REVIEW: Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream

There are few better values in the snack world than Hostess CupCakes. One buck gets you two spongy delights topped with a sheet of chocolate plastic and that oh so beautiful white curl of icing. Name a more recognizable cupcake in the world. I’ll wait.

You’re stumped. I know you’re stumped, because as far as store bought cupcakes go, Hostess has by far the most iconic. I’ve been eating those bad boys since I was crawling.

These days, I’m a huge fan of the orange variety, but I’ll never say a bad word about the classic chocolate version. Especially now that Hostess has decided to release them in ice cream form.

The ice cream flavor is described as “chocolate cake,” but it’s really just a fancier way of saying “chocolate.” This is chocolate ice cream through and through. You’d never think “cake” if you just ate it by itself. That being said, it’s creamy and stacks up fine to other chocolate ice creams I’ve had.

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream 2

The ice cream is lined with white frosting swirls and chunks of cupcake, and this is where the overall product shined. But also really let me down.

The cake pieces were fine, when I actually found them. I’d say I got a nice chunk of cake one out of every three spoonfuls, but that’s just not enough.

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They also tasted more like brownie bites than cake. I could imagine some people will be bummed about that, but I actually loved it. A hard chewy bite of frozen brownie is a texture all its own and they’re something I personally like to top my ice cream with. Still, I’m sure a lot of people are gonna be disappointed they aren’t more “cakey.”

The frosting swirls were also way too sporadic – probably even more so than the cake pieces. Normally I’d chalk this up to a small sample size, but I’ve eaten half the carton so far and the problem has persisted with each bowl.

It’s a shame because the three parts of this ice cream really did taste authentic to its namesake. When I actually got a chunk of cake and a ribbon of frosting on my spoon, I was essentially eating a frozen Hostess CupCake.

Hostess CupCakes Ice Cream 3

I know the cupcakes they’re mimicking here are chocolate, but I almost wish they reversed it and made the base ice cream a frosting-like flavor with chocolate swirls and chunks of cake. They could have at least used a chocolate ice cream mixed with a frosting ice cream to really pound the flavors home. The Twinkies Ice Cream uses a cream based ice cream, why couldn’t this?

So I guess what I’m getting at is that Hostess CupCake Ice Cream is really good if you wanna work for it. You could poke around the container in order to get cake and frosting in each spoonful, but you shouldn’t HAVE to do that. Call me lazy if you’d like, but they skimped on the best stuff and that was a big mistake.

If you like chocolate ice cream with a few brownie bites, that’s pretty much what you’re getting here. I guess the added bonus of tasting a Hostess CupCake every few scoops is nice, but not when the ice cream itself is named after said cupcakes.

In the end, it’s still not bad, but kind of a tease. I found myself thinking I’d rather spend four bucks on eight CupCakes than the ice cream. Actually, if you pick this up, grab some of the CupCakes too and just have them a la mode.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup (65g) – 180 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 4 grams sat fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.09
Size: 1.5 qts
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: When all three flavors mix it tastes just like a Hostess CupCake. Hostess branching out into the ice cream world. Brownie Bites as a topping. Orange Hostess CupCakes. The iconic icing curl.
Cons: Needs more icing ribbons and cake pieces. Chocolate cake ice cream tastes like normal chocolate ice cream. Wish they used an icing-flavored ice cream. Having to work for your flavors.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Fried Guava Pie

McDonald’s Fried Guava Pie

Two things you should know about McDonald’s pies in Hawaii.

  1. They’re fried. Hawaii is one of the few places in the United States that offers fried McDonald’s pies. (Oddly, we are also the healthiest state in the country.)
  2. We have local seasonal pie flavors many of you would call “exotic.” The Haupia Pie features a coconut-flavored filling with gelatinous pieces and the Taro Pie has a purple filling with gelatinous cubes.

McDonald’s Hawaii’s newest fried pie doesn’t have jellylike cubes, but it does have a thick guava-flavored filling. To be honest, I’m surprised our local McDonald’s didn’t come out with a guava pie sooner because guava is our state fruit.

And if you look that up on the internet, you’ll learn it’s not. But we use the fruit in enough products that it should be.

Even though we love the tropical fruit, the 50th state can’t brag about it being the first one to have McDonald’s guava pies. Florida can claim that fact that no one from there will brag about. Although, not to brag, theirs was baked.

The exterior of the Fried Guava Pie looks like the skin of someone who was in a freak chemistry laboratory accident. But, man, that bubbly skin is crispy like the best fried chicken you’ve ever had. It has a level of crispiness that you wish McDonald’s chicken filets, patties, and McNuggets had.

McDonald’s Fried Guava Pie 2

The viscous pink filling has a flavor that reminds me of the canned guava nectar I drank as a kid, but warm. Perhaps, too warm (and maybe a bit too sweet). My taste buds are so used to having that delicious flavor ice cold that it’s weird to taste it at a higher temperature. It’s like drinking warm soda. Also, a few chomps had a sweet chemical zing to them. It was a turnoff to my taste buds, but it wasn’t in every bite so it didn’t prevent me from eating the whole pie.

Haupia and taro are foods I don’t eat, but love them when in the form of McDonald’s fried pies. With guava and McDonald’s Fried Guava Pie, it’s the opposite.

(Nutrition Facts – 210 calories 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Flavor reminds me of canned guava nectar. Super crispy shell. Fried pies.
Cons: Occasional chemical bite. It’s weird tasting a flavor I usually consume cold. Regional pie variety. Wikipedia saying Hawaii’s state muffin is the coconut muffin.

REVIEW: Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Churros existed before I discovered them in 2009, or so I’m told. But that fateful March afternoon in a Barcelona café was a personal turning point. As in – I turn my head any time I hear the word now. “Did someone say churros?” I ask, more a plea than a question.

When Cinnamon Pebbles cereal was announced last month, it was immediately linked with churros. Blog posts breathlessly asked if the breakfast flakes would taste like them. News articles suggested making Cinnamon Pebbles-covered churros.

My churro buds were aching when I ripped open the box of Cinnamon Pebbles. The scent was definitely cinnamon, but not churro-y. It was familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 2

I threw a dry handful into my mouth. The size, weight and texture are the same as the classic Pebbles varieties. Then the taste revealed itself. These were not Churro Pebbles. They were the simple cinnamon sugar of my youth.

I instantly flashed back to 8 years old, finding an ancient shaker of Domino’s “Sugar ‘n Cinnamon” in the back of the kitchen cabinet. I started dumping clumps of cinna-sugar (emphasis on the sugar) over my plain Rice Chex cereal. That is precisely the taste of Cinnamon Pebbles.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 3

The cereal absorbed milk quickly, in typical Pebbles (and most rice cereal) fashion. The flavor stayed pretty true wet or dry, which makes me think it’s really baked in, not just a coating. It did impart some cinnamon-sweetness and a beige tint to the leftover milk, but visually not the party of brown flecks I expected.

While I loved the cinna-sugar/rice cereal combo in 1984, and eating it now was a bit of fun nostalgia, it’s 2017 and tastes have changed. Flavors have gotten more complex, exotic and sometimes silly. Hence, I can’t say that this cereal was exciting or “new.” It needed a hook to make it more modern.

Cinnamon Pebbles might have been greatly improved by adding a dash of red pepper, so I set out to do just that. I spread a layer of the cereal on a cookie sheet, sprinkled a mixture of water, ground cayenne and roasted Saigon cinnamon on top and gave it a quick toast in the oven (250 degrees, 5 minutes or so).

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The results were beyond my expectations. The extra cinnamon knocked down the overwhelming sugar and the red pepper brought a delayed warmth that hit just as I was ready to take the next spoonful. This was a cereal worth buying again.

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I also tried using the Cinnamon Pebbles as a pie crust. Filled with devil’s food instant pudding and a bit of cayenne, it was an easy and decent approximation of churros and chocolate.

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal 6

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Yep, they’re Pebbles alright! Pleasant throwback cinna-sugar flavor.
Cons: Too simple for novelty-seekers. Needs something to offset or amp up the cinnamon.

REVIEW: Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch

Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch is like a ghosting ex-boyfriend/girlfriend – the one that keeps popping in and out of your life at inopportune moments.

It all started back on that fateful day several years ago when the baby blue packaging caught my eye. I thought to myself, “Wow, who dares rock baby blue that’s not Lay’s Sea Salt & Vinegar. Bold, I like it.”

After just one taste I was hooked, but just as quickly as it appeared, Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch disappeared. And, it clearly had many mistresses because everyone has been looking. There’s even a petition going around to try to lock Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch in permanently. Other chips have come and gone in my life, like Doritos JACKED Ranch Dipped Hot Wings Chips, but it just isn’t the same.

But, hindsight is always 20/20 – memories of past relationships always seem a little rosier than they actually were. And that’s exactly how I felt when we were finally reunited. Overall, I don’t think Frito Lay/Doritos did anything differently, I just grew up.

I spotted the baby blue bag at the way, way bottom of the towering chips shelf. As I crouched down to pick it up, my heart skipped a beat. Ugh, why now?! Just as I was getting over Doritos and moving onto other better-for-me options.

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch 2

On the outside, it looked the same – that same baby blue. Packaging off, it looked better than I remembered. Unlike its previous seasoning splotches, the chips were generously coated with red seasoning. It made it look very similar to its brother, the Nacho Cheese flavor.

The first crunch was like sweet, sweet revenge. But, I quickly realized it really just tasted like Cool Ranch Doritos. As I continued enjoying, I got a small kick reminiscent of Doritos Salsa Verde.

But that’s about it.

Buffalo flavor? Non-existent.

Blazin’? Nope.

There was a spicy afterglow but again no more than the kick from Doritos’ other “spicy” flavors.

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch 3

Of course, I should’ve also suspected that the generous seasoning would leave a mess after. My fingers were covered in red powder like I had been hanging out with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. After cleaning my fingers off, I proceeded to chug 16 ounces of water at record speed. It tasted extra salty even though the sodium contents are about in-line with other Doritos flavors. Odd.

Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch, it’s been real but I won’t be signing the petition to get you permanent status any time soon. There are plenty of other fish – or in this case, chips – in the sea.

(Nutrition Facts – 11 chips – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Well-seasoned compared to previous batches – beyond that, Frito Lay/Doritos kept it true to the original.
Cons: Really just tastes like Cool Ranch + Salsa Verde. No buffalo flavor. Not blazin’. Messy – fingers covered in red powder.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

For being their titular item, I rarely find myself craving Taco Bell’s tacos. While I’m a lover of their items, the standard crunchy taco has always felt skimpy. A paltry line of beef, a cascade of limp lettuce, and a sprinkling of unmelted cheese – it’s forgettable.

So thankfully, the Bell has pumped them up for their latest iteration. Taco Bell’s Double Stack Tacos bulk up their classic standard tacos by wrapping the corn exterior with a flour tortilla, slathered in sauce and cheese. With an extra layer, each one is hefty – especially for a $1 item. Two of these could make a comfortable meal, something that can’t be said for the Bell’s un-enhanced tacos.

Taco Bell Cool Habanero Double Stacked Taco

First up is Cool Habanero. The taco is the same as you’d expect, but with a generous hit of sour cream. Around it is wrapped a flour tortilla with a spray of habanero sauce, alongside melted cheese. The intention is for the sour cream to counteract the spice, though the balance isn’t quite there. There’s more sour cream than habanero by a healthy margin, and the sauce isn’t all that potent. As a full bite, it came off blander than most Taco Bell items.

Taco Bell Nacho Crunch Double Stacked Taco

The Nacho Crunch Double Stack adds a layer of red tortilla strips to the basic taco, then surrounds it with a duet of nacho and shredded cheese. If you’ve lost count, that gives this one item three different forms of tortilla – and three total servings of cheese. Predictably, it tastes like tortilla and cheese.

The meat and lettuce are lost in this fatty carb bomb, smothered in gooey yellow. It’s puzzling why this option dodges the habanero sauce of the other two tacos, which would’ve given this a needed a kick of flavor.

Taco Bell Spicy Sweet Double Stacked Tacos

Most interesting of the trio is Spicy Sweet, featuring a sweet chili sauce unique to the item. The red sauce has a loose texture, saturated with chili flakes. It’s very sweet, but was applied conservatively across the meat. While the first bite was initially heavy on sugar, it was countered by the savory beef.

Once the habanero sauce broke through, all three flavors really clicked. The sweet chili sauce has a light heat of its own, and a bit of a fruit jam flavor. This tasty blend is spread a bit thin, though. Between the lettuce, corn tortilla, flour tortilla, and double helping of cheese – the serving of meat and sauces feels underwhelming.

Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

Overall, the Double Stacked Tacos are mostly notable for their price. The Nacho Crunch and Cool Habanero tacos are cheaper and bulkier than their counterparts – making them a solid pickup. Spicy Sweet is the real highlight though, and is definitely worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – Cool Habanero – 350 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 630 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Nacho Crunch – 380 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Spicy Sweet – 340 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 640 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00 each
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cool Habanero)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Nacho Crunch)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Spicy Sweet)
Pros: Very hearty for the price, while delivering classic Taco Bell flavor. Spicy Sweet variety is unique, and nails the sweet/savory/hot mix. Spices up otherwise boring tacos.
Cons: Cool Habanero needs more heat. Nacho Crunch should be Haberno Crunch. All three could use more meat.