REVIEW: Hostess White Fudge Ding Dongs

Hostess White Fudge Ding Dongs

Ding Dongs really are the laziest of the Hostess family.

Ho Hos have some level of technical achievement.

CupCake’s got the swirl.

But the Ding Dong? It’s just a puck.

It’s a slice of a chocolate cake tube, stuffed with creme, and coated in the most chocolatey of wax. Despite their cartoonish name, Ding Dongs are a distinctly utilitarian snack food and the most mathematically efficient delivery system for chocolate and vanilla flavors.

In their search to remove even more joy from their brand of sugar discs, Hostess have introduced White Fudge Ding Dongs. An all-white variation that subs the coating for white chocolate, and switches the cake from cocoa to vanilla. The resulting product is bleak, bland, and cynically sweet.

The waxy exterior of a classic Ding Dong cracks into sweet shards, unmelting as the tongue is distracted by the cake and creme. For the White Fudge variant, Hostess appears to have shelled out for an actual food product. The exterior melts, enriching the entire bite with a sugary swirl. For a packaged cake, the texture is pretty satisfying. However, it’s also very prone to melting after just a few seconds of being held. Prepare for sticky fingers.

Hostess White Fudge Ding Dongs 2

While the coating is good, it’s wasted on a cake that is already saturated with creamy vanilla. It’s white chocolate on yellow cake, surrounding white creme. The flavor profile is blindingly sweet, lacking any deeper notes to appreciate. The fudge tastes like an extension of the cake, which tastes like an extension of the creme. All binding into a single, monotone bite. These white pucks offer little more a profound head rush. With 33 grams of sugar between the pair, I struggled to get through both of them.

White Fudge Ding Dongs feel like the result of an algorithm gone wrong. The classic version is already so basic, and so simplistic – distilling it any further leaves nothing behind but sugar. White chocolate is best used as an accent for other, more bold items. Had Hostess kept the chocolate cake, something special would have been found with this white fudge coating. But as is, White Fudge Ding Dongs are difficult to recommend.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes – 310 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 33 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2.55 oz./2 cakes
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Coating tastes and melts like actual white fudge. Overflowing with creme. You won’t want to eat both, so they’re sharable.
Cons: Tastes like straight sugar and vanilla. Coats your fingers in melted white goo. Looks like prop food in a teen dystopian movie.

REVIEW: Hostess Chocolate Cake Twinkies

Hostess Chocolate Cake Twinkies

From the dawn of prepackaged snack good creation, there have been clear lines of evolutionary development. Following the progenitor of all these treats, the Hostess Cupcake created in 1919, diverged the Ho-Ho (1920), Suzy-Q’s (1961), and finally the Ding Dong (1967).

But all of these products pale in comparison to the Twinkie. Engineered in 1930, it not only survived a flavor change in World War II, but also has evolved into one of the most nuanced and copied bakery items in history. And now it’s getting a new modification: chocolate cake.

To be sure, this is not the first time chocolate and Twinkie have tangoed together. The elusive Chocodile beguiled East Coast junk food addicts for years before a 2014 national re-release, while chocolate cream-injected Twinkies make a yearly appearance around Halloween (presumably because Hostess thinks rhyming is a good way to market empty calories).

But never before have we seen this.

The first question I had was “Why?” The second question I had was “Why not?” The third question I had was “Do you know where the toilet paper aisle is?” because I was in an unfamiliar Walmart running errands.

Hostess Chocolate Cake Twinkies 2

Having conquered my weekly duties, I made sure to rewards myself with the new Chocolate Cake Twinkies. I was unimpressed; shorter and denser than the standard Twinkie, the Chocolate Cake Twinkies had a moist devil’s food crumb that is neither overwhelmingly chocolaty nor excessively dull. It is, as you’d expect from anything Hostess makes, super sweet, so much so that the chocolate becomes a cocoa sidekick to the insane rush of sugar.

While the Twinkies tasted a lot like a chocolate Zinger sans frosting (or every other Hostess chocolate baked good, for that matter) I did find myself missing the chocolate “shell” provided by products like Ho-Hos.

Hostess Chocolate Cake Twinkies 3

I thought the chocolate might at least make the cream stand out, but this was not the case. If anything, it made my taste buds have less appreciation for the cream, which instead of balancing a rich chocolate sponge cake, mostly just tasted whipped marshmallow cream.

If there’s ever been a less satiating display of chocolate cake outside of this scene in Matilda, this is it. It’s not that the chocolate Twinkies suck, but rather that the essence of a Twinkie has always been it’s light, chiffon-flavored sponge cake filling. It’s what makes people eat them in droves, reference them in legal discourse, and, my personal favorite, put them on pizza. Without the light vanilla cake, the chocolate Twinkie just becomes a Zinger without the frosting, or, worse yet, Ho Hos without its shell.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes (77g) – 260 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: 2.7 oz./2-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Smells like Cocoa Krispies. Moist cake element. Not as bad for you as eating an entire chocolate cake.
Cons: More of a cocoa than chocolate flavor. Squishy, dense cake texture. No balance with cream element. Tastes exactly like every other Hostess chocolate baked good except without the frosting or shell.

REVIEW: Keebler Cereal

Keebler Cereal

Those crafty Keebler elves!

Not content with just a good portion of the snack aisle (they make Town House crackers, too?!) or hollowing out trees for mass cookie production, they have decided to expand their reach by entering my morning time with the debut of their eponymous cereal. They are so excited by it, actually, it doesn’t need any wildly descriptive title as it is simply just called Keebler Cereal.

Thank goodness the packaging shows the actual product so you know that it is chocolatey cookie based like their Chips Deluxe line rather than Sandies shortbread. PHEW! However, there is a red flag on the top flap noting that I need to “SHAKE IT UP!” as the “Cookies may have settled.” Uh-oh. Upon opening the box it is worse than I imagined as there is nary a cookie in sight even after examining all sides of the inside bag.

Keebler Cereal 2

After a good, hearty shake the “real mini chocolate chip cookies” do reveal themselves as promised but the ratio is off. They are present but not predominantly and this is in addition to the fact that they are nearly half the size of the chocolatey puff pieces they are paired with. I wonder what kind of math curriculum the elves have in school because whatever it is it needs to be reevaluated.

Keebler Cereal 3

The taste of the cookies is okay with a nice milk chocolate richness that definitely comes through upon chewing, even though they are probably better suited for a snack mix than a breakfast cereal. The other pieces are mediocre, just kind of generic chocolate puffs that are very similar to those in other kid’s cereals. They remind me of the bagged bargain ones you have to buy on the bottom shelf while waddling like a penguin through the aisle as the memorable commercial dictated.

Eating the cereal with milk offers a better experience as you get a nice blast of chocolate every time you stumble upon one of the cookies amongst the puffs. However, I noticed that while eating my way through the bowl there seemed to be even fewer cookies than I had started with.

I did a test by putting one cookie and one puff in milk and stirring vigorously. Upsettingly, the cookie started to dissolve while the puff stayed intact. I was expecting Keebler magic, but not like this!!!

Better luck next time elves.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 130 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.39
Size: 11.2 oz. box
Purchased at: ShopFoodEx.com
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Rich chocolate flavor from real cookies. Keebler venturing into other grocery aisles.
Cons: Questionable elf math skills. Boring chocolate puff pieces that make me think about waddling like a penguin in a grocery store. Unintended cookie disappearing acts.

REVIEW: Starbucks Chile Mocha

Starbucks Chile Mocha

Some like it HOT and I am one of those humans.

No, I’m not talking about the 1950’s movie starring Marilyn Monroe, but the Scoville scale. Just in case you have no idea what the heck I’m talking about: the Scoville scale measures the heat of a pepper from 0 units (bell peppers) to 16MM units (pure capsaicin). I can realistically only handle up to a habanero (350K units) so I’ve been on a mission to increase my capsaicin tolerance.

Along comes Starbucks’ latest drink innovation, the Chile Mocha. I drink Starbucks religiously (who else spent way too much money on Starbucks for Life) and I like heat. Advertised with “ancho and chile spices” and “for those mornings that need an extra kick,” I expected the Chile Mocha to dazzle my taste buds.

In true Goldilocks-fashion, I had to try all three: the Frappuccino, the hot mocha, and the iced mocha. Unfortunately, the only thing consistent about the three was that they all came with too much whipped cream.

I started with the Frappuccino. Nothing about the Frappuccino tasted like chile or even mocha for that matter. It was so sickeningly sweet that it tasted toffee-like; maybe the barista used the toffee nut syrup instead of Chile Mocha powder. So, heat was nonexistent. I even tried the Spiced Mocha topping on top which looked like straight cayenne/paprika but actually also had sugar crystals mixed in.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 2

The powder fondly reminded me of a less concentrated version of Lucas Mexican Candy. However, cayenne is only 50,000 Scoville and paprika is, if you’re lucky, maybe 100 Scoville units. Instead of ordering the Chile Mocha Frappuccino, I might as well have just ordered a plain ol’ coffee frap for $1 less and 90 less calories.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 3

I moved onto the iced mocha next. I was immediately a little off-put by the powder sitting at the bottom of the drink. I tried mixing it but the powder at the bottom was just out of straw reach. After my first couple of sips, I felt a very slight warming/heat sensation in the back of my throat. FINALLY!

However, it was short-lived as it quickly neutralized. While the iced mocha was a little more coffee-forward, it still erred on the too-sweet side. Disappointed, I proceeded to eat the whipped cream with tasty wannabe Lucas Mexican Candy power and left the rest of the drink.

Starbucks Chile Mocha 4

Lastly, the hot mocha. At this point, my high expectations were demolished. But, the fact that my first sip actually tasted like a mocha was a great start. Unlike the iced mocha, the heat actually built up. At first, I thought it was way too subtle but as I drank more, I concluded that this level of heat probably works for people not trying to burn off their taste buds (unlike me). If it were any spicier, it would likely be too spicy for some folks. I also really enjoyed the temperature contrast of the cold whipped cream with the hot mocha.

Net-net, stick with the hot mocha. I know it’s still 90 degrees in certain parts of the country, but fall is right around the corner! For my fellow capsaicin enthusiasts, I’m dropping a Ghost Pepper Mocha suggestion in Starbucks’ inbox.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall 12 oz (Hot Chile Mocha with whipped cream) – 270 Calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 29 grams total sugars, 10 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: Varies
Size: Tall
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Chile Mocha)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Iced Chile Mocha)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Chile Mocha Frappuccino)
Pros: Fondly reminiscent of Lucas Mexican Candy Power. Hot Chile Mocha.
Cons: Too much whipped cream. Frappuccino and Iced Mocha are sugar bombs. Minimal heat.

REVIEW: Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries

Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries

Eating Burger King’s new Cheetos Chicken Fries (CCFs) is very similar to going on a Tinder date. You see pictures and read a description of somebody, use a cheesy pick-up line, chat them up for a bit, and then you agree to meet at a bar.

Only when you get there, you find out the person looks nothing like their picture or they just aren’t the person they represented themselves to be online. I mean, you write that you like sailing in your profile but then you tell me you can’t even tie an anchor hitch!?

Cue dramatic piano music.

This was how I felt after eating the newest in the Chicken Fries line. Sure, the box had art similar to a bag of Cheetos. Sure, it says the word “Cheetos” on the box. Sure, they’re covered in a Cheetos breading. Sounds pretty great, right?

Well, the CCFs have one whale of a problem. No, that’s not enough. They have one MOBY DICK of a problem, and it is the fact there is barely any Cheetos flavor on them.

I do not know if it’s because I went on the initial release day and the BK workers hadn’t quite perfected their technique, but the final product tasted like somebody dropped Chicken Fries onto a pile of Cheetos crumbs and a minuscule amount of the flavor rubbed off on them.

Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries 2

I was expecting them to be bright orange, just like actual Cheetos. Instead, they just look like darker Chicken Fries with some orange specks sprinkled on them. The lady who took my order asked if I wanted a dipping sauce, so I ordered a side of ranch thinking I would not need it. But after eating the third one plain I started dipping so they would have some kind of actual, noticeable flavor.

Burger King Cheetos Chicken Fries 3

I did get a tiny hint of Cheetos flavor but it was all in the aftertaste and I didn’t even notice it until after I ate several of them, and I really had to concentrate and use my imagination. They just didn’t have the cheesy kick many others and I were probably expecting.

I thought maybe my sense of taste had temporarily gone on vacation, but I got an order for my co-worker and he said the same thing, barely any Cheetos flavor.

The best part about the CCFs was, in all honesty, the box art. Woof.

I imagine somewhere Chester Cheetah is blowing lines of Cheetos cheese dust whilst crying, listening to Joe Satriani and uttering words of contempt about Burger King’s hack job of a recipe using his moneymaker.

(Nutrition Facts – 280 Calories, 18 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams total sugars, 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 9 pieces
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Cool box art. Cheesy pick-up lines on Tinder.
Cons: Hardly recognizable Cheetos flavor. Chester Cheetah having his good name tainted.