REVIEW: Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016)

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016)

There’s something strange in my neighborhood. Unfortunately I didn’t know who to call. I couldn’t find one store that carried Ecto Cooler. Half of the places I called didn’t even know what I was talking about!

(That sound you hear is the collective gasps of every 90’s baby reading this blog.)

Then a little ghost told me that Cinemark Theater chains were selling cans. So while you may not go see the new Ghostbusters at the theater, you may have to go there to get your Ecto Cooler.

You remember Ecto Cooler, right?

Hi-C’s popular green “Citrus Cooler” flavor is back for the first time since 1997! I can’t believe it’s been that long since we’ve seen this school lunch staple. You’re probably wondering if it’s as good as you remember. I’m gonna try my best to not let sentimentality cloud my judgment. What exactly does nostalgia taste like?

It tastes like a sugar loaded tangerine orange drink. From what I recall, it’s the same, but it’s really not that good.

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I made a Vigo the Carpathian face when I took my first sip. It was such a jolt, I couldn’t even register if it was sweet or sour. How can something citrus be so cloyingly sweet? The sugar was so pronounced, it left a film on my tongue.

Everyone remembers Ecto Cooler fondly. I don’t blame you one bit, but your adult taste buds may no longer love the taste.

Ecto Cooler has basically always been a marketing gimmick and we all know it. It’s just orange drink dyed slime green. Was the flavor ever the main appeal?

I’m an adult now (debatable), and frankly, juice isn’t my go-to beverage. I don’t drink actual juice often, let alone Hi-C “juice,” so while I’ll admit it’s cool to reminisce for a minute or two, I didn’t even want to finish this.

That aside, the taste wasn’t my biggest problem with this new incarnation of Ecto Cooler.

So far, the marketing for this Ghostbusters movie is a mess. Where the heck is Slimer on this can? I can look past some subpar trailers, but that’s the most egregious misstep imaginable!

In my opinion most of Ecto Cooler’s appeal was seeing Slimer on the box/can. No Slimer is crazier than female Ghostbusters!!!

Relax, I’m kidding. I really don’t care about that “controversy” one bit. I mean, by all accounts the new movie is something weird and it don’t look good, but this is a food blog, not some clickbait, “hot take” movie site using beloved favorites from your past to conjure up more views. 🙂

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So, there’s no Slimer, but slime is well accounted for. The can looks like it said “I don’t know” on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That on Television. (Whoa, super nostalgia! Click. Click.) They used a special thermal ink that glows when the drink is cold. The “Hi-C” and borders changed from yellowish to green. That’s basically it. I guess that’s kinda cool, just not Slimer cool.

There are two things I ain’t afraid of – no ghosts and telling it like it is. Ecto Cooler just doesn’t do it for me anymore. I understand I’m probably in the minority.

The can has its gimmick. The color is awesome. The name is really awesome, but the actual drink is about as good as that Ghostbusters cartoon with the gorilla.

So rejoice, 90’s kids. We may not be getting the movie we wanted, but we did get Ecto Cooler back on (some) shelves. It’s too bad we couldn’t somehow swing some Hostess Ninja Turtles Pies.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, 25 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 41 gram of sugars, and 0 grams of protein, 100% of your daily Vitamin C.)

Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 11.5 oz can
Purchased at: Cinemark Theater
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: That Bobby Brown song from Ghostbusters 2. Proton Packs. Ghost traps. The REAL Ghostbusters cartoon. Turtles Pies.
Cons: Not a great flavor. Only 10% fruit juice. Having to go to movie theater to find it. No Slimer on the can. Clickbait. The new movie looks pretty weak.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S’mores Rolls

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls

The Pillsbury Doughboy is back at it again but this time on the s’mores bandwagon and he’s totally woo-hooing for the wrong team! Like most bandwagoners, it’s not entirely his fault. He’ll soon realize that s’mores-flavored products are quickly joining the ranks of other craze-du-jour-flavored products. Cue the lineup of failed Pumpkin Spice, Red Velvet, Apple-flavored products because it’s all hype & poor execution, buddy!

I’m sad to share that the Limited Edition Pillsbury Grands S’mores Rolls are no exception. To sum up the experience: shaky start, better second half but ultimately still couldn’t deliver.

Here’s the play-by-play:

After the satisfying Pillsbury packaging pop, a pungent chocolate-esque smell creeps its way into my olfactory receptors. I say chocolate-esque because it smells like most artificial packaged chocolate smells: sickeningly sweet and nothing like what real chocolate smells like. Offensive foul for the Doughboy.

As the dough oozes its way out of the popped container, I am geeking out a little bit about the icing packaging. I was wondering how Pillsbury would fit icing in their neat cylindrical package. While it does mean I’m one roll short, the icing itself is packaged like it’s a part of the dough roll – in a small, plastic cylindrical container at the end. Clever!

Of course, I can’t help but try the white icing goop. It unfortunately and fortunately doesn’t taste like anything. I say unfortunately because if this is supposed to be the marshmallow part, it fails miserably like an airball. I also say fortunately because I’ve been known to eat all icing before it actually makes it onto the baked good.

The naked, uneven dough plops look really unappetizing on the baking sheet. They’re different sizes because it was hard to rip apart evenly. Sloppy pass here, Pillsbury.

The packaging says to bake for 23 – 29 minutes so I set my oven timer for 26 minutes – middle ground is safe right?! While the rolls were baking, the chocolate filling actually started to smell like my favorite thing in the world: fresh baked cookies! I could smell the chocolate filling warming up from artificial chocolate to rich deliciousness.

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After some risin’ and golden brownin’, the rolls come out looking way better than how they looked going in. However, I immediately notice that it’s a little crispy on the outside. This could absolutely be user error, but this never happens with the biscuits!

Before I begin the daunting task of icing the 350 degree Fahrenheit swirls, I try the roll sans icing. Gnawing my way through the sweet chocolate filling, I notice that there’s a slight savoriness to the dough itself – very reminiscent of Pillsbury biscuits. That biscuit-like savoriness proves to be the saving grace for the tasteless icing. When I do canvas on the icing, like Durant and Westbrook, the icing and more-savory dough work real well together.

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However, the icing to roll ratio is completely off; I only got through about three rolls before I ran out of icing. When I ran out, I turned to ice cream instead. I’m all about textures and temperatures and ice cream is the perfect complement. Icing, schmicing!

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While Pillsbury has a strong overall record, the Limited Edition Pillsbury Grands S’mores Rolls just can’t pull off the W. The dough itself is hard to work with and over bakes way too easily. Its teammates – chocolate filling and icing – can’t make up for the dough’s overpowering oafishness. As Limited Edition S’mores Rolls fades into irrelevance, I’ll be posted up at Cinnabon. Better luck next limited edition season!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Roll with Icing – 300 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 540 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 17.5 oz.
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Rolls come out looking & smelling way better baked. Smells like fresh baked cookies! Savory dough works well.
Cons: Artificial chocolate = offensive foul for the Doughboy. Naked, uneven dough plops. Icing, schmicing!

REVIEW: Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels

Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels

Be careful, Mentos.

You’re walking on thin ice by bringing your Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels into the Rolo Mafia’s territory. Sure, you may have sold your chewy chocolate and caramel bites in Europe for a while now, but things are different in America.

Rolo rules the chocolatey caramel morsel game here, and Don Rolo has been known to make some pretty unrefusable offers in order to discourage competition. Let’s just say that if you wake up tomorrow with the bleeding, severed head of a cherry gummy bear in your bed, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Apparently you’ve released a Caramel & Mint Dark Chocolate variety, too, but I couldn’t find those. Maybe the Junior Mint Yakuza already got to ’em.

I’m telling you, Mentos: thin ice. Speaking of which, you know why Ice Breakers haven’t broken into the chocolate caramel market? Because they don’t want to be sleeping with the Swedish Fishes, either.

But okay, maybe I’m not giving you enough credit. Maybe you can roll with the best of ’em. The Don says you have one shot, so time to put your honey-colored sugar goo where my mouth is.

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I see your trick now, Mentos. You inverted my expectations by putting the chocolate inside the caramel. This way you can claim originality, just like how my bootleg “Nookie” shoes have a haphazardly inverted -— and totally not copyright infringing -— checkmark.

Sorry if it sounds like I’m being hard on you. That’s just because you’re being hard on my teeth. Despite your sticky, pliable caramel shell, I had to apply so much violent dental force to break through it that several anti-fracking petitioners showed up outside my window.

And speaking of dark brown stuff that lurks beneath the surface, your equally gummy chocolate center sure isn’t as valuable as crude oil. In fact, I could barely taste it. There’s a faint fudginess and an aftertaste of ho-hum, sweetened cocoa, but it doesn’t have the creaminess of a Rolo, the butteriness of a Reese’s, or even the mock carnivorous delight of a cheap chocolate bunny.

All I did taste was caramel: simple, super processed, and not at all salted. There’s a bit of that classic “mouthwatering browned sugar” caramel flavor, but it’s mostly like the generic caramel swirl you’d find in a disappointing, birthday party-ruining store brand ice cream.

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Taken together, your Mentos Caramels really are just inside-out Rolos with inferior ingredients. If I may extend my analogy further, it’s like what would happen if Great Value tried to make an Uh-Oh! Oreo. The only people I could recommend these to are those who love Mary Janes, old saltwater taffy, and whatever other rock-hard, filling removing candies the old lady down the street hands out on Halloween.

Sure, Mentos Caramels might not taste that bad, and sure, I could just suck on them until they don’t suck my molars from their sockets, but there’s just no reason to pick them over a Rolo when I’m in the checkout aisle making an Impulsive Buy (See what I did there? Meta reference).

So for your crimes against candy and dental plans, Mentos, I’m sentencing you to “death by overused 2005 YouTube meme.” By which I mean Diet Coke.

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Uhh, crap. I guess you win this round. Apparently Mentos Caramels only make the drink angrily fume for five straight minutes instead of erupting. I promise I’ll find some way to punish you.

Right after I finish chugging this bottle of flat, fudgy caramel cola.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 36 g tube
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Fleeting fudge phantoms. Acceptable for deserted island caramel fixes. The legitimately tasty idea of Chocolate Caramel Coke. Chocolate bunny filets.
Cons: Counterfeit Uh-Oh! Rolos. Budget caramel. So long, dental plan! Having to suck my Mentos instead of chewing them. Organized candy crime.

QUICK REVIEW: Turkey Hill Caramel Peanut Butter Gelato Swirls

Turkey Hill Caramel Peanut Butter Gelato Swirls

I’ve had caramel swirls in ice cream. I’ve had peanut butter swirls in ice cream. But I’ve never had a caramel AND peanut butter swirl.

Thank goodness crossing the swirls is not like crossing proton pack energy streams which would cause all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light because if it was I’d be gone thanks to Turkey Hill’s Caramel Peanut Butter Gelato Swirls.

According to the ingredients, the peanut butter caramel swirl contains actual peanut butter, but it’s what makes the swirl taste a bit odd. The nicest way I can explain its flavor is to say it tastes like a cheap artificial peanut butter-flavored candy, and the caramel’s sweetness seems to amplify the peanut butter’s odd flavor.

As for the base gelato, I’m not sure what flavor it is and whatever it is it’s not very strong. It looks like vanilla, but it tastes more like a nondescript sweet flavor. Even though I’m not a fan of the swirl, there are enough of them at almost every level in the container to give the nondescript sweet base a bit more flavor.

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As for the gelato’s texture, it has a consistency too similar to frozen dairy dessert. Sure, that makes it easy to scoop, but when I think of gelato, I think premium and this doesn’t have a premium vibe to it.

Turkey Hill’s Caramel Peanut Butter Gelato Swirls is not horrible. I’ll eat it before freezer burns sets in, but its swirl is something that makes me not want to purchase another quart.

Disclosure: I received this quart for free from Turkey Hill. Receiving it for free did not influence the review, which you probably knew already since this wasn’t a positive review.

Purchased Price: FREE (received from Turkey Hill)
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/2 cup) 180 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Bazooka Candy Brands Crunchkins

Crunchkins

Crunchkins are a brand new “dessert flavored popper” from the Bazooka brand, despite the color scheme on the bag reeking of Wonka. Then again, if these were a Wonka product, they’d probably be called “Fling Flang Wazellydoos” or something. Nevertheless, I think we may have officially run out of clever names for candies. Crunch-kins.

And what’s with the usage of “poppers”? Is candy the first thing you think of when you hear the word “popper”? Isn’t that dated slang for pills?

But I digress. Time to di-gest. Ugh.

Crunchkins come in three flavors – Birthday Cake, Fudge Brownie, and Glazed Donut. While tons of companies have played with cake and fudge flavors, glazed donut is definitely an exciting new foray.

The poppers have a thin crispy shell, followed by a flavor appropriate layer of a chocolate-like substance, and a crunchy ball center.

The shell is thinner than an M&M’s shell, and quite frankly, pretty unnecessary. While it does provide distinct flavor, I feel like that could’ve just been infused into the chocolate more.

The crunchy center, which is more like Crispy M&M’s than a malted milk ball, tasted stale and cheap. I had really hoped these would taste like flavored Whoppers or Robin Eggs, but alas, as John Lennon famously said, “I can’t always get what I want.”

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As for the individual flavors:

Birthday Cake was the best. White and speckled – they looked like mini jaw breakers. The flavor was basically vanilla, but tasty and close enough to the standard Birthday Cake flavor. It was essentially vanilla icing candy.

Glazed Donut, like Crunchkins themselves, was a mixed bag. There was some kind of weird spice element to it that made me think of licorice Necco Wafers, and no one wants to think of those. As I chewed, the Glazed Donut flavor came through, which I enjoyed because I’ve never had a candy mimic this flavor. Still, that spice was overpowering. I do think glazed donuts have that flavor to a degree, but Crunchkins cranked it up to ten. I tried all three flavors at once, and the spice was the distinct flavor that ultimately pushed through.

Fudge Brownie was the worst of the three. I was instantly put in mind of Little Debbie Fudge Brownies, but the chocolate just wasn’t top quality. Ever have Palmer brand chocolate? It’s basically the bottom barrel stuff they put out around the holidays. It tasted more like that than premium chocolate. No offense, Palmer.

Crunchkins only seem to exist to remind me how good the snacks they are mimicking really are. While eating them, I wasn’t thinking about the candy in my mouth, but more about actual birthday cake, glazed donuts, Little Debbie’s Fudge Brownies, Nestle Crunch, Crispy M&Ms, Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, and so on. You could probably say that about most artificially flavored snacks, but I especially yearned for the old reliables while eating these.

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The texture was also a problem for me. If there was no shell, and just the chocolate coating with a malted milk ball center, I’d probably love them. That inner chocolaty component was the only texture I enjoyed.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re decent, but not something you’ll want to run back to. I’m not sure it’s fair to say these are “bootleg Crispy M&M’s,” but they are basically bootleg Crispy M&Ms. For a candy that hits the caps lock on “CRUNCH” in their name, the stale crunch may have been the weakest part.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 pieces (40g) – 200 calories from fat, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 8 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.38
Size: 3 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Passable snack. Birthday cake flavor is spot on. Glazed Donut was kinda good. Ambitious effort.
Cons: Confusing spice flavor. Poor quality chocolate. Stale tasting center. Not Whoppers. Bootleg Crispy M&M’s. Uninspired name. No Bazooka comic. Someone even jokingly confusing Mick Jagger and John Lennon.

REVIEW: Airheads Birthday Cake

Airheads Birthday Cake

Airheads is celebrating its 30th birthday in 2016.

M&M’s is celebrating its 75th birthday in 2016.

Look, I know that M&M’s flavored like Airheads and Airheads stuffed with M&M’s Minis is probably too much to ask for, but at least give me an HD video of that cute Brown M&M sensually eating a Watermelon Airhead while singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. Candy President.”

Now before you finish typing “how to file a restraining order” into your search bar, hear me out. It took M&M’s — a chocolate candy — all the way until its 73rd birthday to jump the artificially flavored shark and try a birthday cake flavor.

Typically fruity Airheads made this bizarre leap in less than half the time, making me think someone at Airheads HQ Googled “what flavors does Buzzfeed write about please help us we’re out of ideas.”

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So here I sit with a Birthday Cake Airhead. It looks like someone cut the tongue right out of Yoshi from Super Mario Bros.’ mouth and dunked it in a bowl of Funfetti batter. The slimy gloss on the taffy further supports my grim hypothesis.

I always knew the Pillsbury Doughboy wasn’t right in the head.

Even though feeling the gritty, sticky texture of this Airhead is like sharing Play-Doh with the dopey, drooling kid from pre-school, I bit off a hunk anyway. I chewed, I chewed, the fish in my aquarium evolved a pair of legs, and I continued chewing.

It really does take a long time to chew through this Airhead. I timed it at about 40 seconds for each sizable bite. By the time I finished, my fish were Cro-Magnon men. My journey through time covered several distinct taste eras, so allow me to break this down, National Geographic style.

0-10 seconds: The Buttercream Era

During this period of early development, indigenous Airhead eaters were stunned by just how much it tasted like cake frosting. A palatable butteriness and a lip-smacking whipped cream sweetness allowed them to survive in an otherwise challenging time plagued by a gross mouthfeel.

11-20 seconds: The Vanilla Era.

Our humble, chewing natives experienced a brief period of splendor, as a storm of intense vanilla flavor graced them with its pleasant taste. Faint notes of eggy yellow cake began to grow from the half-chewed Airhead soil, and all were pleased by this harvest.

21-30 seconds: The Powdered Sugar Era

This good fortune could not last. As the mealy mush of chewed Airhead began degrading into a sopping pile of grit within the chewers’ mouths, volcanoes of confectioner’s sugar erupted cloying, glazed lava. Tasters everywhere were sickened by its tooth-rotting sweetness.

31-40 seconds: The “I Don’t Even Know Anymore, Dude” Era

Ruin befell the Airhead eaters. All that remained after their earlier tragedy were puddles of sugar granules and saliva, as well as an off-putting waxy aftertaste that radiated from the backs of their throats. They say, “those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it,” and these chewers were idiots. So they took another bite.

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That’s the Cliffs Notes version. For a while, this taffy actually did taste uncannily like a heavily frosted birthday cake. The problem is that cake flavor and taffy texture together is about as appealing as nuts and gum. It’s an odd experience that might be worth the novelty, but Airheads would have been better off choosing a safer flavor. Pineapple upside-down cake? Banana crème pie? Anyone? Bueller?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to study the next chapter on 7-10pm: The “Stuffs his Face with Crispy M&M’s and Cries” Period.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 60 calories, 5 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 142 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 6 bar variety pack
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Brief buttercream blasts. Fleeting vanilla resplendence. Chewing for long enough to kill time at the DMV. The Brown M&M.
Cons: Sarcastically exclaiming, “cake and taffy: together at last!” Slimy, saliva-soaked sugar paste. Birthday candle aftertaste. The Pillsbury Dahmer-boy.