REVIEW: Hostess Original Golden Deep Fried Twinkies

Hostess Deep Fried Twinkies

As someone who grew up in a town that hosts the so-called “Biggest Small Town Fair in the Country,” I’m familiar with novelty fried foods. And oxymorons, apparently.

So yes, I have had a deep-fried Twinkie before, and for all I know, that barely digestible monstrosity is still hanging out somewhere inside me. It probably has a better memory of Summer 2004 than I do, too.

That’s why I wasn’t scared of Hostess’ new Deep Fried Twinkies. I mean, these things are pre-fried, frozen, boxed, and conveniently stocked in Walmart’s freezer aisle endcap! “That’s like eating fried food on easy mode!” my inner Twinkie shouted from somewhere in my large intestine.

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But I shouldn’t have treated these Deep Fried Twinkies like declawed kittens. Because despite their sad frozen appearance, which is like Han Solo in carbonite crossed with a belt-sanded fish stick, these unassuming Twinkies are more like rattlesnakes wearing silencers.

Ever-curious, I took a nibble of a still-frozen cake. It tasted like a Krispy Kreme doughnut stuffed with frozen custard. That was all the heart-fluttering inspiration I needed to fire up my toaster oven* to 350° and spend the next eight minutes eagerly glued to my warmly radiating fried food boob tube.

The Deep Fried Twinkies’ packaging warns not to over bake them, as the cream inside can disappear. Not wanting my Twinkie’s hot, buttery goo to transcend this earthly plane, I wondered how long to wait. But right as I actually spoke the words, “How do I know if it’s done?” aloud, the golden tube leaked a prophetic drop of sizzling crème onto the toaster’s bottom.

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As emergency rescue, extraction, and cooling of my Twinkie began, I drank in its authentic county fair aroma like a Looney Toon next to a windowsill pie. Once my Deep Fried Twinkie’s leaky wounds cauterized, I dug in.

DMG! (Dough My Goodness!) What was once a chewy, doughnutty shell was now crispy, oily, and buttery sweet—like the shell of a cannoli or the wrapper on a dessert egg roll.** But the oil didn’t leak into the fluffy, warm, and golden sponge cake inside. This created a tasty puff pastry blanket around the cream center instead of the oily mess you might find in other deep fried treats.

I’m looking at you, Taco Bell Cap’n Crunch Delights.

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And can we talk about my Deep Fried Twinkies’ crème filling? Because it was fantastic. It tasted just like the creamy vanilla innards of a normal Twinkie, except half-liquefied. It had the flavor of whipped cream mixed with doughnut glaze and the viscosity of runny maple syrup.

This means that you can squeeze the delicate treat and quite literally suck up the crème like the world’s most dangerous Capri-Sun juice box. And I’ll proudly testify in front of a judge and jury that this, your honor, is exactly what I did with my Deep Fried Twinkie.

Maybe it’s my hometown nostalgia talking, but I adore these Deep Fried Twinkies (which have a Chocolate variety, too). They have a charming novelty with the part-doughnut, part-Twinkie, part-funnel cake taste to back it up. You owe it to your inner child to give one of these a try.

And I promise, that’s not just my inner deep-fried Twinkie talking.

*Note: You can also oven bake or actually deep fry these. I chose a toaster oven because I was impatient and thought McDonald’s would kick me out if I asked to use their fryer.

**Note: I made up the term “dessert egg roll” for this review, but apparently it’s a real thing. What a time to be alive.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 220 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.79
Size: 7 cakes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: The buttery lovechild of a county fair, a bakery, and a snack cake aisle. Wanting (and planning) to pour this crème onto a Belgian waffle. Frozen custard cylinders. Winning my town fair’s pie-eating contest in high school.
Cons: Being unable to decide whether to eat my next Twinkie frozen or hot. Only come 7 to a package. Smelling burnt crème in my toaster oven for the next two weeks. Shuddering memories of Cap’n Crunch Delights.

REVIEW: Sprite Tropical Mix (2016)

Sprite Tropical Mix (2016)

Don’t call it a comeback.

Or, more correctly: depending on where you live in the United States, don’t call it a comeback. See, this strawberry and pineapple-infused variant of the stalwart caffeine free lemon-lime soda has a convoluted history and its journey deserves some context.

In 2003, Sprite launched the Remix brand extension, a limited edition gimmick that would see a new flavor unveiled every year. Remix only lasted until 2005, so only three flavors emerged: the initial Remix flavor which we now know as Tropical; Berryclear, a mixed berry flavor; and Aruba Jam, an undetermined taste the label simply referred to as “fruit flavor.”

Nowadays, many of the elder statesmen of junk food have to swap out flavors just to stay competitive (*cough* Oreo *cough*) but back in the halcyon days of the early ’00s, Sprite’s Remix scheme earned a full-blown write-up in the country’s newspaper of record.

Unfortunately, despite the notoriety and success, Sprite dirt-napped the Remix concept before you could say “Jamaican me crazy.” The brand didn’t return to variant flavors until 2013’s holiday-themed Sprite Cranberry (a full seven years after competitor Sierra Mist introduced their Cranberry Splash) and 2014’s LeBron James-inspired Sprite 6 Mix, which presumably tastes like sweat and endorsement deals.

And then, last year, Sprite tested the carbonated waters with a limited re-release of Sprite Tropical Mix, no doubt stirred by the nostalgia-driven revival of Surge. It popped up in many states in the South and on the East Coast and, while elusive in 2015, this limited edition 2016 return is coast-to-coast, just in time for spring. And Sprite Tropical Mix is a heckuva springtime drink.

Sprite Tropical Mix (2016) 2

Crisp, light and free of the syrupy thickness of Robitussin-like competitors, Sprite Tropical Mix doesn’t suffer from cloying, burdensome flavor. Instead, it’s got a delightful, delicate aftertaste of strawberry and pineapple, and visually, it’s no different than your normal Sprite: crystal clear and buzzing with carbonation.

Sprite Tropical Mix has more in common with La Croix than, say, a mainstream soda variant like Mountain Dew Code Red or even a Fanta. It’s a perfect sipping soda for a hot day, a welcome approach as the market seems dominated by caffeine-engorged heart palpitation potions intended only to kickstart your testosterone-secreting punch engine. It’s a better bedside beverage than bottled breakfast booster for sure. So look for it because of the flavor rather than as the most expedient and cheapest caffeine delivery system.

The packaging assures us Sprite Tropical Mix is “for a limited time,” but I have a feeling that, much like the McRib, reports of its demise will be greatly exaggerated. It would make a welcome annual tradition amid these sweltering springs and scorching summers. Maybe down the line Sprite will offer a larger quantity than the 20-ounce bottles you’re likelier to track down at a convenience store than a supermarket.

Until then, however, track down some Sprite Tropical Mix and, like a vacation with a loved one, relish your time together.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 fl oz – 240 calories, 0 grams of fat, 115 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 64 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 20 fl oz
Purchased at: Circle K
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Crisp, light, refreshing. Caffeine free. Delicate flavors. La Croix. Does not taste like sweat and endorsement deals.
Cons: Limited edition. Uncertain future. Not available in larger quantities, e.g. oil barrel size.

REVIEW: Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies

Here’s a fun fact: a Cinnabon Classic Roll has 880 calories, 37 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 820 milligrams of sodium, 127 grams of carbohydrates, 58 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.

Here’s another fun fact: the amount trees needed to make the napkins used per year by those eating the messy Cinnabon Classic Roll equals to 197,000,000 square miles of rainforests.

Okay, that last “fun fact” is a complete lie and the entire surface of the Earth is 197,000,000 square miles, but, I swear, I use five or six napkins whenever I eat Cinnabon.

Cinnabon’s huge Classic Rolls are yummy, but they have the nutritional content of a meal and make my hands sticky enough that I wonder if I could climb walls with them. But what if you want cinnamon bun flavor without the huge amount of calories and mess?

Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies might work.

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The new variety is the first with a cinnamon flavored cookie, which looks like a Golden Oreo wafer that’s spent some time in a tanning salon. There are red specks baked throughout the cookie, but, even though the sweet spice is listed as an ingredient, I’m not sure if they’re cinnamon, just red specks to give it the appearance of cinnamon, or if my cookies have the measles. Whatever they are, they make the cookie taste similar to Cinnamon Teddy Grahams.

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As for the creme, it looks like plain ol’ Oreo stuff, but softer. So if you’re one of those people who likes to twist off a wafer and lick the creme, it probably won’t come off clean. The creme’s flavor is also a bit like what’s on a plain ol’ Oreo, but lighter, not as sweet, and with maybe a tinge of cinnamon.

When I lick the creme, all I think about are glazed donuts. Mmm…donuts. I was hoping these had the cream cheese-flavored creme found in the Red Velvet Oreo, but the creme is still great.

The cookie as a whole tastes Holy Cow Awesome and I think it does a great job at getting the right balance between cinnamon and frosting. They also smell wonderful. Although if you’re a Cinnabon employee, they probably smell like work.

But if you want to make them slightly more Holy Cow Awesome, heat one up for 10 seconds in the microwave oven. (Hat tip to the anonymous commenter who suggested that.) The creme gets a little gooey and it’s warm like an actual cinnamon bun.

With new Oreo flavors there’s usually a “Limited Edition” printed on the package, but that’s not the case with these. They’re a new regular flavor, like original Oreo, Cool Mint, Peanut Butter, and Birthday Cake, which I’m glad about because I would hate to have to send angry, profanity-filled emails to Nabisco demanding they bring them back if these delicious cookies were limited edition.

I’ve tried two dozen Oreo flavors over the past few years. Most of them are good to great, and a few are mediocre. But none of them are horrible. And none have been unbelievably spectacular…until now.

I think the Cinnamon Bun Oreo stands above all the flavors. Not only does it have the flavor, but just the little things like those red specks in the wafer and the use of softer creme to emulate a cinnamon bun’s frosting make eating the cookie more of an experience. These are my new favorite Oreo cookies and I think you’ll love them too.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 150 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Cinnamon Bun Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 12.2 oz.
Purchased at: Times Supermarket
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Unbelievably spectacular. Flavor does remind me of a cinnamon bun. Not a limited edition. Tastes slightly better when warmed up. Red specks in wafer and softer creme are a nice touch.
Cons: The nutritional numbers for a Cinnabon Classic Roll. Softer creme makes it harder to cleanly twist off wafer.

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.

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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. 

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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

Update: These chips are now a regular flavor in the U.S.

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.)

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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.

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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.