REVIEW: Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel

Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel

I guess Skippy has to keep up with the Joneses…I mean, keep up with the Jifeses.

While Skippy has flavored peanut butter spreads, dark chocolate and honey, Jif’s Whips line has seen so many flavors that it makes me wonder if it’s called Whips not only because it’s an airy peanut butter, but also because whips are what Jif uses to “encourage” their flavor scientists to pump out so many flavors.

For the sake of those who don’t follow airy peanut butter spreads as closely as I do and to inflate the word count of this review, Jif Whips have come in the following flavors: Original, Chocolate, Pumpkin Pie Spice, S’mores, Chocolate Mint, Maple Brown Sugar, and Salty Caramel.

But Skippy is trying to play catch up with their Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel.

From what I can tell, salted caramel, sea salt caramel, salty caramel, and its ilk have been popping up as a new flavor with many products. I’d list them to further extend the word count of this review, but I shall spare you the monotony of reading dozens of commas. Salted caramel has reached the point where we could call it the non-holiday pumpkin spice.

Skippy’s salted caramel-flavored spread smells burnt with a hint of chemicaliness. Granted, I’ve never smelled the combination of peanut butter and caramel before or walked into someone with an open jar of peanut butter while I was unwrapping Werther’s Originals and then yelled “Hey! You got your peanut butter on my Werther’s Originals,” so maybe burnt with a hint of chemicaliness is what those two are supposed to smell like.

Oh, “chemicaliness” is an abomination of a word? Well then, it’s appropriate because I feel Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel is an abomination of a peanut butter spread.

Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel 2

Okay, maybe not an abomination because I don’t gag while eating it on bread (it spreads just like regular Skippy), on a spoon, or on my finger, but it makes my tongue surf waves of flavors that encourages it to paddle to shore and go home. First, there’s the peanut butteriness, which has a slight caramel-ish flavor. It isn’t offensive, but the caramel flavoring does a great job at muting the peanut butter flavor. Next, there’s a burst of saltiness, which makes sense since it’s salted caramel. But, at times, it can be a bit too much.

However, that saltiness prepares my mouth for the final rough wave of flavor. Remember how I said it smells burnt? Well, it also tastes burnt. To be more exact, this last wave of flavor reminds me of burnt popcorn.

But I’m not really surprised I don’t care for it. The “artificial flavoring” printed on the front of the bottle was a red flag.

I don’t see myself ever coming close to finishing this bottle of Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel. Right now, it sits four-fifths full in the back of the cupboard, hidden behind some bottles of the Jifeses.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp – 190 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: Skippy Limited Edition Creamy Peanut Butter Spread with Salted Caramel
Purchased Price: $3.22
Size: 15 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: It spreads like regular Skippy. Looks like regular Skippy. Doesn’t make me gag.
Cons: Tastes like burnt popcorn. Smells burnt with a hint of chemicaliness. Using long words that my computer’s spell check doesn’t like.

REVIEW: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)

If nothing else, I’ll say this about the Burger King location I visited: they’re super efficient.

I visited around noon, and they were quite busy. After I ordered, I walked about three steps to the left, to the area where they bring the food. There was a burger sitting on a tray. Since I had literally just finished ordering my burger seconds ago, it didn’t even occur to me that it was mine.

There was a smiling man standing behind the counter. We locked eyes. Why was this guy staring at me? Didn’t he have anything better to do? Was my fly down? The man pointed to the tray and told me it was mine. I don’t know if the words just didn’t compute, or if he wasn’t speaking loudly enough, but I asked him to repeat it. He did.

This still made no sense to me. Even if the burger was pre-made, how did he get it from under the heat lamp and over to my tray so quickly? There was maybe two seconds between me finishing up my order and walking over to where he was standing. So I clarified: “No, I ordered the Pepperoni Bacon Whopper.” His smile didn’t quite fade, but it wavered. He was clearly starting to lose his patience. “Yes sir, that’s yours.”

My eyes narrowed. I thanked the guy — more a question than a statement — then picked up the tray and took it to a table.

I unwrapped the burger, half expecting to find a regular Whopper. Glancing at the sad-looking burger in front of me, flattened and misshapen, I initially thought I was right. But what’s this? Is that a piece of bacon poking out from the bun? I took a peek inside, and yep, there was the pepperoni.

You’re probably wondering, “Why are you dwelling on this? It’s a fast food place; of course the food came fast.” Fair enough. Maybe you had to be there, but it was a startling display of efficiency. I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be impressed or horrified.

Anyway: the burger. The Pepperoni Bacon Whopper is, as the title implies, a Whopper with pepperoni and bacon on it. It’s also got a couple of slices of American cheese, because, yeah, why not?

My conundrum as to whether or not to be impressed or horrified was quickly answered after I took my first bite: horrified. Because not only was this burger not hot, it wasn’t even warm -– it was room temperature. I don’t know exactly how long it was sitting out, but I’m going to say a while.

I will charitably call it lukewarm, but in reality, it was leaning more towards cold. I considered asking them to make me a new one, but by the time this thought occurred to me, I was already two or three bites in, and the idea of losing my progress and starting over from scratch with a brand new burger was too much for me to handle. I earned those bites; no one was going to take them from me.

The patty itself was easily the burger’s worst offender. It was unpleasantly bitter, with that distinctively acrid, stayed-on-the-grill-for-a-couple-of-minutes-too-long flavor that characterizes pretty much any hamburger you get from Burger King these days.

It was also insanely dry. And I don’t just mean dry in that fairly typical way that characterizes most fast food burgers. No, this wasn’t that. This was capital-D Dry. I’ve had a pretty ridiculous amount of hamburgers in my lifetime, and this was probably one of the driest ones I’ve ever had.

Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada) 2

It was tough, with a pebbly texture and a slightly gamy, vaguely off flavour that peeked through whenever you weren’t tasting the charred bitterness. It’s a flavour that announces in no uncertain terms that this is shoddy beef that has doubtless been sitting in a drawer for a disturbingly long period of time.

The pepperoni was pretty good, at least. It was standard-issue pepperoni, with that very familiar flavour that you’ve no doubt tasted on hundreds of pizza slices over your lifetime. On a better burger it would have been a bit overwhelming, but here I was very happy for the flavour of the patty to be overwhelmed; my arms were wide open. It wasn’t overwhelming enough, in fact. The taste of that patty still managed to muscle its way through and go straight for my gag reflex.

The thin slices of bacon, however, never had a chance. I knew they were there because I saw them, but I couldn’t taste them. At all.

The cheese, though it added some creaminess, also got lost among the burger’s more assertive flavours.

The other toppings (the standard Whopper veggies, ketchup, and mayo) were fine. The tomato slices weren’t mealy and the lettuce had some vague crunchiness, so I’m going to call that a win. The bun was a little bit clammy, but otherwise okay.

As a parting gift, the burger left an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste that lingered for most of the afternoon.

So no, sorry Burger King — you continue to be the Andy Dick of fast food chains. You were okay in the ’90s, but no one wants you around any more. The sad thing is, putting pepperoni on a burger is a decent enough idea, but to quote Switch from the Matrix: not like this. Not like this.

(Nutrition Facts – 860 calories, 56 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 2.5 grams of trans fat, 145 milligrams of cholesterol, 1590 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Pepperoni Bacon Whopper (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: A burger that’s ready mere seconds after ordering it, as if by wizardry. Tasty pepperoni. Fresh condiments.
Cons: Apparently even a wizard cannot conjure up a burger and make it taste hot and fresh. Bitter, over-charred, absurdly dry burger patty. Pointless bacon. Terrible aftertaste.

REVIEW: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gums

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum

In the land of guar gum and sucralose, where the pumpkins and gourds lie…

Two brands.
Many layers.
One flavor to rule them all.

Yes, it’s Pumpkin Spice Season, and, in the legion of opportunities to build up your pumpkin spice endurance, Extra and Trident are throwing themselves in the sumo circle to see which can make the product with just enough squash, just enough cinnamon, just enough grit, to transform a dessert of caramelized orange vegetables into a new and potentially terrifying medium.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident-Extra face-off

With enough tire tread marks to wrap around a Ford F-150, the Extra pieces serve up a classic, slim look. The Layers, on the other hand, are the prodigy of pudgy, 3-dimensional nubbins, the Tetris blocks of a former life, if you will.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident Tetris!

And, much like Tetris blocks, there is no pumpkin in either gum. No pumpkin at all. But a chewer still gets many of the sensations that a pumpkin-spiced treat might bring (sweetness, warmth, cinnamon spice). The Extra smooshes the sugar-and-spice sweetness in one bite, with an emphasis on the sweet coming together to taste something like a strongly cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie (or, more accurately, a cinnamon-spiced Juicy Fruit).

There aren’t any squash notes, but there is a strong emphasis on caramelized sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruity clove. It’s hyper-sweet and the spice fills me with Christmas optimism, and, as we all know, it’s so easy to accomplish stuff when filled with Christmas optimism. I even cleaned my house thanks to Extra gum.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum This clean house is brought to you by Extra gum

On the other end of the spectrum is the Trident, which has all the looks and smells of a Yankee Candle store in October, combining the familiar spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sweetness. I have my hopes up, but as I start to chew…

Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi? Where Jabba’s henchmen are sucked into the maw of a gaping sandpit, wherein they are chewed and ddigested? That is how I felt while chewing the Trident: it starts off super sweet, but then eeks out into an amalgamation of popcorn, plastic, Halls cough drops, and those name-brand white jelly beans.

The spice is equivalent to gnawing on a basket of potpourri and, in a mere 47 seconds (47 SECONDS!), the gum got tough as the girders of Scottish gentlemen. Unless you have recently lost your sense of taste or have a particular nostalgia for gnawing on Goodyear Tires baked in a vat nutmeg, I’d recommend putting your pumpkin pie money elsewhere.

The Extra on the other hand? It had a solid 3-5 minute run before losing flavor, and even then, it had a soft chew and spice that stayed. Is it the sorbital? The soy lechithin? The Acesulfame-K? I dunno, but I do know that Acesulfame-K is almost as fun to say as “Stoichiometric ratio” or, “nuclear binary fission.” Thankfully, Acesulfame is not as intense or damaging to your internal organs as nuclear binary fission. Yay for not chewing nuclear radiation!

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum The winner and grand champion

When I was 8 years old, I decided I’d be a Detroit Lions quarterback. As a 4.5-foot, 65-pound human who couldn’t get past the third rung on the climbing rope, I knew this was unlikely, but certainly not impossible, so I tried anyway.

Similarly, the concept of creating a gum that mimics pumpkin pie is far-reaching, but not ludicrous, and Extra did a respectable job here. While neither match the pie experience to the “–nth” degree, Extra takes a notable lead over Trident with its longer chew time and greater sense of roundedness in flavor, but just know that, like a 4.5-foot, 65-pound 8-year-old pretending to be an NFL quarterback, it still can’t quite replace the real thing.

(Nutrition Facts – Extra – less than 5 calorie, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein. Trident – 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1 pack/15 pieces
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fruity clove. Nice vanilla balance. Lasts for about 3-5 minutes. Christmas optimism. Detroit Lions.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Not as aesthetically pleasing as the Trident. After 3-5 minutes, gets rubbery. Nuclear radiation.

Item: Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $2.80
Size: 3 packs (14 pieces each)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Pretty to look at. Tetris. Girders of Scottish gentlemen. Reason to talk about Return of the Jedi.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Like chewing a mix of cinnamon-spiced plastic, popcorn, and stale jellybeans. Gets tough after 47-seconds. Being chewed by a sandpit.

REVIEW: Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M’s

Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M's

At what point should we start to be concerned that the usually delicious array of autumnal-inspired treats and sweets are becoming a victim of their own lofty standards?

Up until recently I was inclined to say never. I mean, when unlikely superstars like Pumpkin Pie Pringles and Candy Corn Oreo augment standbys like apple cider donuts and pumpkin spice cookies, fall products have earned a reputation as reliable as the leaves hitting the ground each September and October. It’s part of what makes this time of the year so special for food lovers, and no doubt the reason Walmarts and Targets everywhere rush in the latest creations of mass-produced seasonality earlier and earlier each year.

Now though, I’m not so sure if every apple or pumpkin product will be a hit. My doubts started last year with the Pumpkin Spice M&M’s, and have been confirmed by the new Candy Apple M&M’s.

That’s right; even graced by the seductive presence of a high risk spokeswoman, there’s nothing particularly memorable or sexy about the new Candy Apple M&M’s. And there’s definitely nothing candy apple or autumnal about the flavor.

It shouldn’t have been this way. On first inspection, it sounds like a brilliant idea; the perfect marriage of cloyingly sweet and sticky hard shell coating and mellow milk chocolate paired with the prerequisite cinnamon spice for depth and artificial apple tartness for, well, tartness. Dare I say, they could have even thrown some caramel in there, and heck, why not peanuts? Granted it’s difficult to execute the ultimate nightmare for dentists in something less than the size of a quarter, but c’mon, this is M&M’s people. I mean, they stuck a friggin’ pretzel between chocolate and shell. That’s like sending a man to the moon compared with developing the simple flavors of a candy apple.

Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M's Closeup

Alas, it was not to be. The only things vaguely reminiscent of a candy apple in these M&M’s are the color and shape. Upon first taste a vague notion of cinnamon spice, more reminiscent of hot cinnamon candies than tart Granny Smith encased in hardened syrup, inhabits the candy coating. At least, I think its cinnamon. Come to think of it, maybe its clove, or perhaps nutmeg or ginger. Yes, that’s it, nutmeg and ginger. Almost nonexistent in intensity but there nonetheless, like the imaginary friend I sat with at the lunch table in second grade.

You heard me, imaginary friend.

I pop another M&M in my mouth and I’m starting to question if that cinnamon taste was ever really there, just as I questioned why Teddy my old chum at Rockhill Elementary wouldn’t trade me his Dunkaroos for my carrot sticks (I never did get an answer.) Allowing the M&M to dissolve into a familiar if not pedestrian chocolate flavor, I’m suddenly left with the taste of nothing more than that mild chocolate. Don’t get me wrong; chocolate is great and all (hey, maybe even good for me!) but as I finish the M&M I can’t pick up anything unique or different about these from standard M&M’s. Like the Pumpkin Spice M&M’s there really isn’t much going on here; just chocolate and shell and maybe a little bit of artificial vanilla flavor, combining with that sort of waxy debris of chewed-up M&M that sticks in the nooks and crannies around your molars.

I don’t think I’ve been as frustrated in a fall food product since, well, ever. The worst part about the Candy Apple M&M’s is that they speak to what has really been a series of mediocre limited edition flavors. I’m not just talking about last year’s Pumpkin Spice duds, but also the Red Velvet flavor, and some of the other seasonal spinoffs which seem more package art than taste sensations. Altogether, it’s a disturbing trend for a candy that has had great success with iconic flavors like Mint and Peanut Butter. But perhaps it’s a needed reminder that not every fall-themed sweet can live up to expectations.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Candy Apple Milk Chocolate M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.9 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Classic M&M’s taste and texture in slightly larger form. Only ten calories per M&M, as opposed to hundreds in an actual candy apple. Always enjoyable M&M’s commercials.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like a candy apple in the least. No tart flavor of apple or sticky sweetness of coating. M&M’s fragments stuck in your molars. Attempted seduction by a chocolate candy. Imaginary friends.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Peeps Donut

Dunkin' Donuts Peeps Donut Peep Donut

7:30 in the morning and fresh from the dusty, diesel-packed streets of the Bowery, I swung into the Dunkin’ Donuts, dodging the heating lamps of hash browns and the baskets of 99 cent danishes. I sought neither the jelly-puffed munchkin nor the swirls in the Butter Pecan Latte. Nay, I came for one thing and one thing alone: a torus-shaped chunk of fried dough topped with an artificially colored marshmallow.

Dunkin' Donuts Peeps Donut Smooshed Peep face

Is it a chicken? A warbler? An artist’s interpretation of a Saffron Finch? Much like the Hero’s Journey to the center of the Tootsie Roll, the world may never know what the true breed the Peep “chickadee” is (then again, I’m not a very good ethnographer). What I do know is that each little plop of Dunkin’s dough is topped with one of these aviary escapees, not to mention being doused in a glaze of sugar and artificial colors, which reminds me of Fruity Pebbles, which reminds me of Childhood Joy. So it stands to conclude that this doughnut is made out of Joy, right?

Dunkin' Donuts Peeps Donut Sawdust cake

The doughnut comes out with all the vibrancy of a Lisa Frank commercial and its 21 grams of sugar gives an equally vibrant kick in the pants. As hoped for, the anticipated sugar glaze hits first, tasting of little more than the joy of refined, gritty sugary-ness with a hint of vanilla extract. It’s layered on moderately thick and there’s a little crunch as you bite into the softened glaze as it softens and dissolves into a gritty, sweet mess (the best mess there is). This fructose-laden rainbow-brick-road paves the way as you chomp towards the epicenter that is the Peep. You have the option to eat your Peep as you choose. Just remember: that special feeling that comes with chomping the head of a Peep? No one can take that away from you.

Dunkin' Donuts Peeps Donut One day, this Peep's ghost will seek vengeance on me

The speed bump in the sugary journey came as I bit into the piece of yeast dough. Dry. Pasty. Stiff. This was not Joy. “Did I come in on a bad morning?” I asked myself. “Is the fryer on the fritz? Has a ill-willed goblin from the 7th dimension taken over the Dunkin’ Donut kitchen? BAH! How do I handle ill-willed goblins? What do they have against doughnuts? And how will I be able to attain a mass-marketed piece of adequately fried dough in light of my incapacity to handle a species I’ve yet to understand?”

These questions were left unanswered as I gnawed my way to the center of the dry piece of bread, each bite bringing only more disappointment. Sure, I always hope for a sugary, dense cake, but even a slightly fresh, modestly moist cake will do. I’ve even been known to take day-old doughnuts and plop them in the microwave to give ‘em a little kick in the fluff. But this? This was overcooked, even cottony, tasting more like stale Wonder Bread. Wonder Bread tossed in sawdust. Combined with the Peep and it was like chomping a slightly stretchy piece of sugar-coated Styrofoam, the little crumbs of dried out cake spewing dried-out shrapnel every which way. Perhaps a slightly denser cake doughnut may have stood the test better? I don’t know, but I fear this one just didn’t cut it for me.

Thankfully, I had a hot chocolate at the ready because what goes better with a bird-shaped marshmallow than a frothy beverage of molten cocoa? I would suggest you consider doing the same: grab yourself a coffee, a Cookie Dough Coolata, whatever joe suits your fancy. While dry on its own, the pastry makes excellent dunking material (this is Dunkin’ after all). The beverage adds a bitter, sharp bite to the sugar onslaught while filling in the nooks of hardened dough with a little bit of moisture and caffeine. You will be happy. Your Peep will be happy. The goblins of the 7th dimension will be happy.

Dunkin' Donuts Peeps Donut Peep protects its territory

Have a sweet tooth? Or ten? Do all of them crave straight sugar laced with sugar that tastes of sugar on a dry piece of bread? If you answered yes to all of the above, the Peeps doughnut is here for you. While I admire the seasonal charm, the colors threaten to blind your sensitive eyeballs and the dry cake is just blee-blah-bloo. In the future, I’ll steer clear of this one, but again…seasonal. It’s a good idea, DD, but I spoke to the Easter bunny this weekend and he told me he’s looking for a Girl Scout Cookie doughnut to deliver next year. So how ‘bout it Dunkin’: Will you heed the bunny’s call?

(Nutrition Facts – 310 calories, 130 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 21 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Peeps Donut
Purchased Price: $1.09
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Corn syrup! Fructose! Bright colors! Slight crunch from the glaze. Poofy marshmallow. Stretchy marshmallow. Marshmallow dunked in hot chocolate. Childhood Joy.
Cons: Bright colors may result in blindness. Dry dough. Stale Wonder Bread tossed in sawdust. Still wondering: how many licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Goblins of the 7th dimension. Me not being a good ethnographer.