REVIEW: Post Honey Maid S’mores Cereal

Post Honey Maid S mores Cereal

I think everything is better with a brand name.

An Oreo Blizzard beats a chocolate sandwich cookie Blizzard ten times out of ten; a Lucky Charms milkshake kicks the crap out of a marshmallow cereal milkshake; and an Arby’s sandwich on a King’s Hawaiian bun is far superior to a sandwich on a sweet enriched roll that may or may not have come from a rock in the Pacific Ocean.

Don’t ask me about the logic behind this phenomenon. It might be proprietary recipe secrets. It might be social conditioning. It might just be that you’d have to be an idiot to roll out something called a “marshmallow cereal milkshake.”

Honey Maid S’more cereal follows much of the trend, which is surprising because it’s made by Post, which previously bought Mom’s Best, which owns Malt-O-Meal, which produces both a mediocre Cocoa Puffs imitator and a pathetic Golden Grahams doppelganger.

Oh, and by the way, a s’mores cereal.

I’ve never had the Malt-O-Meal cereal with the same name, but I have had many other Malt-O-Meal cereals and consider them hastily assembled Halloween costume versions of their General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Quaker counterparts. Knowing this, I was not expecting much from this s’mores cereal.

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Sampling the pieces individually didn’t do much to change my outlook. The marshmallow pieces were okay but nothing special, like a 6-6 college football team that limps into a bowl game. Meanwhile, the chocolate cereal pieces (which look and taste like Malt-O-Meal’s Cocoa Puffs imitator Cocoa Roos) are about as dreadful as a chocolate cereal can be, with virtually no cocoa flavor and too much sweetness.

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Eaten alone, the only redeeming element is the Honey Maid graham pieces, which have a deep graham flavor and light crunch that’s distinct from the glazed molasses sweetness of Golden Grahams.

But a funny thing happens when you shove a handful of the mix in your mouth. It starts to taste like s’mores, and out of nowhere a light cocoa flavor emerges in the background.

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I attribute this 100 percent to a dusty coating that covers all the pieces. It’s not unlike the peanut butter coating that covers Reese’s Puffs, but instead of tasting like powdered chocolate peanut butter, it tastes like powdered S’mores. The coating is especially tasty in milk, which seems to coax more cocoa flavor out of the chocolate cereal pieces, and gives the graham pieces a delectable, milk-infused sogginess.

Even though the chocolate flavor is a letdown, Honey Maid S’mores is a slightly better than Smorz (which I gave a 6) but not as good as Krave S’mores (which I gave an 8). Is it because of the Honey Maid Graham Cracker pieces?

Well, it’s not because of some generic graham cracker pieces.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup without milk – 120 calories, 25 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Authentic honey graham flavor. Campfire coating binds flavors together with a deep burnt sugar taste with hints of cocoa. Very good in milk. Correct spelling of S’mores. Avoiding the tempting Hamilton Porter S’mores reference from The Sandlot.
Cons: Less cocoa flavor than a tootsie roll. Only adequate as a snacking cereal. The reasoning behind Cocoa Roos. Brand name food collusion.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad

Wendy s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad

Remember when putting an apple slice in a salad was considered avant-garde for fast food? We’ve come a long way since the Caesar and House salads of a decade ago, with chains like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s giving us all kinds of fruit, nuts, and cheese combinations to serve over something green and, presumably, healthy. That said, most of these salads have been established flavor combos —- berries and blue cheese, apples and almonds, stuff like that.

But strawberries and mango? Can’t say that’s something I’ve ever heard of before.

I’m not sure how Wendy’s came up with their new Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad other than to suggest someone spilled their smoothie on top of their Greek chicken salad, and decided it was the best thing in the world. Spoiler alert: It’s not.

That’s not to say this salad isn’t close to being really, really good. But being close to really, really good doesn’t count, otherwise we’d be comparing the current Patriots dynasty to the early 1990s Buffalo Bills dynasty.

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Surprisingly, the mango is a hit. It’s one of those fruits that absolutely sucks when it’s overripe, but thankfully the mango in the salad is slime and sinew free. Its firm bite and tropical flavor match nicely with the familiar taste of the strawberries, with each providing a nice contrast to the greens.

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Wendy’s grilled chicken, which got a facelift last year, is solid, with a juicy texture and robust flavor that outmatches anything I can do on the backyard Weber. Meanwhile, the mild and salty feta cheese is not that bad until you add the honey citrus vinaigrette and the honey roasted sunflower seeds.

How do I explain this?

Imagine taking a bite of something and tasting nothing but pineapple. Now, imagine adding a crunchy, slightly burnt honey-glazed sweetness to the end of that taste. Yeah, that’s what happens once the salad dressing and roasted seeds go on.

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Overall, the tastes just don’t play nicely together. Think a kazoo and a saxophone dueling for time in a pop song. What’s more, they overpower every other taste with the exception of the chicken, which suddenly finds itself the reluctant centerpiece of a tropical salsa.

I love Wendy’s commitment to salad — their Mediterranean Power Salad might just be the best fast food salad around -— but the Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad is less than the sum of its parts. That said, if you prefer your smoothies in salad form, and don’t mind overly tart citrus notes, you’ve got a total winner.

(Nutrition Facts – Full size – 470 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0.0 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1140 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 31 grams of sugar, 39 grams of protein, 100% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 20% calcium, and 15% iron..)

Purchased Price: $6.59
Size: Full size
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: xcellent grilled chicken breast. Fruits are firm, fresh, and full of flavor. Feta cheese works surprisingly well with the mango and strawberry. The evolution of fast food salads.
Cons: Dressing puts the citrus notes way off the chart and makes the whole salad taste like pineapple. Deep flavor the honey roasted sunflower seeds is too strong a contrast for the light flavors of the fruit. The salad equivalent of a kazoo and saxophone duet.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cheesecake Cool Whip

Limited Edition Cheesecake Cool Whip

Despite Reddi-wip’s furious smear advertising campaign touting the advantages of real cream, Cool Whip remains untouchable, eaten by 66 million more Americans than its canned counterpart.

The reasons are pretty simple: You can freeze Cool Whip and eat it like ice cream, you can blend it into no-bake desserts easier than Reddi-wip, and you can leave it on your angel food cake outside during a hurricane and it’ll stay put.

Despite that indestructible texture reputation, the new Cheesecake Cool Whip isn’t any thicker or creamier than the original version. While the packaging art would have us skip June, July, and August to pumpkin season, the allusion to cream cheese frosting is a poor one, mostly because trying to use Cool Whip as frosting is like trying to use tomato juice for pizza sauce —- it’s just not thick enough.

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Eaten directly out of the tub (which is completely acceptable if you ask me) the Cheesecake Cool Whip has a distinct taste from the original variety. There’s a cheesecake vibe upon first lick, but it’s faint, giving way to a French Vanilla-type sweetness. The deeper, nuanced cream taste of actual whipped cream is obviously absent, but what’s really missing is the richness of a real cream element, which would otherwise bring out the cheesecake flavor.

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It also tastes less like cheesecake when eaten with common whipped cream accouterments. The ever reliable blueberry —- plump, sweet, slightly tart -— all but mutes the cheesecake flavor.

Even trying to cheesecake-ify yogurt is somewhat hit or miss. I tried it with strawberry yogurt, and while I did notice a cheesecake flavor, I had to add a lot of it — like 50 or 75 calories worth — to get a consistent tang. It would’ve been easier to just buy a container of Dannon Strawberry Cheesecake Greek Yogurt

Seeing that it’s 2017 and we still haven’t gotten a cheesecake Oreo or cheesecake Pop-Tart, I appreciate Kraft’s effort. That said, Cool Whip, which is mostly just water and hydrogenated oil, might not be the best medium for the flavor.

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(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp – 25 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.78
Size: 8 oz. tub
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Recognizable cheesecake flavor when eaten alone. Adds a slight cheesecake taste when mixed with yogurt. Eating Cool Whip like ice cream.
Cons: Cheesecake flavor isn’t strong enough to stand out with other ingredients. Not thick or sweet enough to use as frosting. Lacks cheesecake richness. Eating soggy angel food cake.

REVIEW: Thomas’ Limited Edition S’mores English Muffins

Thomas Limited Edition S mores English Muffins

As someone who works in the marketing department of an organization that has only discovered social media within the last year, I tend to feel an affinity with Thomas’ English muffins. For years, these guys had one shtick: nooks and crannies.

If sharing the same marketing platform as a dilapidated four bedroom Tudor didn’t do it for you, you’re not alone. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason people tolerate English muffins is because they’re the breakfast equivalent of chips. It’s all about the toppings —- I lean toward the classic cream cheese —- and that delightful round shape.

Well, no more. The new s’mores flavor joins a suddenly marketing-savvy Thomas’ lineup that includes pumpkin spice, salted caramel, and maple french toast. To be honest, each has sounded great, but all have only been okay, undone by a hit-or-miss internal flavor that’s never as pervasive as it should be, and has to be rescued by the spread.

Call me old fashioned, but I have higher expectations for s’mores. In fact, if you call something s’more-flavored, I expect it to taste like a s’more without having to build an actual s’more out of it. Unfortunately, that’s what you have to do to coerce the summertime campfire flavor out of these muffins.

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If you’re the kind of person who eats English muffins both plain and untoasted (in which case, why?) you’ll find these have very little resemblance to a S’mores Pop-Tart much less actual s’mores. The small bursts of cocoa and marshmallow are almost impossible to see without a microscope and almost as difficult to taste.

There is a sort of cocoa flavor that hangs in the background as well as a general honey sweetness, but it’s not discernible as a s’more. A Tootsie Roll? Yes, I can taste that, but not a s’more. To make matters worse, there’s this dough conditioner chewiness thing going on which doesn’t go away unless you toast the muffins well past the point of burnt.

Speaking of toasting, I tested the muffins on a light and a moderate setting and found the graham flavor decreased each time. Granted, there’s not much to begin with, but on a moderate setting the muffins taste like a honey whole wheat English muffin. And because there’s no actual chocolate chips, toasting doesn’t reveal any melty chocolate.

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Ultimately, when I spread the muffins with chocolate marshmallow frosting, they tasted moderately like a s’more. This was anticlimactic though, because I’d already licked some frosting with my finger, which also kind of tasted like a s’more.

Thomas’ S’mores English Muffins are only available for a limited time, which is probably a good thing, because you don’t need mediocre s’mores ruining your life. You also don’t need mediocre English muffins, which is what these are when you take away the chocolate marshmallow frosting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 muffin – 150 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 6-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Modest cocoa-flavor hangs in the background. Tastes better than a regular English muffin if you eat it plain. Inevitably signals the coming of peach cobbler English muffins come August.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like a s’more. Very lackluster marshmallow and graham elements. Even worse toasted. Overly doughy chew.

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.

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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.