REVIEW: M&M’s Caramel

M M s Caramel

The history of the M&M goes something like this.

They were released in 1941 to melt in the mouth of our soldiers, and not in their hands, while they fought the bloody battles of World War II. After the United States’ victory it was clear the candy was also a success, and the Peanut variety came along in 1954, followed by Almond in 1960, and then things got really “nuts” in the 90’s with Peanut Butter, Mini’s, and Crispy versions.

But recently, Mars developed the technology to fill the center with a “liquid” filling to hopefully burst in your mouth, and not in your hands. The first result of that is M&M’s Caramel.

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Out of the bag the candies look no different than your standard Peanut or Peanut Butter M&M – bubbly round balls of green, yellow, red, brown, and blue, stamped with the signature lowercase “m”. Biting into the bulb-y beasts gives way to the classic candy coating crunch with a layer of chocolate and then a squishy chew.

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It’s a mellow caramel that isn’t intensely sweet. It has a thick smooth texture that has the density of a Rolo but the consistency you would find in a Milky Way. It isn’t the super silky, wispy, almost runny type of caramel you’d find inside of Cadbury’s Carmello Bar, but it isn’t grainy or cheap tasting either, and ends with a solid milky finish.

The restrained sweetness in these M&M’s is kind of surprising. Considering how sweet some of the seasonal White M&M’s can get and how sweet caramel traditionally is, I was anticipating a significant sugar burst from the filling. I want the caramel to be a touch sweeter, or even salty, as it doesn’t have the explosion of flavor that I really wanted.

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While the Peanut Butter, Peanut, and Crispy M&M’s deliver a significantly different flavor and/or texture inside of the shell, the caramel and chocolate in these have a similar sweet-to-salty ratio that makes the caramel notes less distinct. The milk chocolate actually overpowers the caramel until the very end of the candy, where the caramel peaks through for the final extra chewy chomps.

When all is said and done, these are still M&M’s, so they’re good, but they’re far from the breakthrough candy technology that Mars hyped them up to be. Poppin’ a couple of these will definitely quench your generic sugar craving but won’t hit the spot if you’re seeking some perfectly caramelized sugar flavor because they’re much more chocolate dominant than buttery caramel perfection.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 a pack (40g) – 190 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 2.83 oz. package (Share Size)
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Classic M&M crunch. Doesn’t melt in your hand. Tasty milk chocolate. Could help win wars. Smooth milky caramel finish.
Cons: Not enough caramel. Caramel needs more contrast. Chocolate overpowers.

REVIEW: Flavor of California Strawberry Kit Kat

Flavor of California Strawberry Kit Kat Miniatures

The United States is the land of opportunity.

We’ve got freedom of speech, freedom of religion, open internet, 14,000 McDonald’s locations, and the invention of the Oreo; but we really got screwed when it comes to the Kit Kat.

While Nestle makes the candy in every other region, cranking out over 200 varieties in Japan including flavors like Wasabi and Rum Raisin, Hershey’s controls the brand in the U.S. and give us a tantalizing array of options including milk, dark, and white chocolate.

In what is hopefully a positive sign for our patriotic future, Hershey’s has launched a new Flavors of America line of limited candies, including the Flavor of California Strawberry Kit Kat.

As a certified born-and-raised-in-California boy, the first thing I think of when pondering my home state isn’t strawberries. But I won’t complain about getting any new flavor of Kit Kat. While avocado, garlic, almond, grape, or beef might have been a truer representation of the Golden State, I can’t deny strawberry is a still relevant much safer sell, and one I pretty much know what will taste like before opening the package.

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Ripping the mini-wrapper open there is a huge wash of artificial strawberry that smells almost identical to Nesquick Strawberry milk. The scent is so similar that I’m surprised there isn’t a quirky brown bunny on the bag.

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The taste mimics the smell, with a sweet fake berry flavor atop white chocolate texture that teeters on being too much. The faux-strawberry notes are so strong that they almost become bitter, peaking out with their odd flavor in the middle of chewing but finishing smooth, sweet, and creamy.

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The coating on this Kit Kat, like most mini Kats, is a bit thicker than the standard longer four-piece bar. The outer layer dominates the wafers on the inside, throwing off the normally perfect balance and taking away from the repeat crunch-ability that KK’s usually provide.

I’m surprised that Hershey’s didn’t try to put a slightly more authentic strawberry flavor into these Kit Kats – a hint of tart or acidity would have gone a long way to make these a more desirable product. While I won’t be throwing the rest of my bag into the garbage, I have a good feeling I’ll have a couple of these leftover for a super rare stocking stuffer come December, and I think my three year old half-brother will appreciate them more than I do.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 pieces – 220 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: The United States finally gets a new Kit Kat flavor. Classic Kit Kat crunch. Smooth creamy finish. Will make great rare stocking stuffer.
Cons: Too strong of a fake strawberry flavor. No tart notes. Slightly bitter. Could have repped Cali better with beef.

REVIEW: Reese’s Crunchers

Reese s Crunchers

Someone at Hershey’s has a crunch fetish. After 2016’s super hyped launch of the Cookie Layer Crunch Bars, the chocolate giant is back with the textural fixation via the release of Reese’s Crunchers.

Since the cookie bars didn’t have a peanut butter version at launch, it only seems right that the crunch train keeps rollin’ in the direction of one of Hershey’s strongest and most recognizable brands.

Reese’s Crunchers combine mini peanut butter chips, puffs, and peanuts covered in milk chocolate in a resealable bag so you can casually crunch the day away.

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The aroma is immediately recognizable – the signature sweet and salty Reese’s perfume that all good orange packages ought to smell like. It’s a distinct smell that could be filed under “delicious” for the 97 percent of the world’s population who don’t have a nut allergy.

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Chomping into these Crunchers delivers the same flavor that my nose perked up to and has that great balance of peanut butter and chocolate that Reese’s is known for, but just a bit more muted. The presence of the rice crisps dulls the impact of the peanut butter to make it a less rich and intense flavor, and essentially tastes like the peanut butter sibling to Nestle’s Buncha Crunch.

Although the package says there are chocolate covered peanuts I don’t get any distinct peanut flavor or texture amongst the sea of crisps, and I wish they were stronger as their snap would be a welcome addition to the snack party.

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The only problem with this product is it really isn’t all that crunchy. Yes, the pieces are more crunchy than a standard creamy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but definitely less crunchy than the Reese’s Snack Mix that gets a big chompy boost from pretzels and whole peanuts.

The Crunchers are a bit salty but not so much so that they elevate the flavor beyond an actual cup, and without any sort of variety in the bag beyond small and large pieces the eating experience isn’t as exciting as I had hoped it would be.

As much as I love some crunch to go along with my chocolate and peanut butter I would much rather have a single Reese’s cup and eat it alongside some pretzels or popcorn than what these Crunchers offer.

They do, however, seem like a perfect movie theater companion where I could blindly reach in and alternate from Cruncher to corn and corn to Cruncher while the big screen story unfolds before me without worrying about what kind of handful I was going to get in the darkened theater.

At the end of the day they taste like Reese’s, and Reese’s taste like mouth dreams.

(Nutrition Facts – 14 pieces (40g) – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 4 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 6.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Classic Reese’s peanut butter flavor. Ability to blindly crunch. The rebirth of Buncha Crunch. Textural fetish fulfillment.
Cons: Not as crunchy as the name would imply. Not enough peanuts. Rice crisps cut the richness of the peanut butter. Less satisfying than a regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

REVIEW: Hostess Twinkies Frozen Dairy Dessert Cone

Hostess Twinkies Frozen Dairy Dessert Cone

Earlier this year Hostess turned their iconic crinkle-wrapped sponge cake into an ice cream. As good as that was, let’s be honest, it needed a bowl AND a spoon, which is so much more effort than snack cake annihilation should require.

Suffer no more America, we now have before us the Twinkies Frozen Dairy Dessert Cone. No utensils, no dishwashing, and hell, if you play your cards right you could even use the wrapper as a napkin to get the creamy fiesta off of your face. This latest and greatest piece of American innovation combines golden sponge cake crumbles and creamy frozen dairy dessert all packaged in the classic ready-to-devour sugar cone.

Hostess Twinkies Frozen Dairy Dessert Cone 4

The initial bites are delicious and very reminiscent of the Twinkie ice cream tub that was decked out with sponge cake pieces swimming in a pool of creamy, almost greasy cake ice cream. The top of the cone is the only part of the dessert that has the cake, which imparts not only added texture but a bunch more flavor as well. The cake combined with the fluffy yellow “ice cream” is fun and very much like eating the much loved (or hated) snack cake.

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Beneath the initial layer of yellow fluff is a layer of white fluff, which is noticeably less flavorful and exciting than the way the cone started. It’s hard to tell if the lack of flavor is due to a different profile within the cream itself or the absence of cake, but it’s no less much less intriguing to the tongue.

The next layer is yellow, but it coincides with the top of the cone which also has a thin layer of chocolate inside. So there’s an extra crunch and chocolate flavor that accompanies the frozen dairy, which makes it a more exciting chew. And, like all good Nestle cones, this one finishes with a piece of chocolate wedged in the bottom, which puts an exclamation mark of “YUM” on the very last bite.

Hostess Twinkies Frozen Dairy Dessert Cone 3

This cone is good. From top to bottom it’s fluffy, sweet, and whimsical like something from an ice cream truck, albeit not the highest quality. The use of frozen dairy as opposed to real ice cream gives it a much lighter feel, both in your hand and on the palate than the usual Drumstick. It also makes scarfing more than one of these a pretty reasonable task.

Hopefully, Hostess can figure out how to put the Twinkie into pill form so I can just sit back, relax, and pop them ‘twinks on the low.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cone – 220 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 21 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4-pack
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: No need for utensils. Instant ice cream injection. Fun sponge cake pieces. Chocolate at the bottom of the cone.
Cons: White frozen dairy may lack flavor. Needs more cake pieces.

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream

Ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman.

Destiny’s Child.

Nirvana.

The Marx Brothers.

Our society is made up of so many good trios, why not shove that logic into a container of ice cream? The master-churners at Haagen-Dazs have our backs with their new line of creamy crack simply dubbed “Trio.” The Salted Caramel Chocolate version combines layers of crispy Belgian chocolate with salted caramel ice cream and chocolate ice cream. Let’s triple dip.

Digging into the psuedo-pint makes a distinctly unique crunching sound as my spoon breaks through the layers of chocolate inside. The ice cream is of typical Haagen-Dazs high quality – the mellow chocolate and subdued salted caramel make sense to combine in a flavor like this, but they ultimately kind of cancel each other out.

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It’s always a risk to mix two ice cream bases, and here some of the subtle nuances of the caramel get washed over by the chocolate; which is a shame, because when you isolate the caramel on its own it’s a pretty tasty flavor.

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The star of the show, the Belgian chocolate, is kind of thin; actually thinner than a lot of chocolate chunks or Ben & Jerry’s “fudge flakes,” and doesn’t add as much of a thick texture as I would like. The effect is much more similar to just a standard chocolate mix-in than a thick layer of chocolate, and in that regard the taste is much less impressive than the visual.

Haagen-Dazs Trio Salted Caramel & Chocolate Ice Cream 4

It actually tastes a lot like one of Haagen-Dazs’ ice cream bars got smashed up and squeezed into a carton, without that disgusting wooden stick that makes my teeth cringe.

The flavor combo between the two ice creams and layers of milky chocolate is a lot like eating a Rolo, but less sweet and grainy. I like Rolo’s, but I’m not usually interested in more than two or three, and that’s the same way I feel about this Trio. The flavors are good but lose their intrigue quickly and become a pretty single noted experience with the caramel nearly disappearing against all of the chocolate.

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Overall, it eats much more like a chocolate chocolate chip than an ice cream with salted caramel, and the flavor would have been much more effective with a vanilla ice cream to let the caramel actually come through and have any real impact. It’s a well made product but the flavor distribution and execution could use some work.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (104g) – 300 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Exciting crunch sound effects. Good quality ice cream. Shoving a Haagen-Dazs bar into a pint.
Cons: Flavors get muddled. Caramel gets lost. Chocolate layers should be thicker. Concept better than execution.