REVIEW: Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses

Hershey's Cupcake Kisses

In my mind, and in my heart, cake and Kisses fall in essentially the same category. Short, sweet, and simple reminders that life is worth living, and ideally consumed/received on a daily basis. It is under this umbrella of logic that I read the news of Hershey’s Cupcake Kisses and proceeded to die with anticipation.

For this Target-exclusive Valentine’s Day candy Hershey’s put a spin on their popular Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor (also available as Kisses) and made a “white cookie cupcake” kiss with colored cookies and cupcake flavor. Opening the playful pink bag is like dunking your face into a Funfetti frosting wonderland, It is exactly what I wanted these Kisses to smell like.

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The initial bite is very sweet and smacks you in the face with vanilla frosting splendor. At first these Kisses taste exactly like hardened bits of Funfetti vanilla frosting with the cookie pieces in place of the festive sprinkles, and the white chocolate is the jarred faux-buttercream. Unfortunately there is a strange astringent aftertaste that dominates and leaves my mouth tasting unpleasant and artificial, almost like a cake made with too much baking soda.

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I thought it might be coming from the colored cookie pieces, which unlike in the cookies and cream version have no chocolate or specific flavor to them. I was able to isolate some of the cookies in my mouth and they tasted fine, like a slightly tame shortbread. After repeatedly trying more Kisses to shake the bitter essence, it kept coming and put a damper on the overall experience, but for some reason I kept wanting to eat them.

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There is a lore that pink or red frosting has a bitter strong flavor when compared to other dyes, likely due to the use of iodine, Red #3, or Red #40. Although not specifically listed in the ingredients, there could be an element of frosting-emulation at play here that is causing the strange aftertaste.

Whether that translates to a true cupcake experience or a failed element of execution is up to you, but it’s certainly there, and for me, ultimately distracting. Strange frosting flavors have never kept me from crushing cake in the past, and while these Kisses miss the mark of being perfect, I will still eat at least three servings of them (27 Kisses).

(Nutrition Facts – 9 pieces – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Funfetti frosting wonderland. Still oddly delicious. Foil covered in hearts. So many shades of pink.
Cons: Weird bitter aftertaste. Cake doesn’t have a crunch.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Chocolate Strawberry Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Chocolate Strawberry Oreo Cookies

Two years ago, on a hazy New Year’s morning (my birthday), my girlfriend woke me up with a package of Birthday Cake Oreo in bed, and the secret junk food junkie in me silently screamed with joy.

Now, thanks to the cookie scientists at Nabisco, I can return the favor to my one true love on Valentine’s Day with the Limited Edition Chocolate Strawberry Oreo. Whether or not a crinkly package of factory cookies can successfully replace four-dollars-a-pop chocolate-covered strawberries remains to be seen, but whether or not these Oreo’s are a decent start to the pending onslaught of 2017’s limited offerings can be laid to rest right now.

Limited Edition Chocolate Strawberry Oreo Cookies 2

The Oreo cookies look no different than the always available chocolate flavor, with a dark creme sandwiched between two classic wafer cookies; but the aroma is distinctly different and heavy on the strawberry. Something about the chocolate strawberry smell is immediately nostalgic, channeling Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches, kiddy cereal, and strawberry Pocky sticks. While it is definitely an artificial fruit smell, it is not too perfumey or cloying in any way.

Limited Edition Chocolate Strawberry Oreo Cookies 3

Digging into the cookies, the strong strawberry smell is put on the back burner as chocolate takes the more dominant role in overall flavor, which makes sense as the chocolate outweighs the strawberry components 2-to-1. The textures of the chocolate and strawberry cremes are exactly the same, which mixes the two flavors together in a way that is cohesive but ultimately not too special.

There’s nothing off-putting about the fruit flavor like the strange Swedish Fish Oreo, but there’s also nothing particularly new or unique, like the slightly differing textures in the Filled Cupcake Oreo.

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A chocolate covered strawberry, as the design of the package directly implies, should have a more strawberry-forward flavor, and while these cookies do a good job of conveying both elements, the ratios and authenticity feel a bit off.

They’re a tasty crunchy cookie that will definitely be agreeable to most average palates but don’t provide any level of satisfaction that the original Oreo have delivered for over 100 years (literally). I’m not sure my Valentine’s chocolate thirst will be satiated with these come February 14, so I may have to go back to dropping $30 at Godiva to show how much I truly care.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 10.7 oz. package
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Full choco-strawberry aroma. Not too artificial tasting. Hey, it’s an Oreo.
Cons: Not enough genuine strawberry flavor. Not enough contrast, too much chocolate. Will not replace expensive Valentine’s Day candy.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch Bar

Hershey's Caramel Cookie Layer Crunch Bar

It’s no controversial hot take to say that Hershey’s doesn’t make the highest quality chocolate around, not even the greatest chocolate at 7-Eleven or Walgreens; but they definitely know how to put together a good candy bar.

Among my favorite of their bars is the white chocolate Cookies ‘n’ Creme Bar, and with a twist of marketing genius Hershey’s have unleashed three new spins on that success with Cookie Layer Crunch Bars. The caramel flavor combines milk chocolate with shortbread cookie bits and a velvety caramel, packaged in mini bars of three breakable pieces.

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The chocolate has a deeper fuller taste than what I’m used to with Hershey’s milk chocolate, lacking that undesirable slight graininess from their classic bar. It has an almost dark chocolate quality to it, a sensation that is created by the contrast of the sweeter caramel and salty cookie pieces.

The saltiness of the shortbread comes through beautifully, but the “bits” aren’t big enough to really get any of that lush buttery flavor usually associated with this type of cookie. I can’t knock Hershey’s here since they do use the small-implying word “bits” but the texture-fiend in me wants more crunch, especially with the word being in the name. 

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The chocolate to caramel to cookie ratio is well balanced and doesn’t come across as overwhelmingly sweet, which can oftentimes happen in candy bars that feature caramel without any nuts.

I can’t say I’ve ever had a readily available candy quite like this and that’s a good thing because it’s fresh and it works. It teeters on the line of your typical grocery chocolate bar and something more gourmet you might find at a chocolatier like See’s or Godiva. Each piece is layered with that sweet salty crunch that shines in one of my other favorite Hershey’s products, the oftentimes overlooked and pretzel-prominent Take 5.

This might be the most repeat-noshable candy bar Hershey’s has released without peanut butter in it, and a great launch for a company that hasn’t done much to innovate the junk aisle game outside of weird seasonal flavors of Kisses. From the snack-style packaging to the different flavors to the multiple textures, Hershey’s has unleashed something simple but effective that should prove to be very popular and leaves itself open to new and limited/seasonal variations down the line.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package (2 bars) – 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.29
Size: 1.4 oz. bar
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Smooth rich chocolate. Sweet salty fix. Great packaging. Most repeat-noshable Hershey’s without peanut butter.
Cons: Could use more crunch. Could use more shortbread butteriness. Could use peanut butter.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Flavor Flip Chocolate Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Flavor Flip Chocolate Cherry Garcia Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s are ending their year of flavor flipping by taking their most far out creation to the dark side of the moon. Chocolate Cherry Garcia takes the classic Cherry Garcia flavor and swaps the cherry cream with more chocolate for the most perfectly harmonious of blackouts you can buy in scoop form. The flavor isn’t available in grocery stores yet and is in Scoop Shops for a limited time.

The first thing that struck me about Chocolate Cherry Garcia is the rich dark color of the ice cream itself. Sitting in the cold case next to the other flavors it looked more black than brown; a color I would associate with brownies or fudge more than cherries, but that’s certainly not a bad thing.

Going in for my first spoonful I was surprised the ice cream was pure chocolate and not chocolate-cherry because the slightly tart floral flavor of cherry came through unmistakably in a bite with no mix-ins. This must be the effect of the cherries themselves, juicy little devils they are, bleeding their wonderful flavor into the base.

Once you get a cherry, which is most of the time, the flavor really starts to sing. The big chunks of half-cherries swimming in chocolate make up a prominent amount of the ice cream and feel like downing the triumphant top of a sundae over and over again. Even though it’s not a holiday flavor, the melty choco-cherry combination reminds me of a cherry cordial and tastes festive and fancy – a reminder that simple ingredients can often yield grand results.

Ben & Jerry's Flavor Flip Chocolate Cherry Garcia Ice Cream 2

The “fudge flakes” here, just like in the original Cherry Garcia, are actually just chocolate chunks, nothing fudgey or flakey about them at all. The name is misleading, but the snap of the chips is very welcome against the sweet squish of the cherries, and make for a nice textural contrast to the creamy chocolate and juicy fruit. Three straight forward elements and they all have a chance to shine.

While not pushing the boundaries of ice cream experimentation by any means, Ben & Jerry’s have managed to put a very convincing spin on what is maybe their most well known and beloved flavor. The small change from cherry ice cream to chocolate provides a completely different and decadent scoop experience that is well balanced, rich, and exactly what my waistline doesn’t need the week after Thanksgiving.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (109g) – 260 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams sat fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 4 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $6.25
Size: 1 handpacked pint
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Wonderful bright cherry flavor. Three distinct textures. Swimming in decadence.
Cons: High potential for blackouts. Not what waistline needs after Thanksgiving.

REVIEW: Cinnamon Roll Peeps

Cinnamon Roll Peeps

Peeps. No one’s favorite candy over the age of six, and the primary wingman of the Easter bunny.

Somehow, people (I) keep buying them, so the company continues to crank out new flavors not just for Easter but Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas, including this years Walgreens-exclusive Cinnamon Roll. Placed on the very bottom of the holiday shelf where only a toddler could eye them, I finally tracked these bad chicks down after four attempts and am ready for a sticky-good time.

A strong buttery cinnamon roll aroma hits you immediately as you open the package, sparkling with that signature Peeps coating, conjuring a rich wintery nostalgia. The type of freshly baked smells that erupt from the oven while rolls or muffins are being made actually emanate from the cellophane with convincing authority. The patented sitting chick blankly stares back at you with the challenge of “eat me, I dare you.”

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The depth of flavor and freshly baked intrigue continue with your first bite – surprisingly not too sweet. The fatty cinnamon bread flavor they’ve infused these Peeps with actually make for a fairly complex candy snacking experience. To be honest I really wanted to hate these and I’m beginning to lament there are only three per package, rather than hiding the other two in the garbage can.

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The taste has a multilayered aspect to it as well, with not only a cinnamon flavored marshmallow but a nice dunk into a “cinnamon flavored fudge” that adds the sensation of a luscious cinnamon roll icing. The “natural and artificial flavors” must focus on bringing a yeast element to the mouth party as these Peeps are more than simply a cinnamon or gingerbread take on a marshmallow.

Even though sugar is the first ingredient in both the ‘mallow and the cinnamon fudge, the balance of spices and creamy yeasty elements make these a worthy addition to any chimney-dangling stocking.

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So how to they compare to your standard variety Peep? They absolutely destroy them. Naturally, I had to get some classic snowman Peeps to mingle with its new cousin for comparison, and the cinnamon roll chick almost punked the snowman so hard he had to retire. The regular Peep tasted flat and uninspired, and was generally disappointing, like when I asked Old Saint Nick for a GameCube in 2002, but got a new puzzle instead.

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

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 1.5 oz. package
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strong cinnamon roll flavor. Baking smell without preheating the oven. Signature Peeps sparkle. Fudge coating adds depth and texture.
Cons: RIP regular Peeps. Puzzles instead of a GameCube.