I need a new hobby this summer, so I’m thinking of taking up alcoholism. Illuminating my path to seasonal intoxication is the latest addition to the Häagen-Dazs dessert oeuvre, Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet. I’m not French, but I like this flavor, and I’ve never tasted anything quite like it before. True, it’s not all that original — Ciao Bella also has a Blackberry Cabernet — but I’m not Italian either. So… ça fait rien.
The sorbet is smooth and light and has a delightfully intense purple shade that looks like how I used to picture mead from the ancient times. Or grog. Whichever was the one that kings would get completely smashed on before executing knaves or ordering jesters to do tricks. Anyway, I’ve since learned those drinks were amber, and this sorbet is purple like wine, but that’s okay because I’ve still got some knaves to put down.
On the tongue, there is a discernible tanginess, much like fresh blackberries would taste had they been smashed into a pulp, flash frozen and jammed into a stylish cylinder with pretty sky blue and gold accents. Häagen-Dazs claims that its Blackberry Cabernet sorbet is “a refreshingly elegant sensorial experience” in which “tender ripe blackberries and the distinctive flavor of cabernet grapes combine to create this dark, intense sorbet.”
That sounds pretty darn sultry. As for its timely, hot-weather introduction, I agree that Häagen-Dazs’s Blackberry Cabernet sorbet is a welcome frozen treat, perfect for the time of year, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a refreshing one — it’s a bit too bold for that.
I guess I am altogether unfamiliar with the natural flavor of cabernet grapes before they’re transformed into wine, or as I’ll surely be referring to it over the next couple months, “Wake-up Juice.” My brain interprets the aftertaste of the Blackberry Cabernet sorbet as honey, but there isn’t any honey in the ingredients list. I guess that’s the only way my taste buds could parse the rich, slightly bitter finish that accompanies the sharp, tangy flavor of the blackberries/grapes. Don’t know what that is, but it’s delish.
That being said, there’s no indication on the carton that there are any fermented ingredients to aid my summertime goal of becoming a wino. Apparently, I was barking up the wrong tree when I looked into Häagen-Dazs’s Blackberry Cabernet sorbet as a delicious new way to stay wrecked 24/7. It’s a tasty, non-alcoholic, and healthy indulgence. It even has only 100 calories per serving. Guess I’ll have to look elsewhere for edibles to aid and abet my downward spiral summer hobby! Cooking sherry, I’m looking at you.
(Nutrition Facts 1/2 cup (102 grams) -100 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 0% vitamin A, 0% calcium, 0% vitamin C and 0% iron.)
Item: Häagen-Dazs Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet Price: $3.99 Size: 14.0 oz Purchased at: Ralphs Rating: 7 out of 10 Pros: Dark and intense. Made of real cabernet grapes and ripe blackberries. Smooth and light texture. Purple. Aftertaste is like the flavor of honey. A nice frozen summer treat. Beheading knaves because you’re drunk. Cons: Non-alcoholic. Not the color of mead or grog. Too bold to be refreshing. Somebody stumbling upon countless empty bottles of cooking sherry under my bed in September.
I’m an old woman, out of touch with what the kids are doing these days. I see them texting while riding their bikes and shake my head. I hear they have video games with more than eight bits â€“ what in the world?! And the music, it all sounds like the singer is giving a robot a blowjob. I hear it’s called autotuning or something. I have a cane and a lawn, and I’m ready to shake my fist and yell at those damn meddling kids.
While much may have changed since I was a kid, I have to believe that some things remain the same. One of those things is getting on your bike and hitting the nearest convenience store with a few bucks in your pocket. I’m pretty sure every kid has stood in front of the soda or slushie machine, cup in hand, wondering what magical beverage concoction they will create next. Will it be Mr. Pibb and Squirt? Barq’s and Lipton iced tea? Coke-flavored slushie and Hawaiian Punch? Maybe it’s one of those days where you’re feeling adventurous, and everybody jumps in the pool. That last one usually ends poorly.
That said, 7-Eleven has come up with a way to capture that experience while also protecting you from the pain of poor mixing decisions. At least, that’s the idea. The Slurpee MixMaker (which I keep referring to as “MixMaster”; I think it’s a much cooler name) Cup & Straw is a fun and ingenious way to mix your flavors, or, if you’re incredibly poor at decision making, have two different drinks in the same cup! Here’s how it works:
1. Grab a Slurpee MixMaker Cup, which is made of reusable plastic and has a wall down the middle that divides the cup into two separate chambers.
2. Fill each side with whatever the heck you want. It’s called the Slurpee MixMaker, but obviously you can choose whatever cold beverage you like. I went with Fanta Wild Cherry Slurpee and Summertime Lime Slurpee, because the latter sounded like a limited edition (or at least, seasonal) flavor, and people seem to enjoy cherry limeade.
3. Pop on a disposable lid and stick your reusable MixMaker Straw through the top, so that one straw lands on either side of the wall (duh).
Let me explain how the MixMaker itself operates: the two straws meet at a central hub, out of which sprouts a small single straw that delivers flavor to your mouth. The hub is where the magic happens â€“ that adorable little representation of a Slurpee isn’t just for show. It actually rotates to the right, offering you four options: off, 1, 2, and mix.
Smart person that I am, it took me a moment to realize that trying to drink while having it in the off position was an exercise in futility. After my puny brain realized this, I started playing with the settings. I didn’t even realize they were labeled at first; the markings are so tiny that they were easy to miss. 7-Eleven is not really to blame for that; in my rush to experiment with the MixMaker before my entire Slurpee turned to liquid sugar, I neglected to read the instructions printed on the plastic wrapper that had previously enclosed the straw. Once I took a two second glance at them, things became clear.
“1” refers to the left chamber, if you’ve got the dial facing you. In my case, 1 held Fanta Cherry. That makes 2 Summertime lime in the right chamber, with mix as, obviously, a mixture of the two.
That would be well and good and worth at least five minutes of fun, except it doesn’t quite work as advertised. There’s a little nub on the bottom of the dial that’s designed to click into a corresponding depression that determines what setting you’re on, but they’re both really small, so I had to really pay attention to feel the click that tells me it was locked into a setting.
Further complications ensued. On the mix setting, the lime side moved up the straw faster than the cherry, resulting in me having a mouthful of lime before I got any cherry, which left me with both brain and mouth freeze. This made it difficult to really taste the flavors, since my mouth was numb and somewhat painful.
Because of this problem, or perhaps because of the physics of sucking two different beverages into one straw, my lime almost immediately contaminated my cherry, traveling down straw #1 when I stopped sucking. [Insert joke about “sucking” and “my cherry” here.]
This may not have just been a mix setting problem, however. As I played around with settings 1 and 2, I noticed that no matter what, some Slurpee would get stuck in the straw, resulting in cross-contamination all-around. It was a relatively small amount with each suck, but by the time I was almost finished, both sides had an identical reddish-brown hue.
My last beef with the Slurpee MixMaker is that it has limited stirring capabilities. Even if you take off the disposable cap, the straws are rigid, which means all you can really do is move back and forth, unless you disconnect the straws separately and use them to stir. This may seem like a minor quibble, but it’s important to constantly stir your Slurpee. If you don’t believe me, just ask Ice-T about the Slushie Hustle.
I love the concept of the Slurpee MixMaker. Good for the indecisive or the adventurous, I think the idea (and the adorable tiny Slurpee dial) would be great for both kids and adults who still enjoy acting like kids. The MixMaker’s execution, however, falls rather short of its intent. The settings can be tricky to get spot-on, the mix setting results in inconsistency of Slurpee flow, and even the individual settings eventually result in cross-contamination. It’s as inevitable as you getting your peanut butter in my chocolate and a-vice-a-versa.
I’ll freely admit, some of this could have been operator error, but it’s really not that hard to use the MixMaker correctly. I could have also gotten a bum device; everyone who has written (or read, for that matter) product reviews knows that your McDonald’s experience might be different from his McDonald’s experience, or my McDonald’s experience, etc. In the end, the Slurpee MixMaker Cup and Straw is fun to play with; however, don’t go into it expecting perfect functionality.
Item: 7-Eleven Slurpee MixMaker Cup & Straw Price: $2.49 (Straw); $2.99 (Cup) ($0.49 promo discount for the set) Size: No info on size on the cup or 7-Eleven’s website, but looks like 20 oz. (total) Purchased at: 7-Eleven Rating: 5 out of 10 Pros: Settings are fun to play with. Knowing exactly how far away my 7-Eleven is. Adorable little Slurpee dial. Shaking my cane at meddling kids. Having two flavors in one cup (at first, at least). Ice-T losing his shit over “The Slushie Hustle”. Cons: Inevitable liquid cross-contamination. Should have been called “MixMaster”. Settings are tricky to lock in. Possibly contracting hepatitis by not soaking first. Not easy to stir. The Slushie Hustle.
If all the snacks in the Frito-Lay family got together and played Never Have I Ever, I imagine they would quickly settle into the classic participant archetypes. Rold Gold would be the (pretzel-)stick-in-the-mud who hems and haws for ten minutes before saying something completely boring and inoffensive like, “Never have I ever been to Canada.” Funyuns would be the guy who the whole group would expect to tell wild and entertaining stories (after all, “fun” is his first name), but heâ€™d only end up disappointing everyone. (Really, Funyuns, youâ€™ve only had four flavors in 40 years?)
Cheetos would be that most annoying of Never Have I Ever players, the guy who claims to have done everything. Heâ€™s likely more of a liar than a slut, yet no one dares question him for fear of being portrayed as a prude. “Yeah, I was milk-chocolate flavored this one time at summer camp. Who doesnâ€™t have an anthropomorphic mascot that could probably sell cigarettes to kids? Youâ€™ve never tried having an interpunct in your name? Bro, did you even go to high school?”
But eventually, it would get to Cheetosâ€™ turn, and he would drop this bomb: “Never have I ever been honey-barbecue flavored.” All the other snacks would go nuts (Cracker Jack especially), but as they listed out all of his varieties, they would slowly come to realize that, somehow, with 100 varieties in 16 countries over the last 60 years, Cheetos has never had a honey-barbecue flavorâ€¦ until now. Cheetos can put down another of his hypothetical (but sure to be cheese-dust-covered) fingers, as Frito-Lay recently introduced the Cheetos Puffs Honey BBQ.
These new Cheetos have a coating of honey barbecue powder in addition to the regular coating of cheese dust. The honey barbecue provided a definite sweetness that stopped well short of cloying, while the smokiness was understated but grew slightly more pronounced the more I ate. The amount of cheese dust had been noticeably scaled back in comparison with regular Cheetos, and the cheesiness, sweetness, and smokiness generally worked well together.
The flavors were well-proportioned, but I think they were all too mild to the point of being unmemorable. After I first opened the bag of Cheetos, I ate about one serving, put the bag away, and didnâ€™t think about it again until I sat down to write this review. These Cheetos were pleasant-tasting but not at all addictive, which seems to run completely counter to the essence and appeal of Cheetos.
A love of Cheetos has become a principal feature of the compulsive gamer stereotype because we all intuitively recognize their addictiveness. A bag of Cheetos should make me feel helpless to my urges and thus compel me to purchase a couple cases of Mountain Dew and start playing online poker again. If I wanted some snacks that let me regulate my appetite so easily, I would have bought a bag of rice cakes or Baked Lays.
OK, obviously I just got weirdly over-the-top there, so let me take a step back: the Cheetos Puffs Honey BBQ were fine but nothing special. If youâ€™re looking for a new snack that you can enjoy in moderation, go ahead and give these a try. Otherwise, you certainly shouldnâ€™t feel embarrassed to leave your finger up if someone says, “Never have I ever tried those new honey barbecue Cheetos.” (Also, that person sucks at playing Never Have I Ever. I bet heâ€™s never even been to Canada.)
(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)
Item: Cheetos Puffs Honey BBQ Price: $2.99 Size: 9 ounces Purchased at: Shaw’s Rating: 6 out of 10 Pros: Nice mild sweetness and smokiness. Flavors played well together. Cheetos finally has a honey and/or barbecue flavor. Writing about the “essence and appeal” of Cheetos. Going to Canada. Cons: Flavors were all too mild. These Cheetos werenâ€™t addictive. Pretzels are boring and inoffensive. Feeling compelled to play online poker again. Playing Never Have I Ever with that guy who claims to have done everything. Yes, I went to high school, FRANCES.
Summer is upon us, which means it’s time for me to scatter mousetraps in the grass and encourage neighborhood children to run barefoot through my lawn. But it also means it’s time for Dunkin’ Donuts’ annual annoying commercials touting their cool, refreshing products, because seasonal slumps are bad and we all associate donuts and coffee with winter, and also AA meetings. But mostly winter.
Now, I’ve liked plenty of DD’s warm weather offerings (Vanilla Bean Coolattas are my crack), and you can’t fault them for wanting to keep profits up during the time of year when you’re statistically least likely to crave hot coffee and a Boston Kreme. But do their ads have to be so damn lame? On the list of things I never thought I’d be nostalgic for, John Goodman’s voice is pretty close to the top, right under “swimming until I feel like puking.”
Seriously, I’d rather they shoot a spot featuring the desiccated corpse of the “Time to make the donuts!” guy than keep up with their current crop. And does this failure to connect with me as a consumer have any correlation with their repeated inability to comprehend the phrase “small iced coffee, skim milk and sugar”? So many questions.
But we’re not here to answer them, we’re here to talk about DD’s latest offering, Frozen Hot Chocolate, and also probably to kill some time at work. (No one is judging. You’re worth more than what they pay you anyway. Bastards.) On the surface it sounds completely incongruous — the appeal of hot chocolate is that it’s, well, hot, or at least warm enough to melt those tiny marshmallows — but it wouldn’t be the first pair of opposites that somehow manage to make it work. Right, Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat? Right.
That being said, I’m not going to lie — I went in with some skepticism. Your mileage may vary, but to me part of the inherent comfort factor of hot chocolate is tied to its visual appearance. A truly great hot chocolate must be served in a mug, ideally one you grew up with or that was given to you by family or friends, with marshmallows dotting the surface and visible steam rising from the top. Ideally you should still be able to see the wet gloves you used to make an anatomically correct snowman in your neighbor’s backyard while he was shoveling his driveway.
With that in mind, I’m afraid the standard clear DD cup that my frozen hot chocolate came in was a poor substitute, but in the interest of reviewer integrity, I made a point not to knock down the score simply because of its subpar visual appearance. Although I still blew on the top a few times before taking a drink. Force of habit.
My first impression of the taste was that it was pleasant, but also distinctly familiar. Obviously it’s sweet, very much so, with a relatively creamy milk chocolate flavor that gets a little darker in some parts of the drink than in others, likely due to it not having been mixed thoroughly. The texture is deceptively thin — appearances to the contrary, you’re definitely drinking a full-on beverage, not a Frosty or milkshake. I highly recommend getting it with the whipped cream if you’re willing to stomach the calories, if only to maintain the illusion that you are drinking something vaguely hot chocolate-y.
Oh, as for that familiar taste I mentioned? I didn’t figure it out until I was almost finished, at which point it became both obvious and impossible to ignore, like when you first realize C-3PO is gay. The big revelation is that the frozen hot chocolate tastes almost exactly like not-completely-mixed chocolate milk. For all I know maybe regular hot chocolate would taste the same way if you iced it, but I wasn’t expecting that and it surprised me.
It’s worth pointing out that DD’s Frozen Hot Chocolate isn’t bad, just a bit underwhelming. I can’t quite shake the suspicion that when they take the empty cup behind that vaguely sinister-looking equipment lining the counter, they’re just dumping a few cups of Nestle Quik and some milk in it, spraying on some Reddi Whip and calling it a day. (You laugh, but sub-contracting out of things is a proud American tradition.) Still, as long as you’re willing to pay three bucks plus for some very cold, very creamy chocolate milk with whipped cream, you can’t go wrong.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 small cup – 430 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 95 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 77 grams of sugars, 7 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 2% vitamin C, 25% calcium, and 8% iron)
Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Hot Chocolate Price: $3.17 Size: 16 fl. oz. Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts Rating: 6 out of 10 Pros: “Time to make the donuts!” guy. Wasting time at work. Anatomically correct snowmen. Creamy chocolate. Plentiful whipped cream (if requested). Nestle Quik. Cons: Current DD commercials. Not as visually appealing as regular hot chocolate. Doesn’t taste fully mixed. You can make and freeze your own chocolate milk for a lot less money. The continued absence of MC Skat Kat on today’s music scene.