REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

When I think of farmhouse food I think of an apple pie cooling on a windowsill, fresh butter on homemade country white bread, and Junior devouring bacon from the little guy that took first place in the 4-H Pig Show.

Honestly, cookies are seventh or eighth on my list of quintessential farmhouse foods, depending on whether or not said farm includes a fig tree, a tomato garden, and/or Ree Drummond’s pantry.

Yes, I get that “farm” is part of Pepperidge Farm, but really, do you expect me to believe the same people mass-producing cheddar cheese Goldfish can make anything near homemade quality cookies?

Short answer: I guess so.

At first bite Pepperidge Farm’s Farmhouse Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies taste a lot like the Chips Ahoy Double Chocolate Thins, which is a good thing because they are among the better cookies in the Chips Ahoy line.

Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

Yet, where the Chips Ahoy cookies are their usually pitifully small selves, the Farmhouse cookies are wider and heftier. But they’re still able to be thin and crispy. In fact, that melt-in-your mouth, dissolve-around-the-chocolate chip goodness is intensified by the their size.

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The chocolate flavor is definitely outstanding; a few notches down from the Wonka Factory chocolate lake, but well above your standard chocolate-chip cookie construction. The three chocolate chips (white, semi-sweet, and milk) work wonderfully together, serving as potholes of varying degrees of chocolate richness and sweetness with each bite.

The white chocolate is especially good, even if you’re the kind of person (like me) who is usually “eh, whatever” in terms of white chocolate. This is the real stuff, mind you, not some partially hydrogenated soybean oil masquerading as cocoa butter. Finally, the chocolate base gives each bite a rounded cocoa flavor that dissolves (as they say) like buttah.

Overall, Pepperidge Farm’s Farmhouse Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies are a notch above Nabisco’s and one of the best mass-produced cookie flavors I’ve had. They’re so good that if there is a farmhouse producing cookies on par with them, then I seriously suggest said farmhouse drop the whole apple pie at the county fair business and get right to the 365-day operation of making cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies –140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 6.9 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Crispy, buttery, chocolaty base. Multiple levels of chocolate chip sweetness. Smooth, natural, and waxless white chocolate. Perfect size.
Cons: A tad more expensive than Chips Ahoy. Poor milk chocolate chip coverage. It’s as if a thousand apple pies cried out in horror and then were never heard from again.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich

Wendy s Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich

There are few things better in fast food than really good service. Freshness, despite being something every chain claims to have a monopoly on, is one of them.

So when I pulled up to the Wendy’s drive-thru window expecting to receive the new Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, but was instead told by a manager that “we’re waiting on them to grill your chicken,” I was pleasantly surprised.

When I finally did get my sandwich, it looked and smelled great. The fresh mozzarella appeared identical to what you’d get from a supermarket deli case.

Now I have to admit: I’m a huge mozzarella fan —- and not just the low moisture part-skim stuff that makes pizza, well, pizza. But it seems to me that mozzarella is the lacrosse of fast food cheeses.

Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey pretty much corner the sports market in much the same way American, Cheddar, Swiss, and Monterey Jack adorn 95 percent of fast food sandwiches. And while lax has carved out a nice little following in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s not ubiquitous in the sports world.

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Which doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be; nor does it mean mozzarella doesn’t deserve a place at the fast food sandwich table (caprese, anyone?). Sure enough, when I took the mozzarella off my sandwich and sampled it alone, it had a mellow and milky flavor. Some call it mild, but it’s more like nuanced, if you ask me.

The problem is that you really can’t taste the cheese when you eat the sandwich. The “creamy” basil pesto (which is more like “gloopy,” but we’ll live with it) and the salad greens give every bite an herby, slightly bitter taste, which is honestly the last thing you’re expecting with a fast food sandwich.

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The balsamic diced tomatoes — sweet and a bit tart — go a little ways toward fixing the problem. But pesto is in the driver’s seat here. It’s not a bad flavor, but it’s also not one that leaves you chomping at the bit for, well, another chomp.

When I finished my sandwich, I was amazed at how high-quality all the ingredients seemed to be. I was also amazed at how each bite seemed less the sum of its parts.

The Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich is everything you could hope for from a $5.29 sandwich at a fast food place. Yet, even though it exemplifies a triumph of the usually trite ingredient promise that most fast food chains fail miserably at, it lacks memorability. In other words, it’s a lacrosse match amidst a spring of baseball, hockey, and basketball.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website at time of posting.)

Purchased Price: $5.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Fresher than Will Smith in Bel Air, circa 1990. Plump, juicy chicken breast has authentic grilled flavor. Fresh mozzarella is on point. Balsamic-diced tomatoes need to be a regular condiment.
Cons: Expensive. Lacks “wow” factor. Garlic brioche bun tastes like a regular brioche bun. Too much foliage. Pesto overwhelms sandwich. Tastes comparatively plain.

REVIEW: Hostess Chocodile Fudge Covered Twinkies (2017)

Hostess Chocodile Fudge Covered Twinkies  2017

The following conversations were taped on a recorded line, for quality assurance purposes.

August 2014

Hostess Operator: Hostess Bakery, how may I help you?

Me: Howdy, can I speak to Twinkie the Kid?

Hostess Operator: Twinkie the who?

Me: Twinkie the Kid — you know, oblong yellow guy, rosy dimples, wears a cowboy hat, a fierce opponents of pantalones.

Hostess Operator: Oh, so you want to order of Twinkies? Which flavor? May I suggest our Chocodile Twinkies? I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Me: That’s the absolute last thing I want. Have you tried those things? I’ve had M&M’s that are bigger, and definitely more chocolaty. What’s the shell made out of anyway? I’m fairly sure the black crayons I ate in preschool had a better texture than whatever y’all are pumping into those.

Hostess Operator: I’m sorry you’re disappointed, sir.

Me: Well I’m sorry you’re sorry I’m disappointed.

Hostess Operator: What does that even mean?

Me: No idea. Can I just talk to The Kid?

Hostess Operator: I’m sorry, sir, but he’s currently at 73rd Annual Prepackaged Snack Cake Convention. We’ll pass on your comments.

MeBu—

Hostess Operator: Goodbye!

April 2017

Hostess Operator: Hostess Bakery, how may I direct your call?

Me: Hey, yeah, can I speak to Twinkie the Kid? I’ve got an urgent question.

Hostess Operator: Twinkie the who?

Me: Really, were going to do this again?

Hostess Operator: Oh, I remember you! You’re the one who said he’d rather eat crayons than our Chocodile Twinkies.

Me: Technically, I’d rather eat neither, but sure, we can go with that. But speaking about those Chocodile Fudge Covered Twinkies.

Hostess Operator: Still crap?

Me: No, much better. Actually, they’re really kind of good, although I admit that box with the melted chocolate being drizzled over the Twinkie is a tad bit deceptive.

Hostess Operator: Call it advertising liberty.

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Me: Sure. But like I said, pretty good. The chocolate shell actually tastes like chocolate. Now I’m not talking fancy chocolate you’d buy for your wife on Valentine’s Day, but definitely the kind of chocolate you pick up at the dollar store and put in your 4-year-olds Easter basket.

Hostess Operator: So you’re saying it doesn’t taste like wax?

Me: Oh yeah, not at all. I mean it’s still incredibly sweet. But since they’re bigger, one or two definitely kills a snack cake craving.

Hostess Operator: And the Twinkie cake and crème?

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Me: Oh yeah, I almost forgot. That’s really the best part; since the shell doesn’t ruin the essence of the Twinkie, it actually serves as a kind of shield that helps preserves the fluffy cake inside. And let me tell you, when you can line up fluffy cake, crispy chocolate shell, and Twinkie crème, and do it all without any funky aftertastes or waxy crayon texture, then you’ve got a product I’ll keep buying.

Hostess Operator: Sounds like you won’t need to be talking to Twinkie the Kid after all.

Me: Oh, no. I still need to ask him why he never wears pants.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 8-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Preservation of Twinkie “essence.” Improved texture and taste in the chocolate (excuse me: ‘fudge’) shell. Bigger than the 2014 Chocodiles.
Cons: Not exactly Ghirardelli. The proverbial cloying taste of Twinkie shell. Awesome source of saturated fat. Horrible customer service.

REVIEW: Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Cake Mixes (Confetti Cake and Chocolate Lover’s Cake)

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Funtastic Confetti Cake Mix

It goes without saying that the internet has given us many beautiful things. Memes, for instance, provide a necessary distraction from work, school, or the ads at the beginning of YouTube videos. Likewise, I’m not sure if I could survive a day without having my lame Baltimore Orioles spring training observations liked by random strangers.

But all these things pale in comparison to the internet’s greatest gift: the proliferation of mug cake popularity.

I used to be firmly against the mug cake. For starters, they’re just not practical. I like my cake after exceptionally large dinners with my belt loosened and eaten while sipping coffee. From what, may I ask, do I drink coffee from if I’m eating cake in my coffee mug? The cake pan?

And then there’s the issue of measuring out ingredients and having things like flour, eggs, and oil on hand. Frankly, I’m lucky if I have leftover McGriddles in my fridge. The odds of having all those ingredients in my apartment are worse than maneuvering a modified YT 1300 light freighter through an asteroid field.

That said, Duncan Hines new Perfect Size for 1 Cake Mixes are doing a lot to change my thinking, thanks largely to a dummy approach that involves nothing more than a few tablespoons of water and a mug. Thankfully, I do, in fact, own a sink.

The new mug cake packets come in 18 flavors, which, let me be honest, is more cake than anyone really needs. So it made sense to start with the essentials: A birthday cake flavor and something chocolaty.

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Funtastic Confetti Cake Mix 2

The Confetti Cake is surprisingly good —- much better than your standard Pillsbury Doughboy Funfetti, if you ask me. I got notes of a strong vanilla and buttercream element throughout the cake, which was light and fluffy yet still moist. The little bursts of sprinkled sweetness provide a great touch, especially when you consider that you don’t have to eat them at a ten-year-old’s birthday party. My only complaint is that there’s a slight aftertaste and grittiness of uncooked flour.

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Decadent Chocolate Lover s Cake Mix

Weary of the uncooked flour, I upped the cooking time by a whopping ten seconds on the Chocolate Lover’s Cake, which I imagine was inspired by all the past cake’s on Pinterest which were made for somebody’s DH. That, or the marketing folks ate it and proclaimed it to taste like the love child of a chocolate chip muffin and chocolate angel food cake. In this they were spot on. There’s a lightness and airy structure to the crumb, but there’s definitely a moist, rich element that explodes with little morsels of semisweet chocolate. This cake was excellent, even sans frosting.

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Decadent Chocolate Lover s Cake Mix 2

Certainly, my mug cakes weren’t Pinterest quality in appearance, but I can live with that. In fact, since the Perfect Size for 1 Cakes only take about a minute to make, I plan on ditching cake porn altogether and investing even more quality time with memes while, as they say, having my cake and eating it too.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pouch – Confetti Cake – 270 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 3 gram of protein. Chocolate Lover’s – 300 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 32 grams of sugar, and 4 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50 each
Size: 4-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Confetti)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Chocolate Lover’s)
Pros: Incredibly easy to make, even for the most kitchen averse people. Moist yet fluffy cake element combines best of muffin, poke cake, and angel cake worlds. More time for memes.
Cons: Varieties do not include chocolate eclair or pumpkin cheesecake. Undercooked cake has gritty texture and aftertaste. Will explode if you add to much water.

REVIEW: Hostess Chocolate Cake Twinkies

Hostess Chocolate Cake Twinkies

From the dawn of prepackaged snack good creation, there have been clear lines of evolutionary development. Following the progenitor of all these treats, the Hostess Cupcake created in 1919, diverged the Ho-Ho (1920), Suzy-Q’s (1961), and finally the Ding Dong (1967).

But all of these products pale in comparison to the Twinkie. Engineered in 1930, it not only survived a flavor change in World War II, but also has evolved into one of the most nuanced and copied bakery items in history. And now it’s getting a new modification: chocolate cake.

To be sure, this is not the first time chocolate and Twinkie have tangoed together. The elusive Chocodile beguiled East Coast junk food addicts for years before a 2014 national re-release, while chocolate cream-injected Twinkies make a yearly appearance around Halloween (presumably because Hostess thinks rhyming is a good way to market empty calories).

But never before have we seen this.

The first question I had was “Why?” The second question I had was “Why not?” The third question I had was “Do you know where the toilet paper aisle is?” because I was in an unfamiliar Walmart running errands.

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Having conquered my weekly duties, I made sure to rewards myself with the new Chocolate Cake Twinkies. I was unimpressed; shorter and denser than the standard Twinkie, the Chocolate Cake Twinkies had a moist devil’s food crumb that is neither overwhelmingly chocolaty nor excessively dull. It is, as you’d expect from anything Hostess makes, super sweet, so much so that the chocolate becomes a cocoa sidekick to the insane rush of sugar.

While the Twinkies tasted a lot like a chocolate Zinger sans frosting (or every other Hostess chocolate baked good, for that matter) I did find myself missing the chocolate “shell” provided by products like Ho-Hos.

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I thought the chocolate might at least make the cream stand out, but this was not the case. If anything, it made my taste buds have less appreciation for the cream, which instead of balancing a rich chocolate sponge cake, mostly just tasted whipped marshmallow cream.

If there’s ever been a less satiating display of chocolate cake outside of this scene in Matilda, this is it. It’s not that the chocolate Twinkies suck, but rather that the essence of a Twinkie has always been it’s light, chiffon-flavored sponge cake filling. It’s what makes people eat them in droves, reference them in legal discourse, and, my personal favorite, put them on pizza. Without the light vanilla cake, the chocolate Twinkie just becomes a Zinger without the frosting, or, worse yet, Ho Hos without its shell.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes (77g) – 260 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: 2.7 oz./2-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Smells like Cocoa Krispies. Moist cake element. Not as bad for you as eating an entire chocolate cake.
Cons: More of a cocoa than chocolate flavor. Squishy, dense cake texture. No balance with cream element. Tastes exactly like every other Hostess chocolate baked good except without the frosting or shell.