REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

Trader Joe’s might as well be a candy store.

I’m sure their “real” food and produce are top quality, but I’ll never know. I’ve never walked out of there with anything other than a snack bounty. Take my last visit for example – chips, peanut butter cups, cookies, burritos, and Pumpkin Pie Spiced Cookie Butter.

Wait, what? Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter? What kind of sorcery is this?

I like pie! I like cookies! I like butter! Pumpkin and I can go either way, but ’tis the season. If anything is going to ruin my excitement for this, it’s the pumpkin.

Well, it looks like canned pumpkin pie filling. It smells just like pumpkin pie filling. It tastes…better than pumpkin pie filling?!

Are you familiar with the original Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter? If not, it’s a delicious gingerbread-like spread with little bits of cookie crunch. It’s magic in a jar. Think of a slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of that instead of Cool Whip. That’s what this tastes like. Trust me, it’s incredible.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter 3

This stuff tastes like Grandma baked a pumpkin pie with a buttery gingerbread crust, and then pureed it. Again, just trust me.

To me, pumpkin pie is one of those desserts that gets steadily worse with each bite. The first bite is delicious, especially in contrast to the savory Thanksgiving feast that preceded it. The next bite…slightly less. The bite after that makes me realize I still have half the slice to go, and from that point forward I basically have to force myself to finish. (Same goes for pecan pie if I’m being honest.)

I’ve also always found the texture of pumpkin pie filling to be slightly off-putting, almost like an off pudding, if you will. Stop booing and let me finish. I also feel like the filling is too sweet most of the time. Not with this cookie butter. This is perfectly sweet without being overwhelming.

It’s funny, when I picked this off the shelf, I wondered what I’d even spread it on. When I got home and popped it open I realized it didn’t even need to be paired with anything. There’s no need for a middle man, it’s great on its own. 

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter 4

Still, I had to do my due diligence for the people. In two days, I’ve already had this on toast, a bagel, an apple, and pretzel sticks. Here’s a shocker, it was great on all of them. Outside of mixing it with peanut butter, I can’t think of many snacks this wouldn’t mesh with. I’d probably spread this on chicken.

I’m having a hard time thinking of any negatives. Like regular cookie butter, I did find that I wanted to brush my teeth after eating it, as it left a gritty, pasty feeling in my mouth, but that’s me grasping at straws. I really should be grasping at a spoon to finish the jar off. 

Judging from the line of products TJ’s has put out with the original cookie butter, I’m pumped to see what the future holds for this one. I’m hoping they eventually put out cookies, ice cream, and the jars with the chocolate swirl. 

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter is so good that I might write Trader Joe’s an email begging them to make actual pumpkin pies with this product for the Thanksgiving season. I’d replace the old standard with one of those in a split second. 

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp. – 220 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 14.1 oz jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Better than standard pumpkin pie filling. Delicious cookie bits. Great on everything. Great on its own. Trader Joe’s innovations. Magic in a jar.
Cons: Leaves a gritty, pasty feeling in my mouth. The word “dollop.”

REVIEW: Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips

Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips

This is the Canadian citizenship test. It’s two questions.

Question 1: Who is the best rapper?

a. Jay-Z
b. Notorious B.I.G.
c. Eminem
d. Drake

Question 2: Please describe, in 500 words or less, the flavor of Ruffles All Dressed.

In short, they are delicious.

I’d heard about Canada’s Ruffles All Dressed years before I got to taste them, little rumblings here and there about how great they were. While I never made it over the border to give them a try, Frito-Lay has finally decided to bring them to the United States (or ‘Murica, if you are an unfunny person) for a limited time.

All Dressed is not just a Ruffles flavor. Other chips also feature this taste and their recipes may differ. But overall, All Dressed usually displays elements of barbecue, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, and ketchup. (“Ketchup” flavor is a whole other Canada thing entirely, which I have eaten and is unique but too ketchup-y.)

Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips 4

The Ruffles All Dressed bag from Canada features pictures of a halved onion, a white vinegar dispenser and maybe a tomato, but it might actually be a red bell pepper. The Ruffles All Dressed bag from America—stamped with a maple leaf—has a picture of an open bottle of barbecue sauce, some off-color vinegar in a carafe and a spilled jar of paprika. This marketing difference exists because Americans hate vegetables and love spilling condiments. It’s a bit vague what elements are exactly featured in this version of the chip.

Actually, it’s pretty apparent. It’s a bunch of chemicals. But I can say I love those chemicals so much.

The introduction is a tangy hit. It’s not as sharp as a cheese chip, more rounded like a blunt spear of ketchup. Then vinegar-flavored flecks dance on the tongue and send up acidic flares, which eventually dip into a smooth taste not unlike the Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream.

Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips 3

The flavors are nuanced with a light touch and many dimensions are present, which makes the chip extremely easy to eat. As my mouth adapted to each taste, new corners appeared and others disappeared. Some chips had the mouth cloud of a barbecue chip, others had the pleasantly harsh spank of a salt and vinegar. Handful after handful, a prevalent aftertaste emerges —- light ketchup, a sweet-savory tomato hug. The flavors interplay well and complement each other like no other potato chip I’ve had. All Dressed is optimized for consumption. I obliged.

The only downside of this chip is what all Ruffles suffer from: The mealy, warm mush that ends every mouthful. Also they aren’t as crispy as I have come to expect from a “good” potato chip. But it’s unclear whether this flavor would reign on a Kettle Brand or a Cape Cod. The oily, ridged, soft body of a Ruffle thrusts the flavors into center stage, unobstructed by mountain ranges of crunch. I ate half a bag in a day and then another half a bag during that same day. So a full bag. If these leave America, so will I. And if this happens during a draft, then All Dressed will still be the number one reason.

I hope this chip is the same as the one I had heard legend about and not some tweaked American version. Because if it is this same fabled mutant flavor, I can agree with my Canadian brothers and sisters and people who have visited and smuggled back cheap pharmaceuticals. I am casting my vote for Ruffles All Dressed for Prime Minister.

(The correct answer to question one is, strangely, “b.” Canada recognize.)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Ruffles Limited Time Only All Dressed Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 7.75 oz. bag
Purchased at: Ralphs
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Tasty flavors with lots of dimensions. Easy to eat so many.
Cons: That hot, mealy Ruffles mush that sits in your mouth after a few bites.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo

Before triple Krispy Kreme Cheeseburgers, bacon wrapped churros, deep fried butter, chocolate and bacon covered corn dogs, deep fried beer, and deep fried watermelon slices were foods folks would find at fairs and carnivals and/or read about on a Huffington Post or Buzzfeed list, there was cotton candy.

Cotton candy has been offered at fairs for a lot longer than any deep fried and/or bacon wrapped dish and it’s a lot more fun. With cotton candy, you can walk around the fair and imagine you’re eating clouds. And when all the cotton candy is gone, you can use the stick it came with to make the pony at the fair’s petting zoo look like a unicorn.

While Nabisco’s Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo Cookies aren’t as fun as cotton candy, the flavor each one offers is just as pleasurable as actual cotton candy.

They smell like regular Golden Oreo cookies, but there’s a little something different if you take a deep sniff. But if you were to open the package in front of a blindfolded person, he or she would think it’s regular Golden Oreo cookies. The cotton candy-flavored creme is part pink and part baby blue. So if you just so happen to be having opposite sex twins, these would be cooler to pass out as a baby shower favor than whatever you saw on Pinterest.

Nabisco Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo Closeup

“Holy crap!” were the first words that came out of my mouth, along with several chewed up chunks of Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo Cookies, after eating my very first one. It’s not the “holy crap” one would say when walking into their bedroom and seeing a camel standing in the middle of it. It’s more like the “holy crap” one would say in disbelief after listening to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” for the first time, expecting it to be another lame ex-boyfriend song, but by the end they’re singing along with the final chorus. These cookies are surprisingly delicious.

I expected them to have an overly sweet, extremely artificial cotton candy flavor, but Nabisco did a great job at accurately getting cotton candy’s flavor in the creme. And it isn’t too mild or crazy sweet, it’s just right. Some issues I’ve had with previous limited edition Oreo cookies is that the wafers somewhat mute the creme’s flavor. But with this creme I could still get a noticeable cotton candy flavor when eaten whole.

While the creme’s flavor is wonderful, it also provides an interesting texture that makes these cookies extra special. It has the same grittiness as all other Oreo cremes, but while eating this particular cookie, that grittiness can feel like those compressed bits of sugar one experiences while eating cotton candy. It kind of messed with my head, but in a good way.

Out of all the limited edition Oreo flavors I’ve tried, I would put these Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo Cookies at the top, if I was a list writer for Huffington Post or Buzzfeed. I’m a bit sad these come in the new standard 10.7-ounce packages for limited edition flavors, instead of the previous standard of 12.2-ounces, and it doesn’t feel like I’m eating clouds. But when I do eat them, I’m on cloud nine.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Cotton Candy Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10.7 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Creme’s flavor is spot on. Creme’s grittiness adds an unexpected dimension to these cookies. Would make a great opposite sex twins baby shower favor.
Cons: Comes in 10.7-ounce packages, instead of the previously standard 12.2-ounce packages for limited edition Oreo cookies. No cotton candy stick to make ponies look like unicorns. Can’t imagine I’m eating clouds with them.

REVIEW: French Toast Crunch Cereal (2014)

French Toast Crunch 2015 Return

Let me take you back to 1999 for a few precious moments.

My mother’s silver Ford Windstar was bumping Smashmouth’s “All Star” as she dropped me off at elementary school, where for the next seven hours I’d gloss over lessons in long division and conjunctions in order to run an illicit Pokémon “distribution” center based out of my Star Wars Episode 1 pencil box. Afternoons were spent in the basement with my Sega Genesis (I always was a few years late with the systems) seemingly set in perpetual pause mode as I tried to pass the eighth level of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

In the evening, I’d cover my ears when the news came on and Tom Brokaw would tell my parents how the world would end with Y2K approaching. But I still managed to get a very solid nine hours of sleep each night with nothing but sweet, sweet dreams.

Why, you ask? Could it have been the innocence of youth? Or the absence of a soul-sucking job for which I’d have to wake up at 4 a.m. each morning?

Well, yes. But more importantly, it was because of French Toast Crunch.

Sweet, maple syrupy, and crunchy, it was for millions of us the gold standard in breakfast cereals. It might have been the single most dominant reason for relative world peace during the 1990s, and its delicious power to render slurp worthy end-milk allowed countless young Americans to partake in the bone-strengthening but otherwise insipid taste of skim milk.

French Toast Crunch 2015 Return 2

But sometime between our blissful ignorance of munching on a bowl box during marathons of ABC’s “One Saturday Morning”, a funny thing happened. The French Toast Crunch we all knew and loved changed. It wasn’t French Toast Crunch anymore. Instead it was a variation of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. As the box artwork and shape of the cereal pieces changed, so did the flavor, and before we knew it, the cereal faded into obscurity.

Until now.

Spurred on by a passionate social media campaign years in the making, General Mills has brought back French Toast Crunch in its original form from the 1990s, returning it to American store shelves after a lengthy exile in Canada.

As some of you may know, I’ve been fortunate enough to have, uh, procured Canadian French Toast Crunch in the not so distant past. I’m indebted to those Canadians who have offered to indulge my inner ten-year-old every now and again, although I’m obligated to point out it’s only fair considering we gave them the greatest cereal of all time and they gave us Nickelback. In any event, the Canadian version of French Toast Crunch is beyond delicious. The question, then, was whether or not the resurrected American version would be equally enjoyable.

Well, I have good news and bad news after tasting the returned version of French Toast Crunch. The bad news is I still don’t think we can turn back time and return Nickelback to Canada and get “One Saturday Morning” back on ABC. The good news? French Toast Crunch is even better than I remember it as a kid with all the crunchy glazed maple syrup goodness you or I could ask for.

French Toast Crunch 2015 Return 3

On the off chance you’re either A) An old fart who wouldn’t understand B) Too young to have eaten the original or C) Just have something wrong with you and have never tasted French Toast Crunch, here’s what you’re in for. Little squares of glazed “toast” with an authentic but not overpowering maple flavor, graced with a crunchy corn base with a wonderfully smooth glaze which gives each piece a lickable quality in milk.

French Toast Crunch 2015 Return 4

There are undertones of Cap’n Crunch and Quisp in the brown sugar and corn notes, while a Waffle Crisp flavor and crunch persists right down to the finish. Equally enjoyable when eaten as a snack or in a bowl of milk, it is, in two words, quite ideal. Beyond that, I’d likely exhaust the vocabulary of overused descriptive food terms before capturing the quintessence of why this cereal tastes so great.

French Toast Crunch is back, and it’s just as good as it’s ever been. It might not be able to take you physically back to 1999 (only a Flux Capacitor can do that) but set against the backdrop of a YouTube video of your favorite childhood cartoon and a lazy Saturday morning, it’s the next best thing.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup or 28 grams –110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.).)

Item: French Toast Crunch Cereal (2014)
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11.6 oz. box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Even better than I remember it. All the authentic maple qualities of Waffle Crisp with a smooth, glazed surface on each piece which is without equal in cerealdom. Wonderful Quisp-like crispness and slight corn aftertaste. Leaves delicious end-milk even in skim milk. Instantly my new favorite cereal…again.
Cons: Anxiety over sales performance in an already oversatured market. Sleepless night left wondering if this means Oreo O’s will come back too? Not being able to export Nickelback back to Canada.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream

I’m not much of a crier. Aside from a few moments scattered throughout the TV series Lost and Tom Hanks losing Wilson to the ocean in Castaway, I pretty much have a heart of stone. But a little bit of that stone was chiseled away when I ate Ben & Jerry’s latest pint, Candy Bar Pie, and the tears came in waterfall fashion.

If you’re wondering why I was crying, it’s for two reasons. The first being the ice cream was just so damn perfect. Rich peanut butter ice cream loaded with nougat, chocolate flakes, and perhaps the greatest ice cream filler ever, pretzel swirls.

Yes, pretzel swirls are real, and they’re fantastic. More salty-sweet goodness than even the most experienced veteran could wrap their taste buds around. Those with lesser developed taste buds should only take small bites of the pretzel swirls at first, as it will be a lot for your buds to handle, and if you take too much too fast your head will most likely explode.

Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream Top

The nougat is pretty much like a Swiss chocolate sauce, which is just chocolate syrup and marshmallow sauce mixed together. When it blends with the peanut butter ice cream it tastes almost like a fluffernutter sandwich. Then you throw the pretzel swirl into the mix and you get even more great taste combos. This ice cream is much like a Take 5 candy bar; it has everything you could want and it tastes even better than it sounds.

I’ve been indulging on Ben & Jerry’s for three-quarters of my life, and honestly, I’m torn between this and the original Chubby Hubby (the one that had chocolate covered peanut butter-filled pretzels, where the one today is just has chocolate covered pretzels) for my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor. I ate three pints of Candy Bar Pie in one week. I just couldn’t get enough. I was in love! Maybe there is still hope for my heart of stone?

No, there isn’t hope, because my love will be leaving me eventually, departing from her pint form and going back exclusively to Scoop Shops. See, it’s a limited batch, which means it will one day leave grocery stores, and subsequently my hopes and dreams will leave me.

I know it is originally a Scoop Shop flavor but can’t they keep it in a pint in stores? Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops aren’t all that common. Take Rochester, where I grew up. There is one Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in the city. It isn’t at some centrally located spot either, so chances are you have a decent drive to it. I haven’t been to every major city but the ones I’ve been to have the same deal. And what about the rural areas? There are no Scoop Shops in the rural Midwest, I can tell you that with confidence.

Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream Closeup

There is usually good grocery store access in most places though. Whether it’s Wegmans, Piggly Wiggly, Hy-Vee, Publix or Stater Bros., it doesn’t matter. There’s usually something near you no matter your region. If Candy bar Pie stays in pints, it could potentially save people from a long drive to a Scoop Shop, and save people in rural areas who don’t have access to a Scoop Shop from losing access to the tasty treat altogether.

I mean, imagine if seasons of Lost and every good Tom Hanks movie were just taken off shelves a month after they were released. You’d be sad, angry, or most likely both when you went to go DVD shopping and the titles you wanted were gone forever. It wouldn’t just be a bummer… It would be a SUPER bummer. The worst kind!

Much awareness has been brought to ALS through these ice bucket challenges (which, let’s be honest, unless you’re the Wicked Witch of the West or the Human Torch, really isn’t much of a challenge), so I propose a Candy Bar Pie pint challenge.

The way it works is simple: You film yourself eating a full pint of Candy Bar Pie in one sitting, and then you challenge your friends to do the same thing. They have 24 hours to respond, and if they fail to do so they owe you 100 bucks. Once the oligarchic board of decision makers at Ben & Jerry’s sees how much everybody loves the flavor, they will sprout a collective conscience and make it a permanent pint. So get your pints, spoons and cameras ready, everyone. We’ve got work to do.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 300 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams total fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 210 milligrams sodium, 31 grams total carbohydrate, 1 gram dietary fiber, 22 grams sugar, and 5 grams protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Wegmans
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: One of the best tasting Ben & Jerry’s concoctions ever. Pretzel swirls will make you believe in unicorns again. Raising Candy Bar Pie awareness. Saving yourself a few minutes of driving.
Cons: Limited batch oh why God why!? Evil oligarchies having control of flavor decisions. Having a heart of stone. Wilson being lost to the ocean.