REVIEW: DiGiorno Pepperoni Speciale Artisan Style Melts

DiGiorno Pepperoni Speciale Artisan Style Melt

I don’t ask much from frozen foods I have to prepare in a microwave. Here’s the short list: 

  1. Be edible.
  2. Don’t have a microwave cooking time that’s longer than an Adult Swim show.
  3. Don’t make a mess while in the microwave oven.

The DiGiorno Pepperoni Speciale Artisan Style Melt barely passed #1, passed #2 with flying colors, and completely failed #3.

The first step of the microwave directions says, “Remove product from plastic wrap. Place product onto crisping tray and directly on the microwave surface.” As you can read, there’s no suggestion for a microwave-safe plate or a paper towel. Just put the flat crisping tray on the microwave surface and just spin it right round, baby, round round like a record, baby, right round round.

This is what happened after I followed the instructions on the box:

DiGiorno Pepperoni Speciale Artisan Style Melt 2

Stupid box!

As you can see, the three types of mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce melted over the edges of the garlic and onion focaccia bread onto the crisping tray and then onto the microwave surface. Watching this happen was like watching lava flow into the ocean, except watching lava flow into the ocean is awe-inspiring and watching a fancy-sounding Italian bread pizza make a mess that I have to clean up is aggravating.

I scraped together whatever mess was salvageable on the crisping tray and plopped it back on the bread, but it didn’t help it from tasting too bread-y. I thought lack of toppings skewed its intended flavor, so I decided to heat up the second one in the box using the toasted oven directions. However, I did put it on a small sheet of aluminum foil so that I wouldn’t have to clean my toaster oven too.

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Even though the toppings stayed on the second one, the bread continued to be the dominant flavor. So if you’re thinking this will taste like a DiGiorno pepperoni pizza, you need to lower your expectations. There were many pepperoni bits, but they didn’t pop with flavor.

As for the “three types of mozzarella cheese,” they sound exciting, don’t they? Maybe there’s a garlic-infused mozzarella? Or an aged mozzarella? But alas, according to the ingredients list, the three mozzarella cheeses are mozzarella cheese, low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese, and reduced fat mozzarella cheese. 

Ooooh, low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese! The hyphens make it fancy!

Whether microwaved on the crisping sleeve or prepared in a toaster oven, the focaccia bread wasn’t what I would call “crispy.” But it also wasn’t soggy or flat, so I guess it could’ve been worse. Also, I thought the garlic and onion in the bread would enhance its flavor, but I didn’t taste the usually pungent ingredients.

DiGiorno is promoting the Pepperoni Speciale Artisan Style Melt as a snack, but it’s not a satisfying one. It’s just a messy one.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 melt – 320 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 8.1 oz/2 pieces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Edible. Doesn’t have a microwave cooking time longer than an Adult Swim show.
Cons: Following instructions led to a messy microwave. Bread is the dominate flavor. Three mozzarella cheese aren’t anything special. Onion and garlic in bread not noticeable. Stupid box!

REVIEW: Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel

Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel

For the better part of four years as a TIB reviewer, I have maintained a nearly impeccable streak that few writers in the colorfully chemical world of nutritionally devoid junk food can lay claim to.

I have kept poop references to an absolute minimum.

There have been one or two Fiber One one-liners, maybe some vague references to flatulence, and the occasional, you know what that looks like…, but never have I just come out and said something I’ve eaten looks like poop and pretty much tastes as vile as you could imagine. In other words, like, yeah…

But like Jerry Seinfeld’s barfless streak, Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak, and Don Gorske’s Big Mac streak, my ability to hold out from using the most primal of negative food metaphors has expired. I believe the technical term for moments like this is that the shit has hit the fan.

Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel 3
Skippy Peanut Butter (left) Peanut butter-flavored icing (right)

There is just no other way to describe the artificial peanut butter flavored filling of the Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel. That I am supposed to refer to this brown goo as icing just makes me want to throw up.

Icing is something you want to nibble off a day-old glazed donut; icing is what made Santa Claus fat in the process of hundreds of years of sugar cookie eating; icing is not, and never shall be, a cloying fake peanut butter taste that leaves you with a metallic and bitter alcohol flavor in your mouth when you should be enjoying a PB&J.

Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel 2

If you’re a baker, you might recognize the flavor I’m talking about. It’s the flavor of imitation peanut butter extract; noticeably synthetic, with a cough-syrup like alcohol aftertaste, it’s made all the worse by a horribly out-of-place sweetness. There’s no saltiness, no lip-smacking fatty mouthfeel, and definitely no roasted depth. If I didn’t know better, I’d say the Pillsbury Doughboy is allergic to peanuts.

Oh yeah, and the icing looks like poop.

Pillsbury Limited Edition Peanut Butter & Strawberry Toaster Strudel 4

Thankfully, the D.I.Y. nature of the Toaster Strudel provides a saving grace. Since the packets of the icing are separate, one can simply avoid them like one would avoid, well, foods that are known to cause gastrointestinal distress. Eaten completely without peanut butter, the toaster strudel is fine: The strawberry jelly is admirable for a frozen product, while the flaky layers provide buttery croissant notes.

Adding your own peanut butter makes the pastry delicious, but you’ve probably figured that out by now. Humans have only been enjoying the combination for a gazillion years*, and the slightly caramelized edges of the golden-brown strudel give the combination an unexpected richness that will make you want to start making PB&Js out of croissants.

Overall, the spokesman and chief baker for Pillsbury didn’t just forget to put on a pair of pants, he forgot to put actual peanut butter in his peanut butter and jelly Toaster Strudels.

What follows is one of the more disgusting visuals in frozen breakfasts, not to mention an abrupt goodbye to one of the best streaks in junk food blogging. It’s a shame, really, because all other things being equal, the Toaster Strudels aren’t so bad. Just make sure you get rid of the “icing” ASAP and have jar of Jif close at hand.

*approximate

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry with icing – 180 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 180 mg of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 11.7 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A fine and scrumptious flaky layered pastry without the poop-inspired peanut butter flavored icing. Surprisingly balanced buttery crust with sweet, gooey strawberry jelly. More substantial eating than a Pop-Tart.
Cons: The absolute vilest and most repulsive peanut butter flavored product I have ever put into this temple I call my body. Peanut butter icing tastes like a 50-50 mix of sweet and low and peanut butter flavored extract. Poopless review streak coming to an ignominious end.

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.

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016) 2

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. 🙂

Hi-C Ecto Cooler (2016) 3

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.

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls 2

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.

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls 3

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!

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition S'mores Rolls 4

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.

Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels 2

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.

Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels 3

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.

Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels 4

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.

Turkey Hill Caramel Peanut Butter Gelato Swirls 2

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.