offerings were a reason for me to drag Keepitcoming to the grocery more than the usual three times a week. I fancy myself a pretzel bread connoisseur. I've traveled to the deep suburbs of Windsor to locate a Blimpie for a grilled pretzel sandwich. I've navigated smoky taverns for a pretzel burger. So finding a commercially viable alternative to actually eating out definitely intrigued me, as did the flavors.Right off the bat, there were a few strange things about these pockets. For starters, of the two flavors, LP has decided that the turkey and bacon sandwich was too intense to warrant its own cheese flavor, simply designating it as "reduced fat cheese." Upon further examination, it appeared to be a blend of cheddar and mozzarella, along with bacon and tomatoes. For another thing, these look like pretzels and smell like pretzels. Until you put them in the microwave. And then they undergo a series of unpleasant and questionable scent and chemical changes throughout the two minute cooking process. Enough to make me think twice about eating them and peek in the microwave to see if they'd burnt or if I'd accidentally left a wrapper in there.
Once finished, they really do resemble pretzels, but with less rock salt and a slightly more metallic scent. They are also strangely sticky. The flavor was good as I'd expected to taste far less tinniness, my favorite aspect of pretzels, and was thusly assuaged. The turkey, bacon and cheese pretzel 'wich, or as Lean Pockets says, "the quadfecta," was blander than I'd thought. Some elements were present in flavor, some in texture. The bacon was smoky and flavorful but texturally non-existent. The turkey has disintegrated in the microwave. And the cheese blendno matter how long I let it sit, was molten hot and salty with no distinguishable sharpness or general elements of cheese.The grilled chicken jalapeno cheddar fared better, but once again, we had this persistent Clara Peller question- where was the meat? Compared to the mushiness of this sandwich, the turkey in the last one was practically turgid. With these, cheddar was a bit of a stretch, and it was more like salty nacho cheese sauce than sharp, gooey cheddar, but with a substantial spice to it and large pieces of pepper. That sort of worked to its advantage. However, with both sandwiches, I didn't feel like I was eating a complete meal. Had these been packaged as "Soft Stuffed Pretzel Snacks" with spicy and regular cheese with more in the box, I might have felt that the price was justified for what it was, but coming into these expecting a meal with meat, I was a little disappointed. Even after microwaving, the pretzel bread wasn't so hot. It was a little too chewy and plain, and a good deal of the salt had melted off in the cooking process. Both cheeses ended up being so salty that the pretzel's natural flavors were really lost in the sauces.

I hope more frozen food companies are bold enough to experiment with pretzel bread, but in the future, if they're as pretentious as Lean Pockets has been, I expect them to deliver on their product in an honest and forthcoming way.

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