REVIEW: Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino

Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Baristas are selling me Fraps while misspelling my name at cashiers!

I must mumble, because per usual, my Starbucks cup said “Ben.” That’s ok though because nothing could break my holiday spirit, for today I was trying the new Christmas Tree Frappuccino that looks exactly like a Christmas tree!

Well, kinda like a Christmas tree, I guess?

Look, I know how advertising works. I wasn’t expecting my drink to look like Rockefeller Center, but then again, I also wasn’t expecting Charlie Brown.

The whipped cream looks more lime than pine, and when you think about it, the entire premise is flawed. In theory, the whipped cream portion represents the iconic image of a Christmas tree, so said tree would be like five feet of trunk, and one foot of branches! More like, “Bark, the herald angels sing.” Right?

Guys?

Fine. ‘Tis not the season for petty whining, so I’ll just let it go, let it go, let it go. (Sung to the tune of “Let it Snow,” not that Frozen song, although I guess that works too. You decide!)

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The whipped cream gets its green color due to a matcha infusion, which I’ll be honest, I barely noticed. The topping was drizzled with caramel as well as candied cranberry “ornaments,” so I tasted those more than the actual cream. I mainly order Caramel Fraps, so the whipped cream tasted like it usually does on those.

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Phantom matcha aside, the caramel was delicious as always. The cranberry pieces added a nice little crunch element. There’s a freeze-dried strawberry tree topper that did its job because it was the “star” of the show. I enjoyed it.

I made sure to leave plenty of toppings so they could mix in with the Mocha Peppermint Frap.

I finally took a big gulp and O Tannenbaum was it good! That chocolate mint goodness had me singing Ave Barista.

If I had to equate the flavor to something familiar, it tasted like a liquid Andes mint. It wasn’t quite mint chocolate chip ice cream like you’d expect. There’s not much flavor discrepancy when combining chocolate and mint, but I still say this leans more towards an Andes.

I mixed the toppings in, and they got a little swallowed up. Subtle caramel fought through the mint a couple times, and the cranberry bits provided a fun crunch, but the flavors kinda disappeared into the dark abyss.

I also think there may have been too much ice because it tasted watered down about halfway in. The mocha and peppermint dulled and never lived up to the first couple sips.

In the end, it may not have been exactly what I wanted, but I still appreciated it. I’d like to call “bah humbug” on the $5 price, but I’ll leave you on a positive note. Merry Christmas.

(Nutrition Facts – 420 calories, 21 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 50 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, and 15 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $5.08
Size: Tall
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Mocha and Peppermint are a winning duo. Freeze dried strawberry was kinda brilliant. Caramel drizzle never fails. Fun overall concept. Candied Cranberry ornaments were a great addition.
Cons: As far as looks go, it’s the thought that counts. Pretty expensive. Didn’t pick up the matcha. Flavors got watered down. Ave Maria isn’t a Christmas song. I did not intend for the Frozen song to get stuck in your head. “Ben.”

REVIEW: Limited Edition Banana Nut Cheerios

Limited Edition Banana Nut Cheerios

Every time I see a new banana-flavored product on shelves, my inner Primate comes out. I have to fight the urge to beat my chest like an excited gorilla right there in the aisle.

There’s something about that flavor that always resonates with me. Cakes, breads, candies, ice cream, yogurts, it doesn’t matter – if you make it banana, you’ve got my money.

Sadly, I haven’t tasted many cereals flavored with the fruit. There’s never been a huge market for them, and when they do come out, they always seem to get discontinued. I can recall a few Honey Bunches of Oats types and a Minion one, but beyond that my experience with them are lacking.

Good thing Limited Edition Banana Nut Cheerios has come to my rescue.

Limited Edition Banana Nut Cheerios 3

I wish I could tell you I got a waft of fresh banana bread when I tore the bag open, but in reality, the smell was kinda indistinguishable. I don’t know, I expected more, but to me it wasn’t distinctly banana.

Since these are “banana nut” flavored, I figured I’d try them with almond milk as well as whole milk. I also had Egg Nog, but couldn’t pull the trigger on using that as milk, despite the pleas from the voices inside my head.

I considered mixing in slices of the yellow fruit, but I’m of the controversial opinion that putting slimy fruit pieces in cereal doesn’t enhance it all that much.

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With the first bite, I got hit with cinnamon, but that instantly blended into the banana flavor. Don’t expect anything overly sweet, because this uses real fruit puree, not artificial flavor. (More on that later.)

On the next few bites, I realized this variety may as well have been any Cheerios flavor. It all mushed into generic Cheerios. While there were hints of a great cereal there, it was short lived.

Now I was ready to call Banana Nut Cheerios a big disappointment when it hit me with the hidden ace up its sleeve – delicious cereal milk.

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Let me backtrack. The “whole” milk cereal was delicious. Unflavored almond milk is worthless, especially with cereal. The “nuttiness” did nothing to enhance the flavor. Not only that, it’s more watery than skim, and made for a mundane bowl.

Whole milk, however, soaked into the little O’s and made it come to life. You’d be hard pressed to find many cereals that improve as they sog, but this one bucked the trend. The flavor improved as they settled and the runoff culminated in banana bread-flavored creaminess.

Still, I left a tad underwhelmed. I must just prefer a sugary artificial flavor to natural. I guess that’s the kid in me. I’d be all in on Banana Toast Crunch.

Banana Nut Cheerios are worth a try, but they weren’t better than reliable Honey Nut variety. If you can only afford one box, I’d recommend the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios over these as well.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 80 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Creamy delicious cereal milk. Decent banana flavor. Nice cinnamon kick. Oatey nuttiness peaks through. The prospects of Banana Toast Crunch.
Cons: Lacked strong banana aroma. Tasted best after the sog. Middle of the road Cheerios flavor. Limited Edition like all banana cereals. There’s no Banana Toast Crunch.

REVIEW: Lemon Nilla Wafers

Lemon Nilla Wafers

Nilla Wafers are boring. I’d actually say they’re a historically boring cookie.

Here’s the thing, I don’t mind a boring cookie. Sometimes ya just want a boring cookie.

I always have a “boring” snack hidden in the back of my pantry. Whether it’s Ritz or Saltine crackers, a bag of Goldfish, or some good ol’ Nilla Wafers, I have a weird affinity for what I refer to as “desperation snacks.”

You’re probably wondering what the heck I’m even talking about. These are snacks I buy intentionally for when I run out of all the primo stuff and I’m too lazy to get more.

That’s where Nilla Wafers come into play. They’re never my top choice, but when everything else is gone, a few of those can curb a sugar craving. I’m never gonna eat a whole box in one sitting. But then again, with a new lemon flavor on shelves, maybe that’ll change?

Nah, that won’t change.

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When I popped open the foil bag of Lemon Nilla Wafers, there wasn’t much of a departure from what I remember. I’d say there’s a minuscule lemon Pez scent. The smell did resonate with me though.

I never realized how much Nilla Wafers smelled like those little boxes of Barnum’s Animal Crackers. It makes sense since they’re both Nabisco staples, I just never noticed. It really brought back fond childhood memories.

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Nilla Wafers always have a texture that makes them seem borderline stale even when they’re fresh. These were no different. I’ve always preferred to let them melt in my mouth.

They didn’t taste far off from the originals. There’s a hint of lemon flavor at best. As a fan of lemon desserts, I was disappointed, but in terms of Nilla Wafers I actually think I prefer these. I could definitely see myself eating more of them at once, but they’d still fall into my desperation snack category.

Just for fun, I used Mystery Oreo creme to make Lemon Nilla Wafer Sandwiches.

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Turns out, the Lemon Nilla Wafer worked better with the (my dark horse guess) Fruity Pebbles Treat-flavored creme than the chocolate Oreo cookie did. Take note, Nabisco.

All in all, I’d say Lemon Nilla Wafers make a strong case for “back of the pantry desperation” snack. That’s if I don’t use them all to make more sandwich cookies first.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 wafers – 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.29
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10 (8 out of 10 with Mystery Oreo creme)
Pros: One of the all time great “desperation snacks.” Melt in your mouth. Better than the originals. Excellent Mystery Oreo cookie substitute. Animal Cracker nostalgia.
Cons: Lemon is faint at best. Better supporting player than standalone cookie. No actual lemon in the ingredients. A little pricey.

REVIEW: Burger King Spicy Nuggets

Burger King Spicy Nuggets

It’s beginning to look a lot like Chicken Season.

Fresh off the heels of Wendy’s and McDonald’s new chicken tender options, Burger King has once again dipped their toes into the “spicy” chicken pool, this time in the form of nuggets.

I say it every time I review their food, but Burger King is smart. I always find myself fighting on their behalf. They’ve embraced the weird “Taco Bell” style menu niche, and they’re the only ones really doing it in the burger world. No matter what they add to their vast menu, it seems to pique my interest.

This isn’t the first time they’ve filled in the fast food blank either. I still don’t understand why Wendy’s took Spicy Nuggets off their menu, but Burger King is attempting to swoop in and corner that market.

Good on them, but are they actually good?

Well, it depends on your definition of good.

I won’t sit here and pretend this is high-class cuisine. Then again, I think you’re all smart enough to realize that at 15 cents a nugget, you probably shouldn’t be expecting that.

Burger King Spicy Nuggets 2

First and foremost, I’m a fan of BK’s nuggets. I’m not only a fan of the ridiculously cheap price point, but I think they’re pretty tasty. They aren’t the best nugget on the market, but they still always provide a nice tender bite of white meat chicken, and you can buy them in bulk.

The spicy nuggets have a darker orange hue to them, with some speckled bits of pepper – that’s the universal sign you’re about to eat breaded chicken branded as “spicy.”

Burger King Spicy Nuggets 3

Upon the first couple bites, they taste like the regular nuggets. Once you chew a few seconds, the slight heat kicks in. Sorry to say Spiceheads, but it’s slight. These aren’t even as spicy as Wendy’s nuggets were.

Getting 10 nuggets (I actually got 11 – bonus nugget!) for less than two bucks is a gift and a curse. After you eat about three or four, you start to notice that they are really salty. As the heat dries your mouth a bit, it amplifies the saltiness. You might think you need a drink for the burn, but you really need it for the salt.

Burger King Spicy Nuggets 4

Still, I find these pretty damn satisfying and they would pair nicely with one of BK’s cereal shakes.

Like the other restaurants, BK didn’t offer any fancy new dipping sauces, but honey mustard worked well for me. No complaints there.

The nuggets also had a solid afterburn. They didn’t give me agita, but I knew I had something “spicy” for a little while. There was nothing unpleasant about the aftertaste.

So look, these aren’t gourmet, but for $1.49 you could knock out a ridiculously cheap meal one night.

I’m hoping this gets McDonald’s to attempt a spicy nugget next.

(Nutrition Facts – 10 nuggets – 530 calories, 37 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, milligrams of cholesterol, 1420 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 10 nuggets (11 for me!)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very tender white meat (I hope.) Cheap as hell. Filling a Fast Food void. Two free dipping sauces. Bonus nugget!
Cons: Definitely could be spicier. Increasingly salty. Not as good as Wendy’s Spicy Nuggets. Price makes you want to order more stuff.

REVIEW: Doritos Crunch Mix (Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch)

Doritos Crunch Mix  Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch

I recently hit up 7-Eleven for a post-workout protein bar, because I’m super muscular and fit, and also extremely strong and powerful! While admiring my pythons in the drink case window’s reflection, something caught my eye — a stocked shelf of little Doritos branded cartons.

Variety is, as they say, “the spice of life,” and that expression has never rung truer than when pertaining to snack mixes. Why eat a pretzel when you can eat a pretzel with a corn chip, an M&M, a cashew, cereal, and a peanut butter cup?

Better question, why did it take so long for something like Doritos Crunch Mix to hit the market?

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For a long time, Munchies was the only mix available with Doritos, but we live in wild snack concoction times and Frito-Lay is at the forefront.

The “Crunch Nut” is what you think it is – a peanut inside of a Dorito. Picture a Peanut M&M, except instead of chocolate and candy shell, it’s a Dorito. That’s probably how this idea was initially pitched to a T.

As you’d imagine, Crunch Nuts are pretty good. I found that the peanut flavor pushed through more with the Nacho mix than Cool Ranch. It somehow made itself known, almost making it too nutty. The cheese mixed with the creaminess of the chewed peanut had a different dynamic than with the Ranch, which was almost dulled by the peanut if anything.

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I was pretty satisfied with the main attraction. How was the supporting cast?

The triangles are basically mini versions of those Doritos Jacked 3D chips and thus are the closest in texture to a regular Dorito.

The puffs are appropriately flavored, very light and airy cheese balls. They’re a stark contrast to the next two players in the mix.

The pretzels are essentially Snyder’s Nacho Cheese/Ranch Pretzel Pieces, and the corn sticks only exist to make you nervous you’re gonna crack a tooth. Naturally, they were the most abundant.

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I don’t understand why every snack mix insists on having that one ingredient that could break your molar on any given chew. Chex has the bagel chips and trail mixes have 25-year-old almonds.

This mix would have been fine with the pretzel pieces. The corn sticks, while tasty on their own, served very little purpose other than adding a rocky texture that wasn’t necessary to the enjoyment of the other pieces.

In case you’re wondering, they sell packs of the Crunch Nuts alone, but why even bother when the mix exists?

Doritos Crunch Mix  Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch 4

I preferred the Cool Ranch one, but that’s always been my Doritos preference.

So, if you don’t have any dental paranoia like me, you’ll enjoy the Doritos Crunch Mixes. Frito-Lay continues to go onward and upward with their selection. Hopefully, a Doritos 3Ds revival is in our future. Let’s make that happen.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – Nacho Cheese – 210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Cool Ranch – 210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99 each
Size: 3 oz. package
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Nacho Cheese)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cool Ranch)
Pros: Any new snack mix is a good thing. Doritos never fail. Resealable carton packaging. My impressive physique despite eating multiple cartons of Doritos Crunch Mix.
Cons: Some pieces are rock hard. Corn sticks are just filler. Peanut taste is a bit too prominent in Nacho mix. Is a single Doritos chip technically called a “Dorito?” I miss Doritos 3Ds. I lie about my muscles a lot.