REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter

Has everyone gone on vacation without you? Are they lounging in their getaway cabins while you swoon from your dusty, fluorescent-lit alcove? Are they showing you their long weekends on various social media mediums, tempting you with visions of homemade apple cobbler and piles of fall leaves? Are you feeling very much like you are not one of these vacationers? Maybe now is the time for an acceptable pity party. And I have just the snack to wash it down.

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter And we get a close up

Gooey, spreadable, and with just enough grit to give it crunch, cookie butter came to America in a surge, flooding aisles with a vow to nourish the Food Pyramid’s need for palm oil and pulverized cookie nubs (I’m pretty much sure my brain is composed 10 percent thought and 90 percent cookie nubs). This Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter extends that promise, allowing for the concept of bittersweet fudge cookies and sugary frosting to come together in a surface that’s as smooth as all the freshly fallen snow outside of Mr. Puff’s house.

A swipe into the smooth white cream brings me straight to the sugar frosting of an Oreo: a little gritty, very sweet, and a hint of coconut. Not “tropical sunscreen” coconut, just a slightly floral whiff, like the gentle breeze on a summer day if that summer day were also doused in super sugary goo.

The Oreo taste profile also makes its presence known on the dark chocolate end: cocoa, a hint of coffee, an edge of that dark, nearly-burnt crunch, and a solid sugar surge give it all it needs to feel at home in the Oreo family. The two flavors combine to form a smooth, easily consumed Oreo-like spread, and, thus, my brain is now composed of 95 percent cookie nubbins and 5 percent thoughts (3 percent of which are centered around which cookies to bake for spreading said cookie nubbins on).

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter Right off the spoon

Oreo built a reputation around eating cookies in wacky ways, so it should come to reason that this spread might encourage similarly adventurous snacking styles. Having consumed three servings in 7.5 minutes, the sugar rush cracks open the spread’s possibilities in my mind. Make s’mores. Dollop on ice cream. Spread on Pop Tarts. Drizzle on cinnamon rolls. Eat from the jar. Finish jar. Realize you must now buy another jar and eat from that jar. Eat all the jars! With this expansive ability to transform, you carry the equivalent of the body of an ancient wizard in your pocket. Just remember: with such great power comes great responsibility. Dunk wisely.

Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter Dunk wisely

With its brave interpretation of two already-loved staples, this Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter reminds me to live life on the edge: adopt a highway! Learn Butoh! Become the Government Agent specializing in Meteorology and Produce Distribution! You never know when you’ll slip into a coma and get stuck in the confines of your subconscious, so you might as well put on your badass pants.

And definitely get this cookie butter. Plunk it on stuff. Watch as the object you consume transforms it into something stupendous. You’ll forget about that pity party you were planning. Promise.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 tablespoons – 210 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Cookies & Creme Cookie Butter
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 14.1 oz. jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Dark, dutch cocoa-y fudge. Both smooth and chunky. Sweet frosting. Easy medium to eat more Oreo-like goods. Allows you to forget about pity parties. Highway adoption. Butoh.
Cons: Really, are there any? Okay, maybe it’s hard to stop eating. Really hard. And it may be too sweet/overly chocolatey for some. But it’s so good. May cause brain to be composed of more cookie than thoughts. Not being on vacation.

REVIEW: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gums

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum

In the land of guar gum and sucralose, where the pumpkins and gourds lie…

Two brands.
Many layers.
One flavor to rule them all.

Yes, it’s Pumpkin Spice Season, and, in the legion of opportunities to build up your pumpkin spice endurance, Extra and Trident are throwing themselves in the sumo circle to see which can make the product with just enough squash, just enough cinnamon, just enough grit, to transform a dessert of caramelized orange vegetables into a new and potentially terrifying medium.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident-Extra face-off

With enough tire tread marks to wrap around a Ford F-150, the Extra pieces serve up a classic, slim look. The Layers, on the other hand, are the prodigy of pudgy, 3-dimensional nubbins, the Tetris blocks of a former life, if you will.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident Tetris!

And, much like Tetris blocks, there is no pumpkin in either gum. No pumpkin at all. But a chewer still gets many of the sensations that a pumpkin-spiced treat might bring (sweetness, warmth, cinnamon spice). The Extra smooshes the sugar-and-spice sweetness in one bite, with an emphasis on the sweet coming together to taste something like a strongly cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie (or, more accurately, a cinnamon-spiced Juicy Fruit).

There aren’t any squash notes, but there is a strong emphasis on caramelized sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruity clove. It’s hyper-sweet and the spice fills me with Christmas optimism, and, as we all know, it’s so easy to accomplish stuff when filled with Christmas optimism. I even cleaned my house thanks to Extra gum.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum This clean house is brought to you by Extra gum

On the other end of the spectrum is the Trident, which has all the looks and smells of a Yankee Candle store in October, combining the familiar spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sweetness. I have my hopes up, but as I start to chew…

Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi? Where Jabba’s henchmen are sucked into the maw of a gaping sandpit, wherein they are chewed and ddigested? That is how I felt while chewing the Trident: it starts off super sweet, but then eeks out into an amalgamation of popcorn, plastic, Halls cough drops, and those name-brand white jelly beans.

The spice is equivalent to gnawing on a basket of potpourri and, in a mere 47 seconds (47 SECONDS!), the gum got tough as the girders of Scottish gentlemen. Unless you have recently lost your sense of taste or have a particular nostalgia for gnawing on Goodyear Tires baked in a vat nutmeg, I’d recommend putting your pumpkin pie money elsewhere.

The Extra on the other hand? It had a solid 3-5 minute run before losing flavor, and even then, it had a soft chew and spice that stayed. Is it the sorbital? The soy lechithin? The Acesulfame-K? I dunno, but I do know that Acesulfame-K is almost as fun to say as “Stoichiometric ratio” or, “nuclear binary fission.” Thankfully, Acesulfame is not as intense or damaging to your internal organs as nuclear binary fission. Yay for not chewing nuclear radiation!

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum The winner and grand champion

When I was 8 years old, I decided I’d be a Detroit Lions quarterback. As a 4.5-foot, 65-pound human who couldn’t get past the third rung on the climbing rope, I knew this was unlikely, but certainly not impossible, so I tried anyway.

Similarly, the concept of creating a gum that mimics pumpkin pie is far-reaching, but not ludicrous, and Extra did a respectable job here. While neither match the pie experience to the “–nth” degree, Extra takes a notable lead over Trident with its longer chew time and greater sense of roundedness in flavor, but just know that, like a 4.5-foot, 65-pound 8-year-old pretending to be an NFL quarterback, it still can’t quite replace the real thing.

(Nutrition Facts – Extra – less than 5 calorie, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein. Trident – 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1 pack/15 pieces
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fruity clove. Nice vanilla balance. Lasts for about 3-5 minutes. Christmas optimism. Detroit Lions.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Not as aesthetically pleasing as the Trident. After 3-5 minutes, gets rubbery. Nuclear radiation.

Item: Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $2.80
Size: 3 packs (14 pieces each)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Pretty to look at. Tetris. Girders of Scottish gentlemen. Reason to talk about Return of the Jedi.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Like chewing a mix of cinnamon-spiced plastic, popcorn, and stale jellybeans. Gets tough after 47-seconds. Being chewed by a sandpit.

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.