REVIEW: Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza

Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza

When it comes to garlic, I like enough of it on whatever I’m eating to make folks stay out of my personal space. Close talker…smell the garlic. Vampire…smell the garlic. Hugger…smell the garlic. Dentist…smell the garlic.

I thought I’d be getting a lot of garlic on the end crust of Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza, but unfortunately, or fortunate for those who invade my personal space, there wasn’t a lot of the pungent ingredient.

Each pizza has 16 stuffed garlic knots around the edges. Wait…did I say “knots”? I meant to say “not knots.” They didn’t have the distinct look of the garlic knots Google Images showed me. They’re more like balls or puffs, and they’re kind of big. They take up enough space on the large pizza to make the inner part of it look more like a medium.

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Each not knot was topped with a combination of garlic, herbs, butter, and parmesan cheese. A toasted parmesan cheese flavor stood out, but, as I mentioned earlier, I barely noticed the garlic. The cheese inside the not knots tasted like the standard stuff that’s in their regular Stuffed Crust Pizza. It wasn’t gooey when I bit into it and most were filled with more air than cheese. Because there isn’t a lot of cheese, its flavor gets lost in the dough and whatever little garlic and herb flavor there was.

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The pizza is similar to Pizza Hut’s Twisted Crust Pizza in that the appetizer doesn’t make up the entire end crust. Instead, it’s like a sheet of stickers. You know, the ones you put on your Trapper Keeper or composition book. Once you peel off the stickers, you’re left with something that has no redeeming qualities, so you just throw it away. Once the garlic knots are peeled away, what’s left behind is unappetizing, mostly unflavored bread. Mine was particularly unappealing because it was slightly undercooked.

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Thankfully the pizza comes with two containers of marinara sauce for dipping. It gave the not knots a bit more flavor, which they definitely needed. But, depending on your double dipping disposition, it might not be enough for dipping the not knots AND the crust that lies beneath them.

As for the rest of the pizza, it’s a typical Pizza Hut fare. My pizza could’ve used more sauce under the cheese, but it was fine. The pizza itself was much more enjoyable and flavorful than the not knots attached to it.

Overall, the Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t order it again. If I want a pizza with a garlicky crust stuffed with cheese to prevent folks from coming into my personal space, I could just order a regular Stuffed Crust Pizza with their Garlic Buttery Blend crust flavoring.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/8 Pepperoni Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza – 460 calories, 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1120 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 19 grams of protein.)

Item: Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza
Purchased Price: $17.99*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Marinara sauce was the sugar that helped the medicine go down. Lots of pepperoni on my pizza. Inner pizza was more enjoyable than the outer pizza.
Cons: Stuffed garlic knots are more like stuffed garlic balls. Bad air-to-cheese ratio. The garlic knots’ size make the pizza look smaller. The crust under the garlic knots was unappealing bread. Not enough marinara sauce to dip garlic knots AND undercrust. Undercrust being a made up word.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut

I sometimes allow myself to think that maybe, just maybe, some research and development person in the fast casual industry will hear my ideas and implement them. Usually this isn’t the case, but my 2014 review of Dunkin’ Donuts’ Croissant Donut might’ve been the catalyst for Dunkin’s new Fudge Croissant Donut.

…the single-flavor fails to capitalize on a host of sweet croissant fillings, while coming across as overpriced and, yes, mass-produced. There was a part of me which wanted more distinctiveness in the interior layers, wishing for a truly pick-apart dough which was layered with chocolate or marzipan or any number of fillings.

Ok, so maybe attributing Dunkin’s latest donut to me and me alone is arrogant and presumptuous. But I know I wasn’t the only one who liked the original “Cronut” imitator but also thought it could be better. And since chocolate croissants are the logical first step from plain croissants, it only made sense that if Dunkin just added a chocolate filling to their Croissant Donut, it would be a game-changer.

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Unfortunately, what Dunkin Donuts is piping into the many laminated layers of flaky croissant-donut dough is not fudge. There is definitely a strong, almost-dark cocoa flavor on the back-end, but the mixture itself is far from the buttery, milky, and intensely chocolaty experience you should get from fudge. It’s also not the hardened and concentrated pain au chocolat filling you might see in a real pastry. Instead, it’s somewhat viscous and tastes like artificially-thickened chocolate syrup. But most of all, it immediately comes across as far too sweet.

Also too sweet are the chocolate and white icings, which lack richness and taste mostly of hardened sugar. Granted, each drizzle is applied with impeccable craftsmanship, but for $2.49, I would hope the Croissant Donut’s value exceeds the aesthetic.

The cloying taste of the icing and the faux fudge might offset a genuine croissant, but because the Croissant Donut is already glazed with a thick and hardened coating of donut glaze, each bite is just sugar on top of sugar. Where the original version of Dunkin’s mashup had some of the savory, buttery aftertaste of croissant dough, this version betrayed too much of its mass-produced donut origins.

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Speaking of donut origins, the texture definitely takes a step back from the original croissant donut; the layers are there, but they’re more fluffy than crispy, giving way with even the slightest pressure.

If Dunkin Donuts’s Fudge Croissant Donut was a hit, I’d for sure take credit for its existence and possibly even sue the company for copyright infringement. As it stands, I’ll save myself the legal hassle and just call it like I taste it: the Fudge Croissant Donut is an overpriced sugar bomb, and does neither a chocolate croissant nor a chocolate-iced donut justice.

(Nutritional Facts – 400 calories, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Addition of chocolate filling into Croissant Donut. Indulgent dark cocoa flavored filling gets good coverage throughout the interior layers. Possible hope that fast casual research and development people read my reviews. Saving money on legal fees.
Cons: Chocolate filling doesn’t taste buttery or milky like “fudge”. Novelty of the croissant layers gets lost in the overly cloying icing and donut glaze. Too much donut taste and not enough buttery balance. More than half a day’s saturated fat.

REVIEW: Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries

Arby’s Curly Fries were already delicious.

How delicious? I’d happily munch away on them until the double helices of my DNA begin to resemble those perfectly breaded and seasoned potato corkscrews.

But now Arby’s has decided to load ‘em up with shredded cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, and bacon. It’s the fast food equivalent of stuffing cupcakes inside a birthday cake or super gluing Emma Stone to Emma Watson.

But wait! Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries also come drizzled in a Parmesan peppercorn ranch sauce! So cram an Oreo into those cupcakes and throw Emma Roberts into the mix, because we’re going for full excess here.

I don’t know why Arby’s wants to mess with a classic, but as long as they don’t start calling them “Shemp Fries,” this hungry stooge will try them anyway.

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Gazing upon my potato and cheese volcano, I wasn’t sure how to tackle it. A fork seemed too formal, using my hands seemed too barbaric, and actually physically tackling it seemed like a hernia waiting to happen. But then I realized I was snapping photos of greasy potatoes all alone in a deserted Arby’s, so if the crippling weight of my impending existential crisis didn’t kill me, a little cheddar under my fingernails wouldn’t either.

I took a carefully assembled “one of everything” bite, and holy mooing goo, Batman! That’s a lot of dairy! Seriously, between the (appropriately) buttery and milky buttermilk ranch sauce and the creamy cheddar components, it was like my Arby’s chef grabbed a cow, gave her a good shake, and told ol’ Bessie to fire on all cylinders.

Upon closer taste-spection, the fatty tang and zesty finish of the ranch became more pronounced. It overpowered the mild cheddar, which was as far from “sharp cheddar” as a plastic spork is from Excalibur.

Like some weird sequel to Animal Farm, one of the rare shards of haphazardly sliced bacon would occasionally attempt a futile rebellion against its dairy overlords by contributing a charcoal-seasoned, porky twang, but it was often too faint to taste.

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I’m relieved to say that beneath this class struggle of tang, cheese, and sporadic meatiness, the garlicky and peppery Curly Fries that we all know and shove into our hungry mouths still provide a familiar and tasty flavor base. I suppose even the cruelest ranch dictators can’t take away our seasoned potatoes.

Your enjoyment of these Loaded Curly Fries will ultimately hinge on how you feel about tangy ranch, since the bacon and cheese is more cosmetic than flavorful. I thought the sauce/fry combo was tasty at first, but I grew tired of it over time and eventually found myself wishing instead for some plain Curly Fries that wouldn’t coat my hands with multiple barnyard animal products. I recommend splitting this one with friends to retain the brief novelty.

I ate mine fresh, so they were crispy, but I’ve heard bad things about what happens to these fries’ structural integrity over time. So for science, I saved half of my dish and let it be my passenger seat companion while I ran errands (I even turned the heated seat on for it, because I’m a nice guy).

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Checking back two hours later, the fries had taken on the slimy texture of oiled calamari. Four hours later, my specimen had coagulated itself into a mushy Lovecraftian horror. The moral of the story? Eat these as quickly as your stomach and social setting will allow.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bury this thing before it becomes sentient.

(Nutrition Facts – 700 calories, 420 calories from fat, 46 grams of fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1990 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein..)

Item: Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Same Curly Fry goodness beneath the goopy-ness. The appreciated zest of Emma Roberts…err, I mean ranch. Savory pork uprisings. Orwellian cheese jokes (thanks, 9th grade English class!). Distantly echoing applause from the National Dairy Council.
Cons: Eventual ranch fatigue. The crushing, creamy hoof of the “moo-geoisie” (thanks, 10th grade history class!). The oppressed cheddar and bacon proletariat. Rapid devolution into something that belongs in a Korean horror movie. Questioning my life choices in the middle of Arby’s.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Among the world of berries, raspberries are a hard sell. They’re bitter, rot fast, and are filled with teeny pulp bits that get stuck in your teeth, but they also have a distinct sweet, flowery profile that I crave at the inconvenient hour of now, when they’re overpriced, out-of-season, and tasteless.

Which is why I bit into the surface of my Hostess Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cup Cake without hesitation, cracking through the sheen of the fudgy top layer. That upper crust carries the responsibility of the “Dark Chocolate” title, and, while I wouldn’t deem it a full-blown 70 percent cacao by any stretch of the imagination, there is a certain nutty, semisweet chocolate echo at the front that I appreciate before I reach the full sugar surge underneath.

And it’s a clutter of sugary fluff under that surface, the glurping, gloopy icing poofing out like a misfit marshmallow. That frosting floof carries the texture of Cool Whip and a raspberry perfume that could rival a Bath and Body Works. Indeed, it has an artificial raspberry kick at the forefront with a high-fructose-sugary backdrop. It’s like Pillsbury frosting got put in the Super Collider with Raspberry Jelly Bellies. Pretty intense in that special, non-natural way.

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The chocolate cake is of a familiar Hostess Cupcake variety: a little oily, a little spongy, a little ho-hum on flavor, all held within a distinctive squishy texture that may or may not remind me of a Shamwow. It tastes quite simply of packaged pound cake with a little cocoa, and, while I may hope for something a little more chocolate-forward, I respect that the cake embraces what it is: a vehicle that can be enhanced by the addition of ice cream.

Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes 3

In 1971, Hostess introduced Captain Cupcake, the rotund, spyglass-wielding naval officer who ate a few too many Hostess Chocolate cupcakes before turning into one. What would Captain Cupcake say about these new Hostess Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes?

I can’t say. This is mainly because Captain Cupcake is an anthropomorphic baked good with a position in the Navy, and I would regret speaking for such a high-ranking officer. For me, however, these cupcakes were neither a bonafide hit nor a heartbreaking miss.

The floofy raspberry filling was pleasant enough, the chocolate cake was moist, and the icing top held a pleasant semisweet fudginess. At the same time, the cake was a little tasteless, the preservatives were a little over abundant (is hydrogenated beef tallow really an essential ingredient?), and the false raspberry lingered a little long, but, hey, it’s tough to alter the austerity of false raspberry.

Overall, I declare this a decent cupcake for the forthcoming Valentine’s celebration. What’s better is that you’ll wait in no lines to get it, withdraw no loan to afford it, and can eat it at any hour you desire. All it takes is ripping open a plastic wrapper and maybe some ice cream. This can happen. This can happen now.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cupcake – 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.5 oz/8 cupcakes
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tender cake. Fudgy icing top. Floofy filling like Cool Whip. 8 swirls of icing. Mario Kart. Captain Cupcake.
Cons: Hydrogenated beef tallow. Filling tastes a smidge like children’s toothpaste. Texture like a Super Shammy. Smells from Bath and Body Works, The unexplained disappearance of Captain Cupcake.

REVIEW: Planters Banana Sundae Mix

Planters Banana Sundae Mix

Why does Mr. Peanut walk with a cane?

Because he has “planter” warts.

I said, because he has plan– BOOOOOOO!

Now that I put that visual in your heads, who’s hungry?!

I absolutely love banana snacks. If an ice cream joint has banana on their flavor list, that’s my new spot. Ya know how Apple fans camp outside stores for days to get a new iPhone? I do that in anticipation of new banana snacks hitting the shelves.

Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but the point stands – I love me some banana, and I don’t even care if you take that sentence out of context.

So with that said, when I saw Planters put out a snack mix boasting banana as the main attraction, I had to try it. Surely there was no way this mix could possibly disappoint a rabid banana lover such as me, right?

*sigh*

Can we just let banana be the star for once?!

Planters Banana Sundae Mix 2

The mix consists of honey roasted peanuts, chocolate covered peanuts, vanilla yogurt covered peanuts, strawberry covered peanuts and boring old, hard as a rock banana chips. What a letdown.

Unless the banana chip is the first thing you bite into, that flavor gets lost in the shuffle. The chocolate and sugary yogurts instantly overpower it.

Those coated pieces are way too big. I wish they were all 25 percent smaller at least, and I wish they mixed in a banana yogurt coated peanut to go with the rest.

The vanilla yogurt covered peanuts are oddly flavorless. The strawberry peanuts don’t pack much flavor either. I actually forgot they were there. I’m a huge fan of yogurt covered raisins and this coating pales in comparison to what I’m used to. Also, I know raisins don’t really mesh with this flavor profile, but I was really missing that texture in every bite.

The chocolate candy covered peanut is the star of the mix. They taste like slightly softer peanut M&Ms. Outside of the honey roasted peanuts, they were the only ingredient I’d eat a bag of by themselves. But this isn’t a “chocolate” mix, it’s a “banana” sundae mix. I didn’t sign up for overpowering chocolate.

This is a trail mix though, so the point is to eat everything at once. And as a whole, it’s reasonably successful. Does it taste like a banana sundae? Not really. Maybe one out of five bites might taste like one.

It’s almost like you’re eating a handful of Goobers. The chocolate and the peanut crunch come to the forefront more than anything else.

Planters Banana Sundae Mix 3

And with that in mind, the fact there are two yogurt coated peanuts, honey roasted peanuts, lightly caramelized banana chips, and giant chocolate balls makes this a very sweet trail mix. Tossing a few regular salted peanuts in the mix probably wouldn’t have hurt at all. I prefer my mixes to have a sweet and salty balance. The sugar lingers in your mouth, so while it’s not a big bag, I had no desire to finish it in one sitting.

I love bananas in their true form, but I love them even more in their artificial form. They loaded this mix with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry candy coatings and just arbitrarily threw in little chunks of banana chips. There should have been multiple banana varieties. Someone get Mr. Peanut on the horn, I have a bone to pick with him.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 Tbsp – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 3 gram of protein..)

Item: Planters Banana Sundae Mix
Purchased Price: $2.94
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Anything with banana is still decent. Chocolate pieces were great. Satisfies sugar craving. Honey roasted peanuts.
Cons: Banana flavor gets lost. Ridiculous 3 Tbsp serving size. Corny dad jokes, Yogurt pieces are too big and have a weak flavor.

QUICK ENERGY DRINK REVIEW: Muscle Monster Banana Energy Shake

Muscle Monster Banana Energy Shake

The Muscle Monster Banana Energy Shake has 160 milligrams of caffeine, so this review will have exactly 160 words.

This energy shake gets its banana flavor from banana puree and natural flavor; its 25 grams of protein from ultrafiltered skim milk, reduced fat milk, and calcium caseinate; and its sweet, sweet caffeine from sweet, sweet caffeine.

Thanks to the banana puree, the first two or three sips were pleasant and reminded me of banana NesQuik. But then all the energy ingredients seemed to turn the flavor into bizzaro banana.

Look, before this I loved ALL banana flavored products. I even love those hated banana Runts. But this drink proves I don’t love ALL banana products. After the first few sips the banana flavor got weak, the bitterness from the energy ingredients stood out, and the aftertaste was as unpleasant as most sugar-free energy drinks.

I finished the can, but I wouldn’t buy it again. It isn’t terrible, it’s just tolerable.

Muscle Monster Banana Energy Shake 2

Purchased Price: $4.62 for 2
Size: 15 oz. cans
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (one can) 200 calories, 35 calories from fat, calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 410 milligrams of sodium, 780 milligrams of potassium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of sugar, 25 grams of protein, 90% vitamin C, 60% calcium, 190% riboflavin, 190% niacin, and 190% vitamin B6.