REVIEW: Hershey’s Candy Corn Creme Bars

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar

If we’re going to continue to be friends, I feel there are a few things you should know about me. One is that I have learned most of my morals from a VHS copy of The Muppet Show and my bearded Uncle Bumsford who told me stories while flinging an ax into a stump in the backyard. Another is that I don’t mind, even downright enjoy, preservative-laden stuff. So long as the preservatives are working in the product’s favor, I see no flim or flaw. Bring me thy Jell-o pudding, thy toaster pastries, thy individually wrapped Little Debbies!

And that’s where these come in.

With enough Vegetable Oil Compounds to create an artistic rendering of the Icelandic glaciers, this new Hershey’s Candy Corn Bar is not one to illicit positive reviews from the authors of the USDA food pyramid, but neither does candy corn. Candy corn celebrates the odd, the waxy, the culinarily questionable ingredients, and if there’s anyone who’s familiar with handling questionable confectionary ingredients, it’s Hershey’s. Sure, sometimes things go awry in the Hershey lab, but I continue to put my Halloween faith in their corporate clutches. Am I foolish? Open-minded? Just outright idiotic? Let’s find out.

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar Candy Corn as a sugary little block

There is a distinct sweetness of candy corn that, when mulled with preservatives, creates a hyper-sweet sensation that is appealing to the sugar-inclined individual. It tastes of wax and corn syrup solids, maybe a hint of plastic and, guess what? That’s what these bars are made of: waxy stuff and corn syrup. Sugary and quick to melt, the bars are pleasant in that dairy milk confection way, making them easy to nibble as they get goopy all over your hands in 82-degree weather. It’s terrifying and awesome.

However, unlike candy corn, Hershey’s seems to have skipped the whole “honey” ingredient, which, in some respects, is a good thing. For example, you won’t have to worry about being attacked by a hungry honey bear or a swarm of vengeful bees. On the not-as-positive end, the bars don’t have the strong distinguishing taste that honey provides. In fact, they don’t have any particular taste. No vanilla. No rum. Just sugar.

If I close my eyes and use my imagination, there’s something slightly fruity at the end as if someone spliced Cadbury Egg Crème with dehydrated strawberry nubs, but it’s more about the abundance of sugar and texture: melty, melty, melty. While not a stunner on its own, I imagine all that Melting Sugar Goo would making an excellent fall s’more smashed between two Pumpkin Pop-Tarts and a chocolate marshmallow. As Uncle Bumsford always said: a s’more always solves your “What the hell do I do with all this mediocre candy?” problems.

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar interior

These little bars are pretty good. Are they made of lavender honey harvested from a flowery meadow by the Andrena hattorfiana bumblebees? No, but neither is candy corn. To expect otherwise would be unfair. By the abundance of sugar alone, these did a modest job at reimagining the experience of chomping on fistfuls of candy corn. While the dull, vegetable-oiled flavor leaves room for growth, at $3.69, I really can’t grumble too much.

If you’re a fan of corn syrup or drinking Cadbury Crème straight from the shell, you shall enjoy this. It will give you a good dose of sugar and Carnauba Wax, and sometimes that’s all you need to get to the next house for All Hallow’s Eve.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 bars – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hershey’s Candy Corn Creme Bars
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 9.45 oz bag
Purchased at: Kmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Melty. Perfect for Cadbury Crème lovers. Supports the cause of Trick-or-Treaters. Uncle Bumsford. VHS series of The Muppet Show.
Cons: No defining flavor aside from sugar. Carbauna wax. Grumpy USDA Food Pyramid authors. Vengeful bumblebees.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I injured myself yesterday.

It was in aisle 3. The Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream had been sold out for the previous 10 days. Already half-defeated, melodramatic dairy cravings oozing from my limp, lactose-deprived mind, I turned my head and there, between the frozen waffles and Pomegranate Sherbet: one last quart.

“Blah! Cream! Ice! Butter! Cookie! Now!”

It was then that Zeus looked down upon me and said, “You! You did not form a grammatically coherent sentence! You MUST SUFFER!” A bolt of Karma-infused lightning darted from Mt. Olympus, swooshing carts, Trader Joe’s employees, and oblivious human beings right into the 12-foot path that stood between me and dairy perfection.

Grabbing a nearby Kouign Amann from the sample station, I leapt over the baskets, the boxes, and the kindly Trader Joe’s employee who was re-stocking the Salsa Authentica (saying “Excuse me” along the way). I reached down, my goal in sight, when my noggin bonked the shelf above and the slew of Very Vanilla meringues avalanched on my cranium.

Luckily, neither Ancient Greek-inspired divine intervention nor avalanching plastic tubs can stop a true dextrose zealot.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream The untouched ice cream

Having brought the tub home and peeled off the safety-sealed container, I can see white creamy stuff and (small) brown chunky speckles. Smells of vanilla and sugar crackle into the air. By all the gold in Robin Hood’s barn, this stuff looks good. With the cover devoid of any specifics, I can only take an amateur dive at what awaits: vanilla, perhaps even sweet cream, ice cream with cookie butter swirls…and Speculoos cookie chunks? Maybe? MAYBE??

No. No cookie chunks. But cookie butter swirl chunks? Yes! And in wide abundance. Those chunky, gritty, swirly thingies are spattered throughout, gathering up on your golden spoon 1, 2, 5 chunks at a time. Unlike a dense, crunchy cookie, these cookie butter swirlies are gritty and loose and crumble with their spicy warm bite.

The art of perfecting the ratio of cookie-butter-to-cream is an exercise worthy of a sensei master. When gathered in their best proportion, the chunks accentuate a warmth from cinnamon and clove in the Speculoos butter while also bouncing off the sweetness in the vanilla base. What’s better is chunks get chunkier as you dig, rewarding you with golden nuggets so big they’d send the gold panners from ‘49 into a tizzy.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Proof that swirly chunks may take over the world

And that vanilla-cream base? It’s pretty good. Not enough to make a possum do a back flip or anything, but pretty good. Thick and creamy with a super sweet melt, it makes for a smooth foundation that’s just on the cusp of tasting like an Oreo filling. The Trader chose not to toss in any vanilla bean speckles in this particular base, but who needs speckles when you have chunks of pulverized cookie goo all around? Give me the cookie goo. Give me it all.

For those in the Vanilla Clan with a penchant for spicy-warm, yet wonderfully simple concoctions, this ice cream will do you right as it stands. If you like your ice cream with more of a punch, you might be well-served to incorporate other mix-ins or smoosh it up with another ice cream flavor. Think chocolate. Coffee. More cookie butter. That triple-layer Mocha Cake your Aunt Sally baked for you last week. Almost anything will do. The vanilla has a lighter flavor, so anything you dump on it will be a dimension to all that perpetual lightness, a yin to its yang, a Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Close up of swirly chunkies

On the whole, this ice cream registers as “good” in both the tender, youthful, overly optimistic part of my brain as well as the crumpled, calloused, grumpity part. In fact, it may be the only thing that these parts of my brain agree upon. Ever. While not chaotic or exploding with mix-ins, it’s a simple, slightly spicy, sweet cream that makes good for eating right off the sugar cone, between French toast, or in a bowl after you’ve dumped your entire Halloween candy stash upon it.

I plan to eat this quart in the morning. I plan to eat this quart at night. I plan to eat this quart until it is finished… and what if someone tries to eat it from my freezer before then? I will not let them. And if they do, I will buy another. I will collect the cookie butter ice cream. All of it. I will stock my freezer to the brim, supporting the dairy farmers as I fill my belly with cookie-butter-laden cream. I suspect future historians will dig me out of a landfill of empty ice cream containers. I will have no regrets.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 220 calories, 130 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Cookie swirls, cookie swirls, everywhere, everywhere. Gritty cinnamon goodness. Solid vanilla-cream base. Less sugar than most powerbars. Good for breakfast. Good for dinner. Supports dairy farmers. The Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.
Cons: Could have EVEN MORE cookie swirls. And more cookie swirls. Ice cream base may be too sweet for some. Being buried in a landfill of ice cream pints. Poor grammar. Karma-related injuries. The wrath of Zeus.

REVIEW: Hostess Chocodile Twinkies

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies

I am an animal.

An animal with all the habits, flaws, and self-imposed delusions that accompany being a carbon-constructed mammal with opposable thumbs, and thus I found myself appreciating all these animal traits as I put those opposable thumbs in my special lunchtime skill: ripping open the cellophane wrapper of a snack cake.

I’ve eaten enough Ding-Dongs, Yodels, and other snack-cakes-with-onomatopoeic-names to fill the pages of a small comic book series. Needless to say, I was celebratory in discovering that Hostess’s former West Coast exclusive, the Chocodile, had been reintroduced and expanded its horizons, migrating to shelves around all around this fine country. If you, like me, find yourself clawing for the Zingers and Sno-balls, shaking the vending machine for that last pack of Zebra Cakes, that one Oatmeal Crème Pie, come, fellow snacker, and we shall delve into plastic-wrapped horizons.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Chocodile in its natural habitat

I can think of 12 good reasons why a miniature oblong cake is better than a cupcake. One is that you are now equipped with a contextually sensible way to use “oblong” in a sentence. Another is that the cake specimen has equal frosting distribution. In a cupcake, there’s often a glob of frosting, pillowing at the top. Even worse, sometimes, you even have to play favorites: do I want the cupcake with the sprinkles or the one with the fancy frosting ribbon on top? Then, you have to fight for the one you want before someone else gets it (“Get away! That’s my frosting ribbon!”).

Here, not so much. Every cake is the same. Not only do you get a glaze of chocolatey something enveloping your cake in an even layer, but you also get crème filling all the way through. There’s no overwhelming decision-making. No “perfect ratio.” No, “Should I go for the middle first, or save the middle bite for last while sacrificing my fingers as they’re trying to work around the edges so I can save the pile of frosting?” None of that. It’s equally massive poofs of frosting. All day. All the time.

Needless to say, I’m excited. Just crackling open that thin plastic wrapper is enough to take me back to the days of elementary school cafeterias and Chuck E. Cheese Birthday cakes.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Chocodile doppelganger

And the first few bites were pretty good, but as I continued, the magic descended at madcap speed. It was the chocolate that started it all. Tasting of burnt cocoa and stubby crayons, that shiny mahogany glaze seems as though it might be better suited melted down and repurposed as a wax celebrity at Madame Tussaud’s. There was perhaps a hint of cocoa in there, but, on the whole, it had all the excitement of candle drippings, old raisins, and Sad.

The saving grace came in the crème filling. Like the classic Twinkie, this crème is poofy and tastes of Betty Crocker frosting that’s been pummeled into a Marshmallow Fluff machine. Or Marshmallow Fluff that’s been pummeled into a Betty Crocker frosting machine. Either way, there’s definitely sugar in celebratory abundance. While made of questionable ingredients, I could scoop this with my paw and eat it like a Pooh bear.

But not even those sweet hydrogenated poofs can save the cake. While I enjoy traditional Twinkies for their spongy, slightly oily character and fake vanilla-y flavor, this thing was like eating a loofa. A dry, unflavored loofa. The crème gave it the sugar it needed to upgrade its taste to that of a stale, dry doughnette, but, overall, that Loofa Cake combined with a raisin-wood-wax coating? No bueno.

Hostess Chocodile Twinkies Quick Batman, get some milk for that loofa cake!

I wish I could glorify these Chocodiles. I love weird finger cakes. Snarfing a double-snack-pack is my special lunchtime skill. I may have ordered a case of expired Twinkies 8 months after Hostess shut down (Moldy Twinkies, people. Moldy. Twinkies.). So I’d really like to give these a sparkling grade. But I just can’t. Sure, the crème was good, but…loofa cake. Waxy coating. To say it lived up to its Hostess brethren would be a lie. Lies are no good for you. No good for me. However, let me take note that these are not inedible, and, in fact, are far better than other experiences I could imagine in my life, such as perpetual B.O. or death by toilet paper.

So if you like loofa cake, stale doughnettes, and things that are marginally better than death by 2-ply, go for it. Otherwise, I’d approach with a wary step.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Chocodile Twinkies
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Met Foods
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Even frosting distribution. Good crème-to-cake ratio. Poofy, sugary crème. Wrapper is excellent way to exercise your opposable thumbs. Better than death by toilet paper.
Cons: Loofa Cake. Waxy-woodsy coating. The fight for the frosting ribbon. Madame Tussaud’s. Wrestling matches with vending machines. Elementary school cafeterias.

REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Advice to my 3-year-old self from the future:

1) Don’t put Barbie in the microwave.
2) Alistair Cookie is your mentor. Watch him. Glean from him many morals.
3) Remember: Play-Doh hamburgers are not actual hamburgers, even when you dip them in Ranch dressing.

Somewhere down this list, I’d probably put, “Try, just try, to eat your carrots.” While I always liked my broccoli, it’s the carrots that gave me grief as a kid. They’re sweet, but stringy. Woodsy, but super “orange-y.” Absolutely mushy when overcooked, but slap me sideways when done right. I hate them. But I love them.

So I’m celebrating my love/hate relationship. And celebrations demand sugar and sugar demands cake and cake demands to be deep-fried. That’s the scientific chain of events, right?

Well, that’s what Krispy Kreme thinks with their newest iteration on deep-fried toroids, all gussied up to resemble carrot cake.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Deep fried cake of vegetables

Devotees of the dense cake doughnut, celebrate: this dough is a solid cake specimen, sturdy enough for the deepest dip in your tea/coffee/milkshake. While perhaps a smidge dry, it’s chock full of a cinnamon-sugar-honey sweetness accompanied by specks of raisin nibs and carrot shreds that give it a little zing. Said carrot and raisin nibbles may not be abundant in number, but are present enough to add their trademark sweetness without making the doughnut taste like Old McDonald’s Farm.

And the frosting. It’s everywhere. On the doughnut. On my fingers. On my elbows (how did it get there?). I love it. The film of cream-cheesish frosting/glaze on top is a smidge tangy, but mostly adds a sugary sweetness that rounds out the out-of-season (but still delicious) blend of fall spices. There’s even a sheen of regular sugar glaze beneath the cream cheese icing for extra sweetness. All this melted sugar leaves a slight film of oil and glaze on your hands, but, so long as you have some napkins and don’t wear neatly pressed white linen gloves all the time, this shouldn’t be a problem.*

*I just realized: Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny will both have this problem. Take off your gloves, guys!

What’s better is, as you make your way to the center, you uncover the crispy little bit in the middle of the doughnut’s ring. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that ring where the doughnut hole was carved out. It’s crunchy, sweet, gooped with frosting, just on the cusp of being burnt. My favorite. This is why I spend them dolla dolla bills.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Yes, that is a mug from the Museum of the History of Tow Trucks

In an unofficial endorsement of the food pyramid, Krispy Kreme is providing you with a prime opportunity to overachieve in your life by consuming both fruit (raisins) and vegetables (carrots) via cake.

Unless my taste buds are undergoing some sort of reverse trauma from a hyperglycemic fit, the end result was tasty: the cake was cinnamon-y, the carrots were present without being stringy or overbearingly “orange-y,” the cinnamon and nutmeg gave some subtle spice, there was deep-frying going on, a few raisins splattered here and there added chewiness, and the tangy frosting added some cheesy zing. I may have even detected a hint of citrus zest in there? Oh, Krispy, you sneaky, conniving, brilliant conglomeration. Not a perfect ‘nut, but pretty good.

(Nutrition Facts – 340 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut
Purchased Price: $1.10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Krispy Kreme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Solid cinnamon cakey goodness. Deep-fried. Cream cheese icing. Sugary glaze. Chewy raisin bits. Good for dipping. Fulfilling fruit/vegetable requirement via cake. Morals gleaned from Alistair Cookie.
Cons: Cake gets a little oily. Could maybe use more carrots/raisins. Crestfallen pineapple lovers. Reflecting on the foolishness of my three-year-old self. Consequences of putting Barbie in the microwave.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Sometimes you have one of those days. You drop your toothbrush in the toilet. You eat shell in your scrambled eggs. You get attacked by three nefarious pigeons while walking to the pharmacy and break your sunglasses.

Such was the day I was having when I walked into a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, half-blind from my sunglasses-less eyes. Craving something to promote my tooth decay, Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream seemed like my Golden Ticket.

Sweet cream. Chocolate ice cream. Caramel clusters. Fudge almonds. Marshmallow swirl. Sounds like a mish-mosh put together by especially creative carnies with ingredients that would make the Grinch’s hearts grow to the strength of 10 Grinches (plus 2). How will its tastes settle on a non-Grinch? Only one way to find out…

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream Must find all the clusters!

Gilly (played by Kristen Wiig) is known as the rambunctious rally-rouser in the Saturday Night Live classroom, having created all sorts of semi-violent mischief, including walloping buckets of Chunky Monkey ice cream at the teacher. That same degree of mischief is evidenced here by the multitude of kooky ingredients pummeled into this frozen dairy concoction.

Let’s start with the two bases: the swirl of sweet cream and chocolate ice creams is distinct. The sweet cream portion reminds me of milk that’s been artfully infused with Frosted Flakes while the chocolate tastes light and sugary, much similar to a Hershey’s bar. It’s perhaps not the best chocolate you’ve had in your life, but definitely lovable. When the two mix together, that chocolate flavor takes over while a tinge of hyper sweetness comes at the back end from the sweet cream, making for a very, very light milk chocolate base. It’s dense and creamy, even if perhaps a bit subtle for my inner chocolate fiend.

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream The Cluster Cave

But what I’m really here for are the mix-ins. Just look at that rocky terrain obstructing the creaminess. Clusters! Fudgy almonds! Those fudge almonds add a deeper dimension in the universe of chocolates, touting more of a semisweet profile than the base, while the almonds contribute their thudding crunch more than any notable flavor. And, oh yes, the marshmallow swirl: it’s goopy, in that humble marshmallow fluff way, although its one-note, straight-up-sugar flavor comes across tame against the subtly cocoa-y base, a shame as the marshmallow swirl in Phish Food ranks up there in my personal Ultimate Favorite Ice Cream Experiences of All Time Ever.

But, meanwhile, the clusters. Man, those clusters. Those chunky, sweet caramel little crunches add more than all the heart, stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons combined. Chunky. Lightly burnt sugar. A tad sticky. Part of this balanced breakfast. But there aren’t enough of them! Must find all the chunkies! Must eat a whole bowl! Someone must turn these chunkies into a granola. Immediately.

My dad always told me good things come to those who persevere. But sometimes, persevering isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to wait. In a line. For 32 minutes. With a screaming three-year-old. And a tall man’s sweaty armpit in your nose. But the key is to never lose sight of the goal, for the goal will be your reward.

In this case, I was rewarded with some high-quality ice cream and, while it was good, I don’t think I’d go back for Gilly’s. The ingredients were all high quality, yet they mixed together in an altogether subtle way. It almost represents the wackadoodle character of Gilly. It had the kooky ingredients, yet the delivery was muddled. Perhaps more of those amazing clusters, some richer chocolate in the base, maybe a hint of something gritty, like a graham cracker or cookie, and BOOM. It’d be Gilly madness all up in here.

But just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it can’t be for you. If you like crunchy, caramel things, almonds, and subtle milk chocolate ice cream, this is worth persevering for. It’s really a good ice cream. Don’t be ashamed of your flavor preferences! Find the chunkies! Eat them all! Persevere!

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 250 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: 1 scoop
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop (Rockefeller Center)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crunchies! Lovable chocolate base. Thuddy almonds. Slow melting. Fudge coating adds different dimension of chocolate. Creative carnies.
Cons: Needs more clusters. Milk chocolate base may be too subtle for some. Marshmallow gets lost in sweet cream. Dropping your toothbrush in the toilet. Getting attacked by three nefarious pigeons.