REVIEW: Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog

Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog

I like almond milk. It gives me a break from soy milk, which gives me a break from regular cow milk, which gives me a break from soda, which gives me a break from water, which gives me a break from food, which gives me a break from having a conversation with someone who won’t shut up about The Walking Dead. I’m sure it’s a wonderful TV show, but I’m not going to watch it. So you don’t need to convince me.

I also like pumpkin spice and am not sick of everything being pumpkin spice-ified. So seeing my two likes together in one carton made me as excited as a Walking Dead fan minutes before a new season starts.

Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog isn’t the first pumpkin spice product from the brand. It has a pumpkin spice soy milk, which I enjoy and have purchased a few times. Since Silk has added pumpkin spice to their almond milk, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see the autumn spices with their coconut milk, cashew milk, and whatever nut milk Silk develops in the future. My money is on Brazilian nut.

Silk’s Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog has wonderful scent. When I pulled back the safety ring and took a whiff, it was like what I imagine motorboarding two pumpkin pies would smell like. It has an orange tint that looks like the result of a Creamsicle that’s been completely melted into a puddle mixed with the tears of a child who’s crying because he or she dropped that Creamsicle. Its texture is about the same as almond milk, not as creamy as soy milk, but not as thin as skim milk.

But its texture is also a bit weird and I’m not sure how to describe it. I guess it has an artificial creaminess to it. Actually, now that I think about it, all Silk products, thanks to thickening agents and emulsifiers, have an artificial creaminess, but this nog seems different than the other products.

Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog 2

While the beverage’s aroma reminds me of the Thanksgiving dessert staple, its flavor does not. The spices are there — with cinnamon being the strongest, followed by ginger and nutmeg — but instead of pumpkin pie, its taste reminds me of cinnamon pancakes drowning in Mrs. Butterworth’s or Aunt Jemima. Yes, that does sound tasty but not at all what I was hoping for and I did not enjoy it much.

Also, I don’t know if many people care about this, but this beverage is nutritionally empty. A cup of Silk’s almond milk has 45 percent of your recommended calcium and 50 percent of your recommended vitamin E. A half-cup of this provides no calcium or vitamin E. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, so how could it not have any vitamin E?

If you need a non-dairy pumpkin spice beverage fix, there are other options. I know there’s Almond Dream pumpkin spice-flavored milk and Califia Farms has a pumpkin spice latte with almond milk, but I haven’t had them so I can’t compare. But I can compare it with the Silk Pumpkin Spice soy milk and I think the soy milk version is much better tasting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 50 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Free of soy, dairy, gluten, lactose, cholesterol, eggs, casein, and carrageenan. Smells nice. The Walking Dead (so everyone says).
Cons: Free of decent flavor. Provides no vitamin E, which is weird because it’s made with almond milk. Not as good as Silk’s pumpkin spice soy milk. Weird texture.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts

Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts

“I just don’t know what’s wrong with me, Doc.”

She stared at me through horn-rimmed glasses. I’d seen the look before on psychologists, and knew I’d better continue.

“I just have no enthusiasm anymore. Worse yet, I’m completely ravenous. Nothing seems to satiate me.”

“Interesting. What have you been eating?”

“Eh, I guess the question is what haven’t I been eating. It’s fall, you know, and pumpkin spice is my jam. Actually it’s more like by butter, because I’ve never heard of pumpkin jam. But anyways…just this morning I stopped and picked up a bag on Hostess Donettes Pumpkin Spice Donuts.”

She blinked rapidly. “And tell me, how did those make you feel?”

I thought about it for a moment. I’d been anxious to pick them up; each glazed orange cake donut calling my name. I’d loved Donettes as a kid, and now that Hostess had built a pumpkin spice version, life seemed complete. Yet here I was, mere hours after mindlessly eating the entire bag, feeling so…incomplete.

Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts 2

“Horrible,” I blurted out, the memories suddenly coming to the forefront of my mind. Then every lackluster pumpkin spice product I’d ever eaten entered my stream of conscious, overflowing in a river of confectioner’s sugar glaze and a mere trace (trace, mind you) of cinnamon. I’d been holding the memories back, repressing the thoughts of pumpkin spice rolls that tasted instead of Twinkies and pumpkin spice M&M’s that tasted of, well, M&M’s.

“That’s what I thought,” she said. “I’ve seen the case many times, with increasing frequency. What you seem to have is MPSFS”

“Misspsfs? Say what?”

“MPSFS. Mediocre Pumpkin Spice Fatigue Syndrome. Tell me, were cinnamon, ginger, and allspice listed in the ingredients of these donuts? How about pumpkin puree?”

Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts 4

I thought back to the ingredient list, remembering I had seen cinnamon and pumpkin. But then I remembered where they were listed. The dreaded “less than 2%” section, with pumpkin puree coming in dead last, even behind “Blue 2 Lake.” I kid you not, you can’t make this stuff up.

I hung my head in disappointment, more memories materializing. Each donut had the presence of cinnamon, but nothing more. Something between just the aroma and a slight taste of something slightly spicy, the cinnamon flavor had been fake and one-note, like a Red Hot candy without the heat. No other spices rounded it out, and despite the orange hue, pumpkin had never registered on my taste buds. (Thankfully, neither had Blue Lake 2.) A decent packaged donut, cloying glaze and all, but nothing more.

Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts 3

I looked back up at the doc, my eyes beginning to water up in shame. How could I have been so duped? And by Hostess, no less!

She must have noticed my shame, saying, “There’s a cure, you know. But you’ll have to give up cheap imitations of pumpkin spice—including the Donettes.”

That was fine by me. After the Donettes, I was ready to leave anything pumpkin spice behind, even the memories of great pumpkin spice products. I got up to leave, ready to embrace whatever it is people embrace when they decide to forsake an entire season’s worth of flavors. That’s when she stopped me.

“You’ll find something someday that will remind you of why you love pumpkin spice. Don’t let a few bad apples, um, pumpkins, ruin what pumpkin spice should be.”

With that I smiled, knowing lackluster Donettes couldn’t be the last word on pumpkin spice.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 mini donuts – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein..)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts
Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 10.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Light crumb and cakey interior. Crispy, sweet glaze. Possible dual use as an air freshener.
Cons: Overly artificial “fall spice” flavor. Cloyingly sweet. Too dry to be a really good cake donut, but not airy like a yeast donut. A lifetime of repressed pumpkin spice disappointment.

REVIEW: Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls

Little Debbie is a girl who’s got dresses for every season, every holiday, and every occasion. I can imagine her right now examining her extensive wardrobe of flavors. “No, a Boston Creme Roll won’t do for June, nor will a Strawberry Shortcake Roll quite capture September. I must put on something distinctly autumnal!”

Of course, something “distinctively autumnal” means changing out the vanilla cake with “pumpkin spice.” But is Little Debbie’s beauty only skin deep? Are all the dresses and flavors just scaffolds covering a stale, cloyingly sweet snack cake whose best days are long behind her?

Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls 2

Clearly, further investigation was in order. Each individually wrapped roll is easy on the eyes, their orange hue are attractive this time of year. A drizzle of icing and voluptuous cream filling practically spills out of the cake, and despite a $1.99 price tag and and no mention of pumpkin on its ingredient list, I fell hard.

But after trying them, I realized the rolls are all style and no substance. A pretty face but no personality. There’s pumpkin-flavored, pumpkin spice-flavored, and then there’s these; orange with specks of brown suggesting cinnamon and nutmeg which just aren’t there. Through many pumpkin seasons, I’ve learned few pumpkin products can ever live up to the platonic idea of a pumpkin pie. But as for the Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls, this brings pumpkin spice to a new low.

That said, I can’t turn away from Little Debbie. I can’t just shoot her a text and be like, “Hey, that’s cool, but yea, no.” To tell you the truth, I kind of liked them, albeit in a secret rendezvous, tell absolutely nobody about this sort of way.

The cake is at first dense, chewy, and hyper sweet, a common theme the icing carries on with a fake vanilla flavor. Yet the filling, normally a mix of confectioner’s sugar and cream cheese in traditional pumpkin or pumpkin spice rolls, is where it’s at.

Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls 3

If I didn’t know better, I would have said Little Debbie robbed a Hostess plant, because the filling tastes exactly like what’s in a Twinkie. It’s lighter than you’d expect, but ooey-gooey just the same, degenerating into a cloying and sticky cream that has just enough artificial palm oil richness to make you sort of put it in the realm of Oreo filling.

Little Debbie: I’m on to your game. And frankly, all these bells and whistles of the seasons, the changing of the dresses, they work and they don’t work. Your Pumpkin Spice Rolls offer absolutely nothing seasonal, and although the Twinkie filling and super sweet cake may be enough to make schmucks like me enjoy them, they won’t be confused for an actual pumpkin spice roll.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll – 260 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Little Debbie Pumpkin Spice Rolls
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 6 pack
Purchased at: United Supermarkets
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Twinkie-inspired cream filling. Super-sweet and ooey-gooey. Moist and dense cake. Giving into childhood cravings. Perhaps the first Little Debbie product I’ve found without partially hydrogenated oil.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like pumpkin or pumpkin spice. Very one note in sweetness. Not nearly as good as the pumpkin roll your mother made, or the one you bought at the Walmart bakery. Incredibly messy to eat.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza

Papa John's Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza

Ol’ Papa John just can’t seem to stop turning other things into pizza. He has a seemingly insatiable love for it, whether it’s a Philly Cheesesteak, a cheeseburger, Fritos chili pie, spinach dip, or even a cookie. Okay, sure, the last one isn’t that far-fetched, but still.

I have a few suggestions for future Papa John’s mash-ups:

Deluxe Nachos Pizza – nacho cheese sauce base, all the usual nacho toppings, maybe some tortilla chip crumbles on top. Tagline: “This is nacho grandma’s pizza!”

Lobster Roll Pizza – mayonnaise/lemon base topped with buttered lobster chunks, celery and scallions. Tagline: “We’re on a roll with this pizza!”

General Tso’s Pizza – teriyaki glaze base topped with crispy glazed chicken, broccoli and hot peppers. Tagline: “There is tso much flavor baked right into this pizza!”

Matzo Ball Pizza (seasonal item) – matzo crust with a schmaltz base, topped with chicken, carrots, shallots and garlic. Tagline: “Don’t pass over this deal!”

Just some food for thought, if you will. Also, I fully expect some of these to become realized in the future. You’re welcome, Papa.

With all this talk of crazy pizzas, you may think this review is about a crazy pizza. Well, think again! Also, read the title of this review!

Papa John’s newest creation is the Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza, a name that evokes one of the oldest, simplest and most traditional pizza creations straight from Italy. It’s history time!

The year is 1889. Italy has been unified for 28 years, but the southern portion is still as salty as pasta water about it. The Italian king and queen decide to visit Naples, which used to be the capitol of Westeros – er, sorry, the Kingdom of the South, in an attempt to convince them that hey, it’s all good, bros.

The queen is totally sick of the gourmet French cuisine that is normally served to royals, because who doesn’t, so she summons famous pizza-tosser Raffaele Esposito to bake her three pies. Goldilocks-style, she rejects the garlic one and the anchovy one, but finds the one with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to be juuuust right.

The queen’s name? Daenerys Targaryen, of course.

Oh, wait, sorry again. It was Margherita.

And thus, the Margherita Pizza was born. Or was it? There’s strong evidence that this whole story is bogus, so take it all with a big grain of Italian sea salt.

Pizza Margherita is one of only three pizzas with a Traditional Guaranteed Specialty EU label, which means that it comes with some very strict rules in regards to preparation. Papa John’s has, of course, followed none of those rules.

I mean, they’ve got the basic components. Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil are present, but in no way are the arranged in the way of a traditional Pizza Margherita.

Papa John’s describes the Chicken Margherita Pizza as “loaded with grilled all white meat chicken, basil pesto sauce, fresh cut Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and pizza sauce”.

Upon opening the box, I was greeted with the scent of tomatoes and a hint of pesto. Not a bad start. I also noticed there was a healthy amount of both tomatoes and chicken spread across the pizza. Topping coverage is important, people. It’s the #1 way a pizza can give me a sad face. Okay, pineapples are #1. But it’s a close second.

The tomatoes were absolutely juicy and tasted fresh, bursting between my teeth. That sounds more gross than delicious, but it wasn’t. The chicken was moist and tender, and seemed to be seasoned with something, but I couldn’t quite tell what, as they were covered in sauce.

Papa John's Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza Slice

While I enjoyed the chicken, it seemed to suspiciously resemble, in both structure and texture, those pre-cooked chicken strips you can buy in bags at the grocery store from Tyson or Foster Farms. I like those chicken strips perfectly fine, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Papa John’s didn’t throw “fresh” in the description of the chicken.

If you do a Google Image Search for “margherita pizza”, you will see some very pretty pictures of pies covered with circles of melted white deliciousness. You will also get hungry. This is what mozzarella on a margherita pizza is supposed to look like.

Papa John’s did not do that. The mozzarella on their Chicken Margherita Pizza looks like…well, it looks like mozzarella on a pizza. Absolutely nothing special about it. Fresh mozzarella has a distinct taste to it, and this was just the same ol’ cheese PJ’s uses on the rest of their pizzas. It stinks of not trying.

One of the things I was most enthusiastic about in regards to this pizza was the pesto sauce. I love pesto. I love pesto so much. And while, once again, this is definitely not part of a traditional margherita’s design, I appreciated the attempt at including at least some form of basil.

That is, until I tasted the pesto on its own. It seemed like it was watered down – where was the boldness, the garlic, that rich, savory taste I love so much about pesto? It was there, it was just too faint.

And then they went and added pizza sauce to it. Why? Papa, you already had tomatoes as a topping; couldn’t you have just made the entire base pesto and ran with it that way? With the pizza sauce and the pesto mixed together, the former overwhelmed the already underwhelming latter, furthering my pesto disappointment. It just became muddled.

I’ve spent a lot of time griping about Papa John’s Chicken Margherita Pizza, and I feel my points are justified. But it’s a completely edible pizza at the end of the day. I liked the chicken and the tomatoes were really fresh and juicy. I guess I just wish they hadn’t pretended that it actually is a margherita pizza. That name comes with certain expectations that certainly were not met. I also wish they’d kept the pizza sauce off and gone with a really robust pesto base. The combination of all these factors just left me disappointed. You could say it was more of a mehgherita pizza, amirite guys?

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 230 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 10% calcium, and 8% iron.)

Item: Papa John’s Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Fresh, juicy tomatoes. A history lesson! Chicken was moist and tender. I’m pretty proud of those fake pizzas and taglines. The idea(?) of a pesto pizza.
Cons: Totally not a margherita pizza. Picky queens. Pesto tasted watered down. Ending the review with a bad pun. Addition of pizza sauce was unnecessary and muddled everything up.

60 SECOND REVIEW: General Mills Star Wars Cereal (2015)

Item: General Mills Star Wars Cereal (2015)
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Target

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 14 grams of other carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.)