REVIEW: Project 7 Birthday Cake Gourmet Gummies

Project 7 Birthday Cake Gourmet Gummies

Science!

It is long-winded!

What with its Bunsen burners, vacuum filters, and radioactive delocalized atoms, science can leave even the most educated scratching their heads about what in the world C12H22O11 is. Indeed, the mere mention of the periodic table can transform the average-and-everyday into the daunting, ruthless, and unfamiliar.

But, as I learned the time I used physics to whack open a piñata while bouncing on a trampoline, just because science can be unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s bad. Sometimes one must use science to venture into the unknown. Must harness it to go where no one has gone. Must employ it to take up fly-fishing, win at Ping-Pong, or do the moonwalk in polka-dotted boxer shorts. As humans, we must push, pull, challenge, wring, and wrestle so that we may grow. Science can help us do this.

And sometimes this integration of science involves transforming a fluffy, frosted loaf into blushing ursidae-shaped confectionary. Such is the case with these Project 7 gummies, which dare to take on birthday cake as the inspiration for their squishy bears. But will science follow through? And, if so, will it serve us better? Or will we be consumed by gelatinous radioactive sludge? Fire up the atomizer. We’re diving in.

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Well, pull out your shades and put on your blinders ‘cause these bears tumble out with a red-pink hue that’d rival Kirby eating strawberries in a Hello Kitty Store. The gummies smell quite unique, wavering between whiffs of vanilla Jell-O, pound cake, and, oddly enough, that first moment one walks into a Laser Tag room when the fog machine is at full blast. Special effect smells aside, the bears are soft, squishy, and with their massive googly eyes, likely to both inspire and scare the living daylights out of you.

You wanted your birthday cake chocolate? Strawberry? Coffee caramel with marshmallow fluff? This terrain is not for you. Soft and stretchy with a hint of Chuck E. Cheese Birthday Cake, these bears are straight up vanilla. Nothing more. Nothing less. The bears start with a sweet, saccharine sugar spike that mellows out into the mellow vanilla. It’s not too exciting, but definitely pleasant enough in a humble, uncomplicated way. There’s even a certain brightness at the end, probably from the 100 percent vitamin C they’ve crammed into ‘em. That’s right: you can prevent scurvy. Birthday Cake Gummies can help.

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Science came. Science saw. Science did a bunch of chemical interactions. Maybe something exploded (because what’s good science without explosions?).

What emerged from the mist are these wacky, vanilla-forward gummies tinted in a pink so deep they could stomp on Barbie’s trademark. While the flavor doesn’t blow my mind, the vanilla is pleasantly simple and the concept of specialty gummies is kind of (definitely) spectacular. Perhaps Project 7 will Jelly-Belly-ify their gummies, expanding into the realms of pancakes and pina coladas. My appreciation of this gummy’s vanilla flavor, coupled with a hope that Project 7 will create a buttered popcorn-flavored gummy, is enough to encourage me to pick these up on occasion. If you like your pink with a shot of vanilla and vitamin C, these are worth a shot.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 pieces – 130 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 0 mg of potassium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2 oz package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Squishy. Sweet. Mellow, non-chemically vanilla flavor. Prevents scurvy. Kirby at the Hello Kitty Store. Using physics to whack a piñata. Polka-dotted underwear. Science!
Cons: Has googly eyes that haunt you. Not inclusive of all Birthday Cake flavors (yet). Questionable smell of fog effects at Laser Tag. May bring back traumatic Chuck E. Cheese Birthday memories. Radioactive sludge.

REVIEW: Peeps Cotton Candy Marshmallow Chicks

Peeps Cotton Candy Marshmallow Chicks

Let the record state: you are not likely to win former middle school crushes, current middle school crushes, or Santa Claus over with Peeps. Peeps are prepackaged, factory-formed one-noters. They are not handmade. They are not farm-to-table. They are sugary, squishy, mildly impersonal marshmallow chickens poofed out in Pennsylvania.

But if you are a candy loyalist of the sort who is not deterred by waxy eyeballs or the radioactive glow of their outer sheen, Peeps has enough varieties to fill a Container Store, not to mention the 18-foot-deep hole in my heart, but before I go on branding a marshmallow chicken on my left deltoid, I guess I should try ‘em all, and today? We go for Cotton Candy.

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With June stretching out over 80 days in the future, I can think of no better time than now to be reminded of a carnival, and ripping open this quintet of Peeps does just that, knocking me upside the head with sparkly wonder and a smell that blends a distinct sugary brightness with Strawberry Jolly Ranchers, Vanilla Febreze, and Bubblicious. Who needs Disneyland when you have Peeps?

(Okay, I need Disneyland. Especially Space Mountain.)

But much like the overpriced snow globe at the Miami Airport, these glitzy chicks are all flash with little substance, holding only a faint essence of its spun-sugar inspiration. While the marshmallow itself still has that special taste that can only emerge when sucrose and corn syrup combine, only faint blips of vanilla extract, strawberry, and bubblegum pop in.

Taken as a whole, the flavor is sharply sugar-forward, tasting more of a regular marshmallow that was swapped at birth and doomed to an existence with the incorrect moniker. While a trifle disappointing for those looking for a more robust flavor, I must admit that this humble sugar flavor harkens back to cotton candy’s main goal: to serve as a vehicle through which you might funnel simplified carbohydrates into your sugar-depraved body, and why should you deny yourself? Life’s tough. Sugar’s great.

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So, while they may cling to cotton candy’s legacy as a sugar-laden snack, this ensemble of chickadees tastes about as bold as faded paisley curtains. Perhaps it’s the batch. Perhaps it’s the Red #40. Perhaps it’s in the alignments of stars, Jupiter, and ill-directed DirecTV satellites, but I dare say these could use a little oomph.

That said, one might also say that this inconsistency is part of the true carnival experience. Just like balloon animals, dart games, and questionably constructed wooden roller coasters, cotton candy is not necessarily meant to be treated as a work of perfection, but more as a bright, mildly risky, fun treat, and these chicks? Achieve that. No ticket required. They may not warrant a permanent tattoo, but I could see a temporary tattoo going on.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 chicks – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 0 mg of potassium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 32 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 1.5 oz. package/5 chicks
Purchased at: Walgreens (a Walgreens exclusive)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fun. Shimmery. Not unpleasant vehicle for sugar. The Container Store. Space Mountain. Future plans to tattoo marshmallow chickadee on deltoid.
Cons: Missing the strawberry/vanilla/bubblegum flavors. Sugar crust falls off easily. Red Dye #40. One-note. Will not win former middle school crushes. Will not win current middle school crushes. Overpriced snow globes at the Miami Airport.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies

The year was 1922 when Sir Leonard Woolley began his excavation of the Mesopotamian city-state of Ur. It was here where he found a pair of dice dating back 4000 years, thus proving that humans have been degenerate gamblers since the ancients.

And it looks like Oreo is here to carry on the gambling legacy.

Indeed, diving headfirst into max-capacity, all-hands-on-deck lunacy, Oreo follows the shadow of its perfect cinnamon bun predecessor with a take on the original Hostess Cupcake, a nostalgic (if sometimes dry) packaged good with a highly specific flavor and repute of great renown.

No matter your thoughts on the Hostess chocolate cupcake itself, there’s no denying its very specific, mildly chocolate-y, super sweet, slightly preservative-twinged taste. To take on such a classic calls only the High Rollers to the gambling halls, but do you hear the wind? That’s the whisper of an Oreo accepting a challenge.

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The chocolate cookies are of the classic disc form, providing the crisp, dark, earthy, almost French-roasted-coffee chocolate flavor that toes the line of sugary charcoal briquettes while still avoiding tasting like you’re gnawing on your grill grates.

The chocolate frosting is dark and sugary as well, but also slightly muted, like dark chocolate that got sent through the car wash. It wants to harken back to Brownie Batter Oreos, but lacks the same fudgy, dark chocolate pudding-like flavor. No biggie, though. It’s really just a protective circumference for the dollop of white frosting in the center.

Hyper-sweet like the classic, yet also gooier that regular Oreo creme, the cookie’s center dab of white floof strikes a special place between Betty Crocker Frosting and Toaster Strudel Decorative Icing. What’s more, its unobstructed sugar balances out the roasted dark chocolate cookie with a texture and flavor that revives the cookie from the dull chocolate frosting, harkening back to the contrasts that gave the original cookie its reputation: the bitter with the sweet. The crunchy with the creamy. The Surrealist experience with the Euclidean Geometry of cookie design. That’s real life mathematics.

For a company that’s constructed its status on how to eat sandwich cookies, these new biscuits present new horizons. Sure, you can still chomp, twist, nibble, and dunk, but you can also eat just the creamy white center separately. You can have the icing all in one go. You can twist and dip your cookie in the white floof like a nacho. You can stack, dissolve, crush, crumble, and cure the common cold. (This statement has not been approved by the FDA.)

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What with their apparent skill at taking gambles, it’s a wonder that Oreo hasn’t launched a car line, lifestyle website, and competitive TV series. While some of Oreo’s efforts have seen immediate demise, this new spin does a moderately good job. The hyper-sweet frosting coupled with the surrounding dark chocolate harkens back to the flavors of its Hostess inspiration. Unfortunately, the humdrum chocolate frosting alongside the notably small number of cookies given in the limited time package mutes the experience a bit.

All in all, though, I can’t be too disappointed: the floof of white crème, crispy cookie, innovative construction, and capacity to be a massive Dunkaroo brings them up past Average to Enjoyable. They’re sugary, slightly chocolate-y, and do a respectable job at mirroring their inspiration. Heck, if you pay close attention, you can even taste the whisper of preservatives at the end. That’s detail.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 50 mg of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and Less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crispy chocolate cookie. Floofy, sweet white frosting. Potential to be a massive Dunkaroo. Mimics Hostess Cupcake flavors well. Geometry in real life. Ancient Mesopotamian city-states.
Cons: Not much different than an original Oreo. Chocolate frosting got sent through the car wash. Package is significantly smaller than standard Oreos. Not yet proven to cure the common cold. Lifestyle websites.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Molten Chocolate Macarons

Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Macarons

Let me guess. It’s a weekday. You’re busy. Too busy.

If you’re lucky you have a whole extra 2 minutes and 45 seconds to put your lasagna in the microwave, take out the trash, put on a cleaner pair of pants, and water the petunias. Wait, do you have a garden??? Who cares. Dump some water somewhere. This is no day for stops. No day for gentle meandering. No day for the 2 hours and waaay too many steps it takes to make a macaron.

Nonetheless, you want one.

So it was for me last Wednesday. Thus, low on blood sugar and pressed for time, my hand did not hesitate when I saw my craving had been sloshed through a Dexter’s Laboratory ray to create some giganto incarnation that may or may not come alive and try to take control of the city. They were huge. They were chocolate. They would be mine.

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First off, let’s get the overgrown, bloated elephant out of the room: the instructions suggest that the reader microwave these pastry beasts.

Resist.

Put your hand down. Step away from the cubic kitchen appliance. Look, I tried using el microondas with one of them and the thing came out with a half exploded, half burnt filling and a soggy cookie. In hindsight, this makes sense: microwaves cook the water inside the cookie. That water turns to steam. Steam makes soggy cookies. Soggy cookies makes puppies cry. Don’t make puppies cry.

Instead, I advise keeping these in the refrigerator and enjoying them at room temp. In this incarnation, the cookies are pretty boss. The outer crust crackles while the inside remains not too puffy and not too squishy in that “just right” way that makes Goldilocks wanna bust a move.

From there, it only gets better. The dark chocolate filling is piled in a hunk of nutty, roasty, fudgy goo whose depth contrasts well with the sweet cocoa cookies and whose richness could knock my Italian grandpa outta his pinstripe suit (love ya, grandpa!).

As if that weren’t enough, that filling is capped with a layer of some sort of nutty paste. Not Nutella, but rather some thick chocolate goo that, from what I can gather, has toasty nutty nubs (are they almonds?).

Sure, it may all be nothing beyond a glorified, high-quality chocolate frosting, but I’m admittedly a sucker for such things. Of course, the nuance of the filling is all lost if you slip these in microwave, so don’t listen to the instructions. The box tells lies. Lies!

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There is an admirable pugnacity about taking something splendid in its ordinary form and making it massive, but, as I learned from that classic box office flop, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, one must approach one’s gigantified power with caution lest chaotic, giant-baby-induced destruction ensue.

Similarly, these cookies have benefits and downfalls in their bulk. On the one hand, you get served an enormous, tip-top, mildly unorthodox chocolate cookie. On the other, said cookie can get overwhelming, overloading you with sugar and richness and lies about putting them in the microwave. Then again, these boulder-sized hunks become pretty grand when eaten defrosted at room temperature, retaining a crisp crust, soft cookie, and rich ganache filling.

Sure, they’re not too spiffy and won’t be replacing Francois Payard anytime soon, but did I mention they’re huge? Huge. If you eat one, you should wait 45 minutes before swimming or waive any complaints of digestive issues.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Macaron – 390 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 39 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein..)

Item: Trader Joe’s Molten Chocolate Macarons
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 2-pack/7 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Massive. No oven required. Crust on outside. Sweet, soft cookie insides. Nutty, slightly bitter dark chocolate filling. “Pugnacity” is a lovely word. Will make my grandpa jump out of his pinstripe suit.
Cons: May be too massive. A little hum-drum. Microwave gives poor results. The box tells lies. Crying puppies. All that time I wasted watching Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cherry Cordial Delight Peeps

Limited Edition Cherry Cordial Delight Peeps

As far as childhood traumas go, cherry cordials are on the “Really, why didn’t you address this with your therapist?” list.

At seven years of age, my first efforts with cordials were an immediate disaster with red cherry, fondant, and shards of milk chocolate splashing all over my favorite Looney Tunes t-shirt (how I loved that shirt!). I tried to wash it out, but alas, not even Snuggle the Bear could save that humble garment. While I loved the taste of the cordial, fear of ruining the rest of my favorite t-shirts detracted me from ever returning to cherry cordials again.

Until today.

It seems Peeps, in all their tidy, poofy, non-goo-filled selves, are inviting me to make amends with my cherry cordial childhood traumas by putting those flavors into marshmallow form, which is a good thing because chocolate, cherry, and sugar? That’s a recipe for a party.

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Right out of the cellophane, the smell makes it clear that chocolate and cherry run the show. If you’ve ever wanted Febreze to make an air freshener that smells like maraschino cherries and brownie batter, this is for you: the bright, sugared cherry aroma completely absorbs the smell of anything within a two-foot radius.

And that smell immediately transports into the flavor. These fluffy little devils hold nothing back, going full-throttle for artificial cherry. Biting in, the red crystal sugar flecks crisp through before breaking into a white marshmallow fluffier than the luxury bath towels at the Ritz.

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The cherry flavor harkens back to a cherry popsicle or Skittle: a little tart, extremely sweet, and mildly bitter. The dark chocolate, while not astounding, is also not palm oil gunk.

On its own, it’s like a mock-up of a Dark Dove Promise, adding a woodsy note with a bit of brownie batter sweetness, but, when taken with the marshmallow, the chocolate gets swept away in the wake of cherry flavor. This can be overwhelming as the cherry, when taking in multiple bites, starts verging on medicinal, harkening back to days of tissues and trying to stomach cherry cough syrup. Those are sad days. There is no need for sad days.

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It has occurred to me that there will be a time, probably soon, in which I have a traumatic encounter with a chicken that somehow deters me from eating chickadee-shaped products. Until then, I will keep trying all the versions of Peeps, holding that particular fear, reluctance, and joy that comes with peculiar flavor efforts.

These particular Peeps could’ve suffered (as they sometimes do) by being a little too sweet, but the monitored three-chick pack kept things in check. The biggest downfall was the extent to which the fake cherry flavors muscled out the chocolate, but, taken as a whole, these reminded me of cordials: cherry takes the lead, fondant (or sugary marshmallow) stands as a sidekick, and chocolate is a background character. Not an unimportant character, per se. More like the Cabbage Vendor in Avatar: adding color and depth without being allotted much time for development.

All that said, if you love cherries, sugar, and chickadees that stare at you ominously, these are worth dishing out $1.99 to give ‘em a shot.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 Chicks – 150 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Cherry Cordial Delight Peeps
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 3 pack/1.5 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cherry cordial flavors in marshmallow form. Cherry flavor similar to cherry Skittles. Quite puffy. Crispy sugar outside. No goo is involved. Non-palm-oil chocolate is used. The Cabbage Vendor in Avatar
Cons: Cherry overpowers chocolate. Red dye adds bitterness. Chickadees stare at you ominously. Childhood traumas involving cherry cordials. Non-childhood traumas involving chickens.

REVIEW: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

Eat your fruit. It’s good for you, they say. It gives you antioxidants, they say. It turns you into an Animorph and lets you shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs, they say. (They actually only say two of these. I’ll let you choose which.)

But sometimes, you don’t want fruit. Not fresh, dried, packaged or plain. Sometimes you want dye-colored, artificially-enhanced pretend fruit in all its sucrose-filled glory. BUT just because it’s pretend doesn’t mean we lower our standards. We want funky grapes, sweet-tart lemons, and a strawberry so balanced and sweet, it makes umami disappear. Who shall take up the reins and harken to our plea for a strawberry-inspired white chocolate? Who shall deliver it in morsel form??

Well, M&M’s gave it a shot.

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The multi-colored morsels tumble out of the bag, bumbling about in their charming, misshapen way. Indeed, M&M’s could start a Home Depot paint line with as many colors as they shroud their candies in these days. This time around, Mars stuck with a white, light pink, and beige color palette, or, as the paint-namers say, “Minced Onion, Palace Rose, and Vanilla Clay.”

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The bits smell distinctly of the brightness that comes from opening a bag of Skittles, and, indeed, the first bite reminds me of a Strawberry Skittle, with its sweet, floral strawberry flavor and crunchy outer shell. The shell immediately crumbles, leaving the white chocolate center to melt into goo, coating your mouth with a light, Starburst-like strawberry sweetness.

The chocolate’s not nuanced or particularly high quality, but, if my eyes don’t deceive, the ingredients list includes cocoa-butter-filled white chocolate rather than, “White Confection,” which might be better described as, “Nefarious, sweetened Vasoline born to create destruction.”

And using that white chocolate pays off. With a hint of vanilla and sugar-filled creaminess, the elements come together just enough to remind me of the strawberry and whipped topping (think: Cool Whip from the tub) often found in strawberry shortcake. Okay, so it’s missing the whole “Shortbread Biscuit” thing, but I enjoy my strawberry-shortcake-inspired bits nonetheless, reveling in the fact that I didn’t even have to open an oven to achieve such joy. Laziness, for the win.

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Life is fraught with dangers, both real and imagined. Strawberry-shortcake-flavored candy should not be one of them. M&M’s knows this. They made a sweet, strawberry morsel that harkens back to a Strawberry Skittle (my favorite flavor) enmeshed with their fudgy white chocolate.

Sure, it’s a bit sweet, not the best quality chocolate, doesn’t include a shortcake biscuit, and won’t replace your everyday fruits (remember: you need that fruit so you can shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs), but, for 2016, I hear many folks hope to do more of what they love. Hypothesizing that M&M’s likes cranking out a whole bunch of seasonally flavored morsels, it looks like M&M’s plans to do that, too. If this is how doing more of what you love tastes, I have hope.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz – 210 calories, 100 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strawberry Skittles. Crunchy shell. Creamy center. Actual white chocolate. Cool Whip from the tub. Laziness, for the win. Fruit that turns you into an Animorph.
Cons: Where’s the shortcake? Will not appeal to those who are Strawberry Starbursts/Skittles haters. Not the best quality white chocolate. Life is fraught with dangers. Being faced with too many paint colors.