REVIEW: Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe

Hershey's Kisses Deluxe

Does anyone remember Roller Riders? The early 90s As-Seen-On-TV “Scootboard” product with the catchy jingle (“It’s a scootboard!/That’s what it is!/Steers like a racecar/Glides like a skateboard/Roller rider: It’s a scootboard!”)

The thing looked something like this, but was targeted toward teens and tweens. Anybody? Anybody??

Because, presuming YouTube videos encompass all public knowledge, Roller Rider never existed. Indeed, there’s no visual archive, Vimeo documentary, botched soundtrack, or VCR-spliced upload that visually confirms it was a consumer product. Yet there’s a small handful of people who deeply miss it. Who long to scoot, race, and sing the song in the break room at our day job. We may be small, but our love for the product? Is significant.

Hardcore fans of Hershey Kisses are similar. We’re small time, but our devotion is huge. We seek the simple life, although there was that one incident where we had to get a root canal after we ate an entire bag of them at Timothy McDonald’s birthday after he busted open an entire piñata of them in 3rd grade. But other than that, totally simple. I am one such fan. Perhaps you are, too. We are the proud. The few. And we will not whither and die.

Knowing this base of steadfast devotees, Hershey generated a brand new Deluxe Kiss to fancy it up a bit. Filled with ganache, crispities, and a full hazelnut, it strays just enough from the original to be different, and yet remains simple enough to appeal to its pre-existing fans. Its profile sounds much like a Rocher truffle without the fancy name, thus making it both potentially delicious and a solid contender for the stocking-stuffing holidays ahead. But the question is: would Santa approve?

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Right out of the wrapper, things get off to a swift start with the unwrapped dots looking shiny as a Porsche dried with microfiber terry cloths. The little bell-like chocolate cones smell of nutty fudge and are about 2-3 times as big as the average Kiss, making them certified monsters. Delicious certified monsters.

Indeed, the experience only gets better once you bite in. On the front end, you get a shell covering a more creamy, ganache-like center that tastes distinctly of Hershey chocolate: a little chocolate frosting, a little vanilla, and that special twang of Whatever The Hell’s In There. There’s a whole, if somewhat diminutive, roasted hazelnut tucked in the middle, which adds a solid, nutty crunch to the creamy-crispy experience. Consuming said Kiss can be accomplished in two or three nibbles or one full, melty bite. I support the latter, always opting for the “Go big or miss out” philosophy.

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I have ridden in a Mercedes once in my life. The seats had air conditioning and sorta hugged you as you turn. It was cool, but I don’t see myself wanting to do it everyday. These Kisses are similar: they’re fun once in a while, but I could see them getting a little too frou-frou for everyday, especially with the high price point ($1.19 for 3 kisses).

But, perhaps money isn’t what’s important. Perhaps what’s important is that the Kiss, at its core, is still delicious. The addition of crispies and hazelnuts only highlight that fact. While I may not be able to afford them all the time, in my dreams, I will eat a bag of them while driving a Roller Rider into the sunset. Note to Santa: that would be a stunning Christmas gift.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 Kisses – 130 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe
Purchased Price: $1.19
Size: 3 Kisses
Purchased at: Rite Aid
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Chocolate frosting. Crispy texture. Ganache-like center. Crunchy roasted hazelnut. Eating a bag of Kisses out of a piñata. Roller Riders.
Cons: Pricey. Crispities add only poofy, texturized air. All those questionable ingredients. Where have all the Roller Riders gone? Mercedes seats that hug you are mildly creepy.

REVIEW: Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts

Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts

Hold the phone, lower the pitchforks, and pause the Science Channel Documentary on Unicycle Wheel Hubs because, potentially freeing us from the burden of choosing between pancakes and doughnuts ever again, Hostess has stocked the shelves with new Donettes, all gussied up with maple frosting.

This promise bodes well in a person whose fingers twiddle at the mere thought of a powdered Donette poofing the cusp of one’s upper lip. While we are few, I know there are other, like-minded packaged doughnut enthusiasts out there. These Donettes? They offer a bright new hope for both Donette aficionados and indecisive breakfast eaters alike, so put away the doughnut pan and that bottle of Aunt Jemima. There is no need for syrup where we’re going.

Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts 2

Mini doughnuts can be like small dogs: bold, yippy, potentially overrated, and/or cute. You never know what you’re going to get. In this way, they are always surprising. Here, we’ve got a crumbly cake of a doughnut. It’s moderately soft and, while not exactly fresh (hey, it’s been in a sack for a few weeks), it’s also not too dry, greasy, or messy to be offensive.

The glaze is all around and cracks through with a good combination of gritty and smooth. When combined with the neutral cake beneath, the taste comes through with vanilla, artificial maple flavor, straight sugar, and…science!

Sometimes, science has positive outcomes, like when you build a space satellite or invent a gym sock that always smells pleasant. Other times, science has negative outcomes, like when you create a shrink ray and your neighbor’s baseball crashes through a window and you accidentally shrink your offspring (lookin’ at you, Wayne Szalinski).

Here, science did okay. While all the preservatives saved the Donettes from mold and sustained its certain cakey quality, there’s still a bit of a metallic afterglow in the cake that keeps me from giving these an A-plus endorsement. Don’t get me wrong: it’s not like you’re eating the crushed metallic remains of the Terminator or anything, but the slight chemical aftertaste keeps the flavor from being the full-throttle, running-from-rampage, Terminator 2 Arnold Schwarzenegger-type of a Donette it could be.

Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts 3

As packaged donuts go, these succeed fairly well. They’re not too sweet, messy, or dry and have a delicious sugared glaze that crackles into maple-like sugar as you bite in. They’re also not perfect. Indeed, you may find yourself pushed away by the slight chemical aftertaste, the fact that they’re not doused in Grade-B maple syrup, or the non-fresh nature of Donettes as a whole.

On the other hand, if you enjoy packaged doughnuts, have a predilection toward maple syrup flavors, and struggle with Pancake-Doughnut Indecisiveness (a serious social issue), you may never have to make a decision about breakfast again, and that’s a platform I can get behind. Less stress. More mini doughnuts.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 mini donuts – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Donettes Maple Glazed Mini Donuts
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 10.5 oz package
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Not too dry. Crackly, maple-forward glaze. Thoughtful balance of sweet glaze and neutral cake. Wayne Szalinski. Infinitely pleasant-smelling gym socks. Science Channel Documentaries on Unicycle Hubs.
Cons: Still kinda dry. Cake doesn’t taste like much. Yippy small dogs. Accidentally shrinking one’s offspring.

REVIEW: Peeps Pumpkin Spice

Peeps Pumpkin Spice

For someone who is patently terrified of being pecked to death by chickens, I consume a large number of poultry-themed products. Chicken-in-a-Biskit. Donald Duck orange juice. Lemonade Peeps.

Have I mentioned the giant chocolate hen I tried to make after watching the Jacques Torres classic, “Chocolate on the Farm”? There is a reason I do not own a chocolate store.

You would think I would have worn out my consumption on bird-themed objects by now.

I have not.

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Continuing in my inane tradition to contribute to the financial wellbeing of the Just Born Company, I shelled out the $1.99 for my pack of 3 Peeps Pumpkin Spice and promptly consumed them in 82 seconds. The sugar and vanilla presides, both in smell and in flavor, while a touch of cinnamon-nutmegy earthiness lingers at the end. The spice isn’t too strong by any means, but it goes just far enough to help round out the hyper-sweet nature of marshmallow, giving it a slight “cinnamon roll” edge.

The chew is mightily squishy while the fudge is sweeter, meltier (not a word), and more questionably sourced than all the Cool Whip of my grandma’s Jell-O cakes, but what can I say? I dig ‘em.

Even with their waxy eyes and red dyes, all that chemical mish-mosh combines with the sweet spice to give these Peeps a unique zing. While I enjoyed mine in their unaltered form, I imagine these fitting just fine in some hot chocolate or, if you have a pair of scissors and some gumption, chopped into fall-inspired bowl of Lucky Charms.

I bet 9 out of 10 scientists agree that it is more fun to start your day with a bowl of chicken-shaped marshmallows, and that one other scientist who disagreed probably had a traumatic encounter with a burnt s’more as a child, so you should ignore him. Enjoy your marshmallows for breakfast.

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Look, I try to eat sophisticated sometimes, but it’s about as useful as saying I want to go to the symphony when all I really wanna do is play Donkey Kong in my turtle pajamas. The most fun proposal wins, and Peeps are audaciously fun.

Despite being overpriced and promoting tooth decay, I am likely to purchase these again, if only because they have nudged me toward the compelling notion that food created in the spirit of fun is intrinsically more delicious. Even Peeps’ Carnauba Wax googly eyes appear mesmerized by the world around them and, thus, encourage me to look at the world in the same curiosity-driven light. On taste alone, I give these a 7. For diversity, fun, and encouraging a more creative life outlook, let’s bump them up to an 8.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 chicks – 160 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 gram of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Peeps Pumpkin Spice
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 1.5 oz. package/3 chicks
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smooshy. Well-balanced spice with sweet. Melty fudge. Potential for bowl of Lucky Charms. Playing Donkey Kong in turtle pajamas. “Chocolate on the Farm.”
Cons: Carnauba wax eyeballs. All the dyes of the rainbow. So much sugar, so much potential for tooth decay. Failed attempts to become a chocolatier. Traumatic encounters with s’mores.

REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies

Let it be known that if you come over to my apartment at 7:30 with a voracious appetite, an empty plate, and a demand to be filled with a joy that surpasses that of a ghost hunter finding the apparition of Aristotle at the back of a gas station, then you are liable to get dished a plate of cookies for dinner.

If you like spice cake, crunchy things, and a dauntingly bountiful amount of orange-checkered packaging, you probably wouldn’t mind if you came over today.

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Before chomping in, let us admire the contrasting aesthetics of the Fudge Stripe: the parallel lines, the perfect ring shape, the little geometric bibbelty-bobs that pock the surface.

It’s a pattern that could rival the most intricate of doilies and possibly compete for the world’s best cross-stitching design, although I’m not 100 percent certain of that last statement. The only time I tried cross-stitching, I ended up with a “scarf” that looked like a beach towel gnawed off by Godzilla.

What I do know is that, after over 30 years, Ernie Keebler still knows how to make a mighty fine stripe cookie. Never one to hold back on the sugar intake, the cookie’s been generously shoveled with three variants of the sweet stuff, highlighting the earthy molasses against all the varieties of fructose. Combine that woodsy taste with a crunchy base, some sweet, mildly flavored white fudge stripes, and a zip of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and this bugger might as well be the perfect pumpkin pie crust.

But heed my warning, fellow pumpkin maniacs: there is no actual pumpkin here. I was a little bummed out before acknowledging that, as with all goods of the “Pumpkin Spice” ilk, I am only promised spices, not necessarily squash, and, with a cookie so fine and limited in its presence, how can I complain? (I can’t.)

Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies 3

Welp, that was a fine dinner. If you fall head over heels for the warm spices of autumn and enjoy a depth of sweetness with your spice, these are worth picking up, if only to test them out on your own taste buds. Could the cookie be crispier? Could the soft, sweet fudge benefit from less hydrogenated oil and more vanilla? Could the Keebler elfin army deliver these to my door, equipped with complimentary magical talking woodland creatures?

Sure, but, far above these idealistic visions, my need for cookies reigns. As it always should.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 gram of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy cookie. Just enough molasses. Zippy ginger. Fudge is everywhere. Geometry! The experience of using “bibbelty-bob” in a sentence. Finding the ghost of Aristotle at the back of a gas station.
Cons: No pumpkin involved. Fudge could use more vanilla. Hydrogenated oils crush dreams. Not delivered by a magical elfin army. Failed cross-stitching projects that look like they were gnawed off by an overgrown prehistoric lizard.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits

As lawn mowers, economic theories, and the fearsome Krang all prove, things that prevail are not simple.

Pumpkin spice is another one of those things.

Indeed, pumpkin spice requires subtly, nuance, a cautious hand. The nutmeg/cinnamon/ginger blend must be parceled out in a way that is generous rather than overexposed, compassionate rather than grating. When treated appropriately, pumpkin spice should perform one task and one task alone: highlighting the earthy-sweet qualities of the squash for which it was named. To do otherwise is but a fiasco, and me? I prefer to avoid fiascos, especially at 7:00 a.m., so I’m counting on you, belVita, to avoid another fiasco. Don’t let me down.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits 2

It can be hard to appreciate the belVita biscuit. I once stood firm in such a belief, excusing the flimsy crackers as a half-hearted granola bars stuck in a midlife crisis. That was until, after 18 days abroad in which 82 percent of my diet subsisted on such cracker-biscuits, I realized: these are just giant, non-animal-shaped Teddy Grahams.

Sure, they may contain oats and lack the inherent charm that comes with gnawing the ears off a biscuit shaped like a carnivorous mammal, but I was being given a hall pass to eat a giant, crunchy cookie for breakfast. My life choices (and sugar intake) would be forever altered.

And these biscuits hold the same qualities I found appealing in that initial experience: crunchy, thin, and tasting of cinnamon, sugar, and toasted oats. While not high in fat, there’s just enough of the oily stuff to give a good crumble to the texture while still providing a sturdy backbone should you choose* to spread them with peanut butter or dip them in your morning coffee-and-cream.

*You should choose.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits 3

It was mid-way through my second biscuit that it struck.

“What is that? That flavor?? Is that…????”

I squinted my eyeball and shoved it up real close to the box, pretending I didn’t look like a mildly insane, cookie-scarfing clown with cataracts.

There. Yes, right there, in the ingredients: dried pumpkin. I had my doubts, but there it was, both in the ingredients and the taste. Alongside that pumpkin, there’s little hint of nutmeg, perhaps even a spicy zing from ginger. These spices combine with the oat-y biscuit to keep the Beta-carotene-infused flavor of the pumpkin in check. If I search my memory, the whole experience harkens back to that piecrust that was left after I scooped all the pumpkin filling out: crunchy, sugary, with just a hint of pumpkin. This is just like that, only without the negative moral repercussions that come with scooping the pumpkin innards from a pie.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits 4

It’s easy for a company to use the celebrity powers of pumpkin spice for evil. Indeed, with the blend’s unstoppable presence in everything from Shredded Wheat to Yankee Candles, it takes a special determination to give the flavor the gentle hand it deserves.

While these aren’t groundbreakingly perfect (they certainly don’t keep me for the 4 hours promised), they are well-done. What with their light spices, sugary oat crunch, and mild pumpkin presence, it’s an honest biscuit. And, in a world in which pumpkin spice is flung willy-nilly, that honesty is worth something. Good on you, belVita, for putting one less pumpkin spice disaster into the world.

Now, if we could just do something about the Pumpkin Spice Jell-O…

(Nutrition Facts – 4 biscuits – 230 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 gram of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 95 milligrams of potassium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 5-packk
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crispy. Crunchy. Oat-y. Well-balanced spices. Actual pumpkin included. Reason to eat cookies for breakfast. Good with peanut butter. Reflecting on the complexities of lawn mowers and the maniacal Krang.
Cons: Doesn’t sustain energy for 4 hours. Would be more fun if it were shaped like an animal. Midlife crisis. Negative moral repercussions. Mildly insane clowns with cataracts.