REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Birthday Cake Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Birthday Cake Fudge Stripes Cookies

During the 45 years or so of the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union built up massive quantities of nuclear weapons in an effort to counter each other and become the world’s leading super power.

Each had their own spheres of influence, but since separate hemispheres weren’t enough, both nations just kept building more and bigger missiles until one couldn’t keep up any longer.

A quarter century after the Berlin Wall fell, another arms race is occurring. The good news is that the entire existence of the human race is no longer at stake. The bad news is that we are all going to get massively obese.

It’s a trade I am totally cool with.

Gone are the days when Oreo was content with being the world’s leading chocolate sandwich cookie; likewise, Keebler’s elves aspire to an empire greater than just fudge covered shortbreads. The two companies have fought for cookie supremacy in recent limited time offerings of red velvet and pumpkin spice, but the latest flashpoint in the great cookie conflict is one flavor that I never get tired of celebrating: Birthday Cake.

While I give the elves credit for creating a cookie that has all three traditional elements of birthday cake (sprinkles, frosting, and uh, “cake”) I do need to point out that the box artwork features a cupcake. At first I thought this was just a celebration of portion control, but since the package also happens to be non-resalable — thus increasing my chances of inhaling all the cookies in one sitting — I realize the elves probably just suck at making distinctions.

I, however, do not. And to be sure, the distinction of Birthday Cake vs. Cupcake is one I take seriously. If you show me a cupcake, I expect the frosting to steal the show. That’s not the case with these cookies, though.

Keebler Limited Batch Birthday Cake Fudge Stripes Cookies 2

Oh, I mean the shortbread element is fine. It’s buttery with a delectably fine crumb and the non-overpowering element of sweetness I admire about the original Fudge Stripe.

But whereas the original Fudge Stripe can get away with a faux-chocolate glaze that works to balance the shortbread, the frosting glaze on the latest batch of shortbread just tastes like that generic palm oil glaze we’ve all had a million times. It’s not buttercream frosting; it’s not cream cheese frosting; it’s not even a damn Swiss meringue. It’s just way too sweet, and lacks that luscious mouthfeel of an actual frosting element. Likewise, it’s cut off from the sprinkles, which themselves lack the crunchy contrast I want buried in frosting.

Keebler Limited Batch Birthday Cake Fudge Stripes Cookies 3

Fortunately, since my pantry is always willing to celebrate an actual birthday, I had some rainbow chip frosting handy. Now, while I realize this stuff would be good on anything from pancakes to Ritz crackers, I did find it especially wonderful when stuffed between the Fudge Stripe Birthday Cake cookies.

Biting through the crunchy shortbread into actual, sprinkled-filled frosting — even in an artificial, shelf-stable form — reminded me of Oreo’s birthday cake attempt and how providing just a level of textural contrast can go a long way to really making a birthday cake-flavored product worth the purchase.

Does the fact that Oreo makes a better birthday cake cookie than Keebler mean that the Elves are destined to toil in a downtrodden economy until an ex-KGB spy who likes to take his shirt off attempts to assert them as the world’s leading cookie makers? Probably not. But in the arms race of cookie flavors, Keebler’s latest gambit just can’t keep pace.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: $2.99
Purchased at: Weis Markets
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Delectable shortbread crumb. Crunchy sprinkle pieces. Wonderful vehicle birthday cake frosting.
Cons: Waxy, mostly tasteless frosting element. Too much shortbread taste for a birthday cake product. Non-resalable packaging. Cookie company flavor arms races.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Fruity Crisp Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Limited Edition Fruity Crisp Oreo Cookies

Well, I guess this is how it starts.

Yes, “it.”

Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s only the single worst thing in the universe; the thing people have been warning us about for years. It’s the reason why I’ve been stocking up the shelves in my basement, quietly prepping for the disaster I knew would eventually befall us. And to think the harbinger of the impending doom is America’s most beloved cookie company.

The cerealapocalypse.

After tasting the new Fruity Crisp Oreo Cookies I’m convinced the end of cereal eating as we know could be near. We already knew people were ditching cereal because they’ve been too damn lazy to wash out their bowls, but now that Oreo has managed to pack the flavor of Fruity Pebbles in between their Golden wafers, well, Post might as well file Chapter 11.

Every time Oreo releases a new flavor people say things like, “This is a game-changer.” But I’m not here to tell you what is and is not a gamer changer; I’m here to tell you these cookies taste exactly like Fruity freaking Pebbles, right on down to that initial Paleolithic burst of cloying artificial fruit flavor.

Nabisco Limited Edition Fruity Crisp Oreo Cookies 2

From the moment I opened the bag the unmistakable aroma of Fruity Pebbles assaulted my nostrils like a friendly prehistoric child with a large club, while an initial sampling of the Golden Oreo base revealed the distinct aftertaste of the Fruity Pebbles cereal we all remember from the days when we smuggled it into our mommies’ shopping carts at the supermarket.

Nabisco Limited Edition Fruity Crisp Oreo Cookies 3

After effortlessly separating the filling from the cookies, I sampled the frosting-like creme on its own. This is not your standard Oreo creme. It’s not as chalky or stiff as regular Oreo creme, and it has a shelf-stable frosting like quality in the way you can pluck it from the cookie with your finger. The taste, bursting with crispy, fruity cereal pieces, is unmistakably milky and sweet, like cereal that’s been steeped in milk for the better part of a day. If I was going to make an ice cream out of cereal, I imagine it would taste a lot like the creme.

Yes, the cerealapocalypse is upon us.

Biting into each cookie, you get every element of a bowl of Fruity Pebbles; the milk is there, the crispy cereal texture is there, and of course, the hypersweet fruity taste dominates. Basically, each cookie renders the cereal box and carton of milk a relic from the past. As a traditional cereal eater, even I will admit it tastes insanely awesome.

But there may be one hope for those of us used to eating cereal the old fashioned way. For as much as I enjoyed the first couple of cookies, I couldn’t get into the same kind of mindless cookie eating groove that I can get into with a standard Oreo. I mean, you have to really love Fruity Pebbles to make it through an entire package, mostly because the overwhelmingly sweet, artificial taste of Fruity Pebbles is so accurate that you feel like you’ve just eaten 3-4 bowls of Fruity Pebbles after just 3-4 cookies. With that in mind, I can see some Oreo fanatics loving these cookies, but not making them a repeat purchase.

In any case, that’s my only hope for the cereal industry, because these cookies are so accurate in copying the taste of Fruity Pebbles, they’ll make you forget Fred Flintstone existed.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 80 mg of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 10.7 oz
Purchased at: Giant
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Perfectly captures the taste of Fruity Pebbles in every bite. Milky, frosting-like creme. Crispy textural contrast. Golden wafers that have fruity cereal taste.
Cons: Exceptionally sweet and artificial, to the point where the Fruity Pebbles taste can wear on you. Packaging literally out of the Stone Age. Not as good as some of the other limited edition Oreo flavors. Needs a chocolate lovers equivalent with chocolate wafers and Cocoa Pebbles.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich

Dunkin' Donuts Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich

Supreme is, undoubtedly, one of my favorite adjectives. It has a connotation that’s both physically big and exceptional, not to mention it lends its name to the highest court in America, a groundbreaking female vocal group, and that mysterious bad guy we saw in The Force Awakens.

Supreme is bigger, better, and tastier than super. Supreme is what superb aspires to be but will never be. Supreme is what adults say when they want to describe something but don’t want the ambiguity of stupendous.

Dunkin' Donuts Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich 2

Dunkin’ Donuts’ Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich does not look like it deserves the title supreme. Flatter than a pancake and shoved into an America Runs on Dunkin’ bag amidst the morning rush hour, its appearance might best be described as, “that’s it?”

But looks can be deceiving, and when it comes to taste, the Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich delivers.

But first, a word about croissants. Yes, the French can be annoying. Likewise, I understand southern food and, by extension, biscuits are all the rage in breakfast sandwich land. But I don’t care, because even in it’s smushed, mass-produced form, a croissant is a supreme choice for a breakfast sandwich bread.

Dunkin' Donuts Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich 4

Dunkin’s version is buttery, slightly sweet, and wonderfully compliments the hearty egg mixture. While that mixture isn’t much to look at, it has crunchy bits of flavorful potatoes, peppers, and onions, not to mention just a rich eggy flavor. A slice of perfectly melted, salty American cheese helps bring the flavors together. Finally, the bacon is exceptional. If Arby’s bacon is brown sugar bacon is divisive, then Dunkin’s bacon is a great uniter. It’s meaty and smoky, with that perfect combination of crispness and fat to appease all bacon lovers.

Dunkin' Donuts Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich 3

For as wonderful as the buttery croissant, gooey American cheese, smoky bacon, and egg and pepper mixture come together, I found the taste exactly like it sounds: a bit heavy. It’s rich and fatty and salty and everything else I want in a supreme breakfast sandwich, but it’s also missing an element of sweetness and relief.  

I won’t lie to you; I grew up eating eggs with ketchup, and that’s exactly what I wished I had grabbed after my first few bites of the sandwich. While I doubt ketchup is something the Dunkin’ test kitchen chefs would consider, I do think the sweet crunchy flavor of good old fashioned, fresh sliced tomatoes would make a world of difference. A slice of Romaine lettuce, too, would go a long way to cementing the sandwich in the premium category, not to mention boost its aesthetic appeal beyond smushed UFO-looking vehicle of saturated fat and sodium (not that I’m complaining).

Dunkin’ Donuts’ Bacon Supreme Omelet Breakfast Sandwich is definitely super, and maybe even makes the case for superb, but without a bit of sweetness and extra heft, it’s not quite the supreme it could be. Nevertheless, it’s a tasty addition to Dunkin’s menu and a hearty start to any day.

(Nutrition Facts – 600 calories, 37 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 245 milligrams of cholesterol, 1200 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 23 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Croissant has buttery, savory flavor that compliments the eggs perfectly. American cheese is wonderfully melted into the nooks and crannies of the croissant. Egg mixture is flavorful with ideal texture. Hearty, put-you-to-sleep type sandwich.
Cons: Could use more bacon to increase coverage to every bite. Needs an element of sweetness or relief from tomatoes. Potatoes don’t make much of an impact. Hearty, put-you-to-sleep type sandwich.

REVIEW: Arby’s Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich

Arby’s Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich

Bacon, like alliteration, needs to be applied carefully.

Try to get avant garde and add it to stuff, like canned vodka drinks, and you might just inspire someone to go vegan. Likewise, start stringing together sounds and letters with too much frequency and you’ll leave somebody more tongue-tied than a 12-year-old beholding his first pair of boobies.

But apply them strategically and they’ll make every sandwich or sentence better.

That’s the case with the Arby’s new Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich, or, as I told the cashier, “the brisket one.”

Arby’s actually debuted its brown sugar bacon last year to mixed reviews. This year they’ve brought it back and given it the benefit of new bun, premium meats, and an exotic-sounding Kentucky bourbon sauce.

Now, when I hear the term “Kentucky bourbon sauce,” I want to think of some grizzled backwoods old man chewing on leftover mutton barbecue and checking the taps of a warehouse filled with cave-aged barrels. The reality is a lot less romantic but still pretty tasty. The whole-grain Dijon mustard with sweet and complex notes doesn’t really have a distinctive bourbon taste so much as it just makes you recall the “beer mustard” you stole from your neighbor’s Oktoberfest party.

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You’ll forgive the lack of distinctive bourbon flavor as soon as you bite into the sandwich. Four or five different taste and texture sensations converge with a single chomp, producing one of the most satisfying sandwich bites I’ve ever had from any fast food restaurant. There’s the smoky, moist brisket; milky and creamy smoked cheddar cheese; sweet and crunchy bacon; salty and crisp onion straws; and that tangy, complex mustard that makes me want to say something hokey like “please pass the Grey Poupon, ya’ll.”

Even the bun is top-notch. Squishy yet firm, with a sort of pretzel bun malt sweetness aftertaste, it’s the perfect vehicle to suck up the viscous sauce and meaty juices from the biscuit. When Wendy’s and McDonald’s upgraded to “artisan” buns, this is what they should have adopted.

What comes together is a complete and balanced sandwich in which neither sweet nor salty wins out, and where those looking to get an authentic smoked meat smorgasbord will find plenty of indulgence in strong notes of hickory and oak.

Look, I’ll admit it: Arby’s brown sugar bacon is Candyland sweet on its own and the Kentucky bourbon sauce is more whole grain Dijon beer mustard than anything else, but neither detail seems to obscure the fact that the Bourbon Bacon & Brisket Sandwich is really damn good (also a bit tough to say, but that’s beside the point.) While the $5.99 price may scare some customers away, Arby’s has proved that the sum of its sandwich components are well worth it, making the new Bacon Brown Sugar Bourbon Sandwiches some of the best I’ve ever had from the chain.

(Nutrition Facts – 710 calories, 360 calories from fat, 40 grams of fat, 15 grams of sat fat, 1 grams of trans fat, 125 milligrams of cholesterol, 1610 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 43 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Hearty and meaty sandwich with layers of smoky and beefy flavor. Brisket good enough to eat even in Texas*. Bourbon sauce is the best tasting mustard you’ve ever had. Great melted and creamy texture from the smoked cheddar cheese. Hands down the best bun in premium fast food sandwiches.
Cons: Glazed texture of bacon lacks chewy fatty goodness. “Bourbon” taste may not be as authentic or prominent as some would like. Frankly, one of the worst tongue twisters in fast food history.

*I live here. I can say this.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal

If you were to put a gun to my head and demand I rank every single Cheerios flavor in history, my first thought would be, why are you willing to kill me over something as trivial as one man’s opinion on a toasted oat cereal?

And then I’d proceed to rattle off the definitive guide to 22 flavors.

Apple Cinnamon Cheerios would be up there. So would Peanut Butter Multigrain Cheerios. And, being the purist that I am, I wouldn’t forget the golden bee of Honey Nut Cheerios.

But at the very top? The discontinued Strawberry Yogurt Burst Cheerios.

Taken off shelves sometime in the past three years, but long adored by adults and kids alike, the sweet strawberry notes of the O’s still haunt me. Yeah, I could get Fruity Cheerios and just eat the red ones, but it’s not the same. If Cheerios can give spelt, quinoa, and other ancient grains their own box, then America’s favorite berry should have its own flavor.

Thankfully, General Mills has finally taken note, albeit in a limited edition role with the new Strawberry Cheerios.

Just writing “limited edition” makes me want to sift through pages of Google search results for a viable answer to “how to freeze time” so I can endlessly replay the moment when my milky spoonful of red-freckled oat rings embraced my taste buds like a cold strawberry shake on a warm spring day.

Yes, Strawberry Cheerios are that good.

Those who fondly recall Berry Burst Cheerios will be filled with poetic memories of the subtly sweet strawberry flavor, oatey crunch, and sophisticated tart aftertaste of the bygone classic. Eaten dry, the new Strawberry Cheerios have an ideal combination of strawberry flavor (emphasis on the straw, as opposed to just vague berry; although, now that I think about it, don’t think about eating straw. That’s freaking disgusting) and wholesome Cheerios taste.

Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal 2

There’s a wonderfully sturdy crunch in each oat ring — more crunch than the standard Cheerio — but unlike past Cheerios flavors, Strawberry Cheerios has no identifiable defect. Gone are styrofoamy freeze-dried fruit; banished are fake palm kernel oil yogurt coatings; and exiled are the annoying original Cheerios that taste like insipid islands of plainness amidst an ocean of strawberry islands.

They also get better in milk.

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The strong strawberry tartness in the aftertaste dissipates, replaced by mellow yet sweet flavor that, when enjoyed in the presence of whole milk, takes on notes of milkshake or ice cream. The gluten-free oat rings stay crunchy even through a long soak, slowly giving away their sweetness to a light red bowl of pure strawberry milk.

If you’re going to put a gun to my head and demand I give you one slight suggestion of improvement for the new Strawberry Cheerios, I’d admit they could be a little sweeter, since I recently figured out how awesome macerated strawberries taste. But it’s hard to nitpick, especially with how accurate Cheerios nailed the strawberry flavor. Are Strawberry Cheerios the best of the now 23 Cheerios varieties that have been created? It’s tough to say, but if you’re going to demand an answer from me, I’d say they’re up there, and are probably the purest, tastiest strawberry cereal on the market.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.38
Size: 21 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Delicious and bright strawberry flavor combined with solid oat crunch. Tart, sophisticated aftertaste. Serious strawberry milkshake vibes when eaten in milk. No crappy freeze-dried strawberries. Best strawberry cereal on the market.
Cons: Limited freaking edition with no scientifically verifiable way to stop time. Could be a tad bit sweeter. Random people putting guns to your head and asking you to rank cereals.

REVIEW: Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M’s (M&M’s Flavor Vote)

Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M's (M&M's Flavor Vote)

Let’s get one thing straight: Peanut M&M’s are the best.

Well, technically, Peanut Butter M&M’s are the best, but the classic whole-roasted peanut M&M’s, represented by the overly optimistic, decidedly plump yellow guy, are right behind them.

Don’t agree? Sorry, you’re in the minority. Pretty much anyone with a computer and a sweet tooth will rank either Peanut Butter or Peanut M&M’s at the top of the M&M’s kingdom, which if you ask me is a not to be overlooked accomplishment given that Mars has mostly been focusing flavor additions more in the white chocolate and milk chocolate spectrum.

Well, Mr. Yellow Guy is finally getting the last laugh, because M&M’s has introduced three new Peanut flavors that America will get to choose from before the winner gets rushed into the regular M&M’s rotation. And by last laugh, I mean literally last. He is, after all, about to get eaten.

Coffee Nut M&M's 1

First up is the Coffee M&M’s. As anyone from Canada knows, coffee and candy just belong together (Dear Canadians: I live in Texas, please mail Coffee Crisp.) These are really awesome, and get my vote for the next Peanut flavor.

Coffee Nut M&M's 2

While I was hoping for an earthy, robust roasted coffee finish that gradually overtakes the sweetness (like you might get in a chocolate-covered expresso bean), I can’t complain about the mocha vibe that resonates as soon as the shell begins to dissolve, even if it is a mocha vibe with seven extra pumps of vanilla syrup and four Splendas. Come to think of it, these taste a lot like coffee Jelly Belly beans, except with a peanut. Frankly, that makes them all the better.  

Honey Nut M&M's

Moving right along, I imagine the idea for Honey Nut M&M’s came into being at the weekly golf outing of yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople. Given the natural friendliness of both the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and the Yellow M&M’s guy, this flavor combination was bound to happen. I was also bound to like the flavor given the fact that Honey Nut Chex is in my Top 10 cereals of ALL TIME, but unfortunately the M&M’s didn’t live up to expectations. The characteristic almond flavor of Honey Nut Cheerios is definitely present as soon as you get at the chocolate, but a weird and distracting artificial sweetness comes with it.

I was hoping, if nothing else, the peanut would have the salty and caramelized texture of a honey roasted peanut, but this wasn’t to be. Not that a whole peanut in a milk chocolate shell is that much of a disappointment, but Honey Nut M&M’s weren’t nearly as good as they should have been.

Chili Nut M&M's

Finally, Chili Nut M&M’s push M&M’s into new territory, namely the somewhat fading food trend of pairing chocolate with spicy food. These are interesting; they’re not fireballs by any mean, but there’s an initial cinnamon red hots flavor that enters your mouth as soon as the shell starts to dissolve. A tingling backheat resonates through the milk chocolate, and then really comes on strong once you crunch through the peanut. The last sensation you get is cayenne burn that lasts for a couple of seconds after you’ve finished. I know its tantamount to declaring the wuss card, but I’ll admit it: I needed to grab a glass of water after eating these. All in all, it’s an interesting combination if you’re a heat seeker, although more of a mild annoyance if you’re just a standard M&M’s eater.

Adding to the Peanut M&M’s lineup was long overdue, but I’d be lying if I said any of the new flavors catapulted to the top of the M&M’s flavor list. While Coffee Nut is a welcome addition, the other two flavors taste more like novelties than anything else. And even though I don’t think any of them take a lot away from the smooth milk chocolate and crunchy roasted peanut taste of our adorable yellow friend, I will say there’s something about the classic that’s just hard to improve on.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pack or 49 grams – 250 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: 88 cents each
Size: 1.75 oz.
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Coffee Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Honey Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Chili Nut)
Pros: Coffee Nut flavor has lasting notes of coffee and vanilla. Familiar crunchy shell roasted peanut, and smooth milk chocolate of Peanut M&M’s. Yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople golf outings.
Cons: None of the flavors beat the classic Peanut M&M’s. Not an overly robust coffee finish. Honey Nut flavor has cloying artificiality. No honey roasted peanut. Chili Nut M&M’s only brings heat, not additional flavor.