REVIEW: Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M’s

Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M's

At what point should we start to be concerned that the usually delicious array of autumnal-inspired treats and sweets are becoming a victim of their own lofty standards?

Up until recently I was inclined to say never. I mean, when unlikely superstars like Pumpkin Pie Pringles and Candy Corn Oreo augment standbys like apple cider donuts and pumpkin spice cookies, fall products have earned a reputation as reliable as the leaves hitting the ground each September and October. It’s part of what makes this time of the year so special for food lovers, and no doubt the reason Walmarts and Targets everywhere rush in the latest creations of mass-produced seasonality earlier and earlier each year.

Now though, I’m not so sure if every apple or pumpkin product will be a hit. My doubts started last year with the Pumpkin Spice M&M’s, and have been confirmed by the new Candy Apple M&M’s.

That’s right; even graced by the seductive presence of a high risk spokeswoman, there’s nothing particularly memorable or sexy about the new Candy Apple M&M’s. And there’s definitely nothing candy apple or autumnal about the flavor.

It shouldn’t have been this way. On first inspection, it sounds like a brilliant idea; the perfect marriage of cloyingly sweet and sticky hard shell coating and mellow milk chocolate paired with the prerequisite cinnamon spice for depth and artificial apple tartness for, well, tartness. Dare I say, they could have even thrown some caramel in there, and heck, why not peanuts? Granted it’s difficult to execute the ultimate nightmare for dentists in something less than the size of a quarter, but c’mon, this is M&M’s people. I mean, they stuck a friggin’ pretzel between chocolate and shell. That’s like sending a man to the moon compared with developing the simple flavors of a candy apple.

Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M's Closeup

Alas, it was not to be. The only things vaguely reminiscent of a candy apple in these M&M’s are the color and shape. Upon first taste a vague notion of cinnamon spice, more reminiscent of hot cinnamon candies than tart Granny Smith encased in hardened syrup, inhabits the candy coating. At least, I think its cinnamon. Come to think of it, maybe its clove, or perhaps nutmeg or ginger. Yes, that’s it, nutmeg and ginger. Almost nonexistent in intensity but there nonetheless, like the imaginary friend I sat with at the lunch table in second grade.

You heard me, imaginary friend.

I pop another M&M in my mouth and I’m starting to question if that cinnamon taste was ever really there, just as I questioned why Teddy my old chum at Rockhill Elementary wouldn’t trade me his Dunkaroos for my carrot sticks (I never did get an answer.) Allowing the M&M to dissolve into a familiar if not pedestrian chocolate flavor, I’m suddenly left with the taste of nothing more than that mild chocolate. Don’t get me wrong; chocolate is great and all (hey, maybe even good for me!) but as I finish the M&M I can’t pick up anything unique or different about these from standard M&M’s. Like the Pumpkin Spice M&M’s there really isn’t much going on here; just chocolate and shell and maybe a little bit of artificial vanilla flavor, combining with that sort of waxy debris of chewed-up M&M that sticks in the nooks and crannies around your molars.

I don’t think I’ve been as frustrated in a fall food product since, well, ever. The worst part about the Candy Apple M&M’s is that they speak to what has really been a series of mediocre limited edition flavors. I’m not just talking about last year’s Pumpkin Spice duds, but also the Red Velvet flavor, and some of the other seasonal spinoffs which seem more package art than taste sensations. Altogether, it’s a disturbing trend for a candy that has had great success with iconic flavors like Mint and Peanut Butter. But perhaps it’s a needed reminder that not every fall-themed sweet can live up to expectations.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.9 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Classic M&M’s taste and texture in slightly larger form. Only ten calories per M&M, as opposed to hundreds in an actual candy apple. Always enjoyable M&M’s commercials.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like a candy apple in the least. No tart flavor of apple or sticky sweetness of coating. M&M’s fragments stuck in your molars. Attempted seduction by a chocolate candy. Imaginary friends.

REVIEW: Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips

Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips

If Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Cappuccino chips are the crazy flavor, Wasabi Ginger are the Asian flavor, and Cheddar Bacon Mac & Cheese are the prerequisite meat/cheese/God Bless America comfort food flavor, then what are the Wavy Mango Salsa chips?

A) A chip that renders actual salsa obsolete
B) A chip that packs some potent heat
C) An enjoyable mixture of sweet, spicy, and salty in an unlikely form

The answer?

None of the above.

If anything, the Mango Salsa chips represent the bastardization of the potato for the sake of a social media contest and the limits of even the most advanced forms of flavor alchemy.

The wavy-cut chips have a delightful aroma…if your idea of delightful is a pit bull throwing up daisies in the perfume store. The scent leaves you wondering if you’re about to ingest a fruit, a vegetable, or an exotic plant that might just be poisonous.

Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips Closeup

Unlike Lay’s Cappuccino chips, the Mango Salsa at least appear to have normal seasoning, with specks of red and dull green dotting the ridges in varying patterns. The initial taste of the powder ebbs and flows between unquestionably awful and modestly annoying. It depends on how much seasoning a chip has, as well as your tolerance for cilantro.

If the latter is nonexistent, then I imagine you’ll be feeling a lot like that aforementioned and hypothetical dog in the perfume store. While I usually maintain an agnosticism towards cilantro, the air of the powerful herb was even too much for me on some chips. It also wasn’t properly balanced by a piquant chili pepper flavor one would hope is present in an actual salsa. Instead, the seasoning has an aggressive lime and garlic flavor, followed by a perfume and vague fruit flavor which doesn’t scream tropical, much less mango.

Lay's Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips with Mango

Despite being in the flavor’s name, the mango is relegated to a supporting element in the salsa. I can say this with authority because I had ripe mango handy when I sampled the chips. Likewise, the tomato and red pepper flavor you’d expect to find playing important roles in a mango salsa were difficult to detect and nowhere near sweet enough. Instead, they mesh into an acidic and floral essence that will overwhelm taste buds.

Lacking real sweetness, the floral essence collides head-on with the earthy and robust aftertaste of the potato, which attempts to reclaim its natural potato flavor with a metaphorical uppercut against the acidity of the chip seasoning. Ultimately, the potato wins out, but not before a series of confused and competing flavor exchanges which fail to capitalize on a simultaneous salty-sweet synergy we’re all clamoring for.

I enjoyed the Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips more than the Cappuccino chips because I can sort of envision myself actually dipping and eating these with an authentic mango salsa, as opposed to the Cappuccino chips, which I’m sure would just suck even more if dipped into coffee.

With that said, the Wavy Mango Salsa chips aren’t very good on their own, and prove that a fried Idaho potato is not the place to test chemistry concoctions of maltodextrin and artificial mango flavor.

Next time Lay’s should “Do Us a Flavor” and narrow submissions to taste sensations that actually work.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz/about 15 chips – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Wavy Mango Salsa Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $3.00 (on sale)
Size: 9.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Wavy chips have excellent crunch. Good potato aftertaste when you get past the seasoning. Might be tasty when dipped into actual mango salsa.
Cons: Poor execution of tropical mango sweetness. Lacks a spicy element. Seasoning is dominated too much by herbal and acidic flavors. Ruining a perfectly good potato. Dog vomit.

REVIEW: Lay’s Cappuccino Potato Chips

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips

There are two types of people in this world. There are those who play it safe and those who do not.

The former group slows down at yellow lights, blots the grease from their pizza, and runs the ball on third and one in Madden. The latter blows through red lights, pours grease from their buddy’s slice of pizza onto theirs, and calls an Annexation of Puerto Rico on fourth and forever.

But none of these actions match up to the ultimate litmus test in living safe or dangerous: choosing which Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Chips to buy.

Last year, I faced danger with Lay’s Chicken and Waffles Potato Chips. But, despite my awful experience, I wasn’t going to let the hacked together taste of poultry and Eggo stop me from checking out this year’s finalist out of left field. We’ve seen various salty and sweet chips before, but I’ve never seen potato chips that taste like coffee and milk. As for what Chad Scott was thinking when he submitted cappuccino to Lay’s, well, I’ll play it safe and guess he had good intentions.

After strutting through Harris Teeter with a bag in hand and dropped jaws and slow claps of less intrepid snackers around me*, I opened it, which released a mellow, but prominent coffee aroma. It was stronger than coffee ice cream and only a few notches down from a college English class at 7:30 in the morning. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it definitely was unnatural. In fact, when contacted for comment, Mr. Potato Head confirmed it was certainly the most intense out-of-body experience he’s had since Toy Story 3. Like I said, it’s about living dangerously.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips Closeup

I raised a single chip and brought it closer to my nose, taking a moment to harness my senses in that cultured thing coffee people do before they take a sip. Then I remembered I was sitting in my office with a potato chip held up to my nose, and realized how freaking ridiculous I looked. I sampled the seasoning by licking the fried exterior of the spud clean.

Its flavor is maddeningly indescribable. I’m taken aback at first, completely unable to harness dozens of hours of GRE verbal practice tests in assessing what the flavor is.

It’s slightly bitter with an odd sensation from the aftermath of lactic sweetness. It leaves a light roasted coffee flavor hanging on the roof of your mouth. I taste more chips and I’m dumbfounded, searching for a salty-sweet affirmation of what I thought the chips would taste like.

Instead, I’m only left with the idea of sweetness and a memory of cream, as the way too authentic taste of light roasted coffee continues to linger even as the clashing but familiar earthiness from the potato comes around at the end. Several chips down, and I’m utterly confused.

Lay's Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips 2

This is not exactly living dangerously through snacks. Unencumbered, and perhaps believing that stuffing multiple chips into my mouth at once will harness some undiscovered salty-sweet synergy, I find the taste more palatable. There isn’t a salty-sweet combo going on here, the salty flavor is almost nonexistent, but there is a somewhat cocoa-like effect that isn’t too bad. But it’s hardly bold and it’s not particularly addictive or snackable.

There’s just no other way to say it: Chad Scott, you got your wish. These chips taste just like a cappuccino, or at least insofar as the cappuccino flavor you’d expect from a Jelly Belly Jelly Bean. They’re not throw-out-the-bag horrible, but they’re not something I’d buy again.

The flavor is just out of place on a fried tuber and ends up splitting the difference of two different sensations which match up about as gracefully as a Mormon in a Starbucks (it’s okay, I’m from Utah). Buying them might boost your credibility as a vanguard snacker, but enjoying them probably just means you like the taste of coffee too much.

*Possibly. Or maybe not.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz./about 15 chips – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Do Us a Flavor Finalist Cappuccino Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 9.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Not detestable in an OH THE HUMANITY kind of way. Classic Lay’s crispiness. Decently snackable when eaten in droves.
Cons: Cappuccino flavor is way too authentic for a potato chip. Bitterness. Out of body snacking experiences. Lacks salty-sweet synergy. Does not affirm the desire to live dangerously.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies

Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies

The Pillsbury Doughboy sat back in his recliner, grimaced, and with his finger placed on the trans-fat laden rolls on his triple chin, proceeded to take up a position of pondering. It had not been a very promising summer in the mass-produced, ready-to-bake sweets business.

Not only had his brother, the Michelin Man, begun a diet eschewing Grands biscuits and cinnamon rolls in favor of Eggo S’mores, pancakes, and Krave S’mores cereal, but preliminary second quarter reports showed a bottoming out of his cookie sales, with the culprit identified as a new cookie flavor developed by those damn elves at Keebler.

If that weren’t bad enough, he had spent the last month with a nonsensical ditty stuck in his head, something about “some more for you and some more for me,” that managed to give him an inexplicable urge to get some ice cream.

That was when it occurred to him; he, master of sweets and lover of all things giggly and ticklish, was late to the party. Suddenly seized with the same innovative spirit of Dr. Emmett Brown following a nasty spill on the toilet seat, he set off to develop a s’mores-inspired treat that would outdo any packaged Keebler cookie or Dairy Queen Blizzard with an annoyingly melodic theme song.

Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies Before

I speak, of course, of the new Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies. Some people look down upon ready-to-bake cookies, but I am not one of those people. Like any Pinterest browsing cookie fanatic who has never quite mastered the creaming method, I appreciate the dummy-proof nature of a 350 degree oven and 11 to 15 minutes of my time. I also get off on breaking rules like “Do Not Eat Raw Cookie Dough,” but that’s a completely different and much more frightening story.

Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies Baked

In any case, the adorable, square-ish cookies are delicious. There’s little to no graham flavor to speak of, but you’ll hardly notice thanks to the winning combination of that classic chocolate chip cookie taste and the oooey-gooey marshmallow filling, which bursts out in an abundant river obstructed only by crunchy semi-sweet chocolate chips and a light, brown-sugar crumb that’s altogether crispy on the cookie’s edges. It’s this winning texture of crunchy edges and super-moist filling which makes eating a single cookie a mathematical impossibility, while a liberal dose of the hyper-sweet chocolate icing provides an extra punch of cocoa flavor reminiscent of Hershey’s syrup.

Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies Closeup

Complaints are minor; the icing is more chocolate syrup than ganache, while the cookies’ unique filling makes them extra soft when pulling from the oven. There are no instructions for baking over an actual open flame and nine cookies per package seems like an odd number for all those not living in a mixed family with the last name of Brady. All can be forgiven, however, thanks to the marshmallow crème filling, which remains admirably gooey even a day after baking and still provides the needed burst of unabashed sweetness to compliment the eggy and toasted cookie flavor.

Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies Sexy Sexy

The Pillsbury man need not fret over his business prospects for the second half of 2014, because the S’more Sensation Filled Cookies are a worthy addition to the ever-growing array of campfire-inspired sweets that arrive this time each year. With a more enjoyable crust than the ubiquitous S’mores Pop-Tart and a fresher, more authentic s’mores flavor than cereal or prepackaged cookies, you might even be able to pass them off as homemade.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie with icing – 150 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Pillsbury Melts S’more Sensation Filled Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 ounces (9 cookies)
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Like eating a chocolate syrup and marshmallow panini inside a chocolate chip cookie. Oooey-gooey filling, even when cooled. No stand mixer required. One of the few Pillsbury ready-to-bake products not containing partially hydrogenated oil.
Cons: Graham flavor is lackluster. Could have a richer chocolate coating. The ever-present temptation of eating raw cookie dough.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Limited Edition Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Cookies

I consider myself a fairly sensible person. Rarely, if ever, would I find it acceptable to physically bust a move and moonwalk in a Safeway grocery store, much less break out in operatic chorus just to praise a prepackaged cookie. A fresh-baked cookie? Maybe it deserves a short interlude mumbled under my breath, but a prepackaged cookie is a different story entirely. My friends, that is just nonsensical.

Yet that’s exactly what I felt compelled to do after discovering the new Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Oreo cookies. Do I regret it? Abso-freaking-lutly. Would I do it again? You better believe it.

I have a confession to make. I had somewhat given up on flavored Oreos. Last summer’s Strawberries ‘n Crème and Banana Split flavors pushed me to accept mediocrity on a three month limited edition release cycle, while recent shelf spotting of Watermelon and Fruit Punch have caused me to lose faith in Nabisco’s strategic vision. I don’t know about you, but when I sign up for a sandwich cookie—Oreo or otherwise—I’m signing up for some variation of chocolate or vanilla. If I wanted Watermelon, dammit I would eat a freaking Watermelon.

In any event, the news that Oreo had teamed up with Reese’s to make the long overdue peanut butter and chocolate crème (excuse me, chocolate “flavored” crème) sandwich cookie rekindled a hope in me that Nabisco remembered they were in the business of making cookies and not flavored water enhancers. That hope was momentarily dashed when on their long awaited release date I checked no less than four grocery stores to no avail, only finally coming in contact with the Reese’s Oreo cookies just as my blood sugar reached perilously low levels.

You might have assumed this excitement was sure to leave me crashing in the unavoidable realization that the Reese’s Oreo cookies couldn’t possibly be as good as they’d sound. You’d be making an ass out of you and me, though, because Reese’s Oreo are everything any tried and true Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup lover would want.

Nabisco Limited Edition Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Cookies Stacked

The chocolate crème has a fudgy consistency tasting of more intense milk chocolaty flavor than standard chocolate Oreo crème, while the peanut butter has that trademarked salty and slightly gritty Reese’s flavor that balances its darker counterpart so perfectly. Twisted from their bases, the crème fillings might be a disappointment, but when eaten together and in conjunction with the exceptionally crunchy cocoa wafer, the fillings transform into a taste which is unabashedly Reese’s Cup in every sense of the title. Sweet and balanced with a deep, slightly salty flavor on the backend, there’s multiple intensities of chocolate dancing harmoniously with the exceptional, but not overpowering, peanut butter flavor. It is, to use the most precise representation of the English language available to our understanding, quite delectable.

Nabisco Limited Edition Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Cookies Topless 2

I suppose I could bemoan the filling’s complete reluctance to twist cleanly, or its slightly askew orientation in between the wafers. But really, why draw attention away from the most excellent representation of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup this side of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Dare I say, the exceptional cocoa taste and trademark crunch of the cookie actually makes the Reese’s Oreo superior to a Reese’s Cup in some ways, providing a completely new and exciting textural component to a time-tested flavor. And you know what? That fact alone provides plenty of reason for even a sensible person to celebrate in the most obnoxious of ways.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, less than 1 grams of fiber, and 1 grams of protein..)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 12.2 oz package
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Almost uncanny replication of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup flavor. Fudgy chocolate. Salty-sweet peanut butter. Perfect sandwich cookie bite. Finally, an Oreo that doesn’t sound like a popsicle flavor. Lowest calorie flavored Oreos.
Cons: Filling has Leaning Tower of Pisa effect. Messier to eat than standard Oreos. Being off-key in a crowded Safeway.