REVIEW: Hostess Bakeshop CupCake Cookies

Hostess Bakeshop CupCake Cookies

Everyone has a soulmate snack cake. The one sugary, refined, packaged, and questionably delicious baked good that, despite what logic, fortune cookies, retrogrades of mercury, physician advice, and foreboding messages written in your toast imply, you adore. From SnoBalls to Zingers, Cosmic Brownies to Donettes, we all are star-crossed and bound to one.

And, while I may have had a few flings with a Star Crunch — and maybe a Zebra Cake or two — okay, I love them all. But today my heart’s matched to the Hostess CupCake. Who can resist the oddly fudgy cake? The sugary icing floof? The chocolatey ganache with eight sugary squiggles you can gobble right off the top??

And now they come in cookie form, which, as we well know this is the equivalent of the muffin top of the pastry world, doused in fudge and oozing with icing. I’m hungry just typing that. Let’s dive in!

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Texture-wise, this cookie’s a winner. It’s more cake-like than crispity-crunchity and deftly walks the line between being both fudgy and more fluffy-wuffy than a bunny sleeping on a TempurPedic in a field of dandelions. That fluffy-wuffiness (using scientific terms today) serves the cookie well as it contrasts with the smooth, crisp coating and sugary squiggle.

And the smell only makes everything better. Right out of the package, aromas of chocolate burst out like 15,000 ponies cascading into a Roman Coliseum. It smells of sugar! And cocoa! And that bizarre nutty-coffee sweetness that comes at the end of Dove dark chocolate! (Is there a name for this? Professional Linguist turned Chocolate Connoisseur: please help!)

That said, this top-notch smell doesn’t fully carry over when it comes to flavor. In fact, the cake tastes of very little: mainly flour, but also a hint of cocoa and Maxwell instant coffee. The chocolate coating helps things out by the hair of its chinny chin-chin.

It’s sugar-forward and tastes like Hershey’s milk chocolate while the sugary squiggle tastes of sugar… and maybe a hint of marshmallow? And while I was bummed to discover there was no fluffy icing filling inside (cue the sad tubas!), the coating itself is definitely a step up from that in the typical Hostess CupCake… although I’m pretty sure you could wax a car with that stuff.

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All in all, these buggers end up tasting like those soft-baked Snackwell’s chocolate cookies: a not-so-exciting cake with a sugary, semi-chocolatey icing. While they were tasty enough, I found myself dreaming nostalgically of that fluffy white filling in a regular Hostess CupCake. Without it, the cake lacks pizazz.

If you give these a whirl, I encourage smooshing two cookies together with ice cream and/or questionably emulsified (but impossibly delicious) whipped topping to mimic the effect. Without that? These will be but mediocre, and you deserve better than mediocre, dear reader! Do not settle for bland cookies. Otherwise, there will be sadness, the ship will be down, the Titanic will be sunk, and you will be floating on a makeshift raft made out of a door as you talk nonsense to your frozen lover while Celine Dion sings over flute music in the moonlight, and no matter how long you say, “I’ll never let go,” you gotta let go.

So I’m letting go of you, Hostess CupCake Cookies. Or at least not buying you again without a Costco-sized vat of whipped topping. I may have built you up as lofty dreams in my head, but, as Celine Dion prophesized in 1998, “my heart will go on and ooooon.”

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 110 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 1 pack/10 cookies
Purchased at: Von’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fudgy, fluffy cookie texture. Chocolatey icing. Squiggles! 15,000 ponies cascading into a Roman Coliseum.
Cons: No fluffy filling. Chocolatey smell doesn’t fully carry over in flavor. Not-so-exciting cake flavor of flour and cheap coffee. May have Celine Dion song stuck in head for the rest of the day.

REVIEW: Thomas’ Limited Edition Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins

Thomas Limited Edition Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins

Where does the noble English muffin rank on the breakfast bread hierarchy?

They’re not better than bagels. They definitely can’t compete with a good biscuit. If you wanna get frisky and involve waffles or griddle cakes, forget about it. So what are they better than? Toast? I’d argue some types of toasted bread are better too.

Point is, in order for me to pick the English muffin, it really has to stand out. That’s where our old friend Thomas comes in. Thomas, you cheeky bloke, you’ve gone and done it again.

Cheers to your newest concoction – Bacon Buttermilk Pancake.

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Thomas’ Limited Edition Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins are only on shelves for six weeks, so by the time you say “Thomas’ Limited Edition Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins” you’ve already wasted critical time.

While this sounds exciting on paper, it’s my job to tell all you nook-heads and cranniacs whether or not you should add these to your grocery lists while you can.

I’m torn.

My first English muffin was also torn. Could be that I’m just a moron (checks out), but I always have a problem cutting an English muffin into nice equal halves. Why aren’t these fork split, Thomas? But I digress…

I don’t like to over-toast my muffins, so I went with a medium setting. A faint bacon and buttery maple smell wafted out. That was a highlight.

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Once toasted, I used salted butter, but made sure to take a bite of the bare muffin first.

I didn’t really know what I tasted.

The part of the name I paid the least mind to actually came through the most. There is a pancakey mouth feel to the breading, that I assume was from the buttermilk. The texture seems slightly different from a normal English muffin. The nooks and crannies are the same, but the bottom of the muffin seems less coarse, and a bit more – brace yourselves for impact – moist. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that seedy farina stuff is still all over the bottom of the muffin, and still gets everywhere.

I assumed the maple would be the strongest element, and while it was probably the most prominent flavor, it’s still barely there, and kinda stale.

The ingredients list real maple syrup, but it didn’t taste authentic to me.

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There are little bacon bits, but don’t get too excited because they are “soy-based” “bacon.” I ate one of those separately and got a tiny smoked bacon kick, but there were so few that the flavor got lost overall.

Needless to say, these didn’t knock me over. I would have appreciated it if the fine chaps at Thomas went balls to the wall and dropped a flavor bomb on us, but they kept it subtle. Don’t expect McGriddle cake flavor here. If you make an egg sandwich on one of these muffins, I’m not sure you’d even notice the maple and bacon flavors.

Thomas Limited Edition Bacon Buttermilk Pancake English Muffins 4

I will say this; the best part may have been the aftertaste. How often is that the case with a food? After eating it, I was left with a strong buttery flavor, which I believe was from the muffin itself and not the butter I added. It was reminiscent of that scooped glob of whipped butter you get on a short stack at your favorite breakfast spot. I guess that’s the pancake element, which I feel was the most successful part, shockingly.

Like I said, I’m torn. Everyone’s taste buds are different, so I guess give ‘em a shot. You’ve got six weeks. Eat now or forever hold your peace.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 muffin – 160 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 360 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 6-pack
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Pancakey mouth feel. Slight maple flavor. Great aftertaste. Not much different from a regular Thomas English muffin. Gone in 6 weeks(?)
Cons: Not much flavor overall. Bacon is a no show. Better on paper. Cutting an English muffin is apparently rocket science. Farina on bottom gets everywhere. Gone in 6 weeks(?) “Ewwww, he said moist!!!”

VIDEO REVIEW: Trolli Sour Brite Sloths

Purchased Price: FREE*
Size: 4.25 oz. bag
Purchased at: Received from Trolli, but available exclusively at 7-Eleven
Nutrition Facts: (5 pieces) 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

*Disclosure: Received free samples from Trolli. Receiving samples did not influence the review.

REVIEW: Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

AP English nerds rejoice! The world has redeveloped an interest in classic dystopian novels, the likes of which “Cliff Notes” developed an entire business off the laziness of the rest of us.

At the top of the list stands “1984”, the seminal Orwell work about the sacrifices of personal privacy in modern society and how individuality can be suppressed through fear.

This resurgence is just in time for a new development. When the Coke Freestyle soda fountain, seemingly a paragon of choice, was released eight years ago, numerous pundits referenced “1984” in regards to one feature: that each Freestyle machine collects data on the beverages we have dispensed for “Big Bubbler” at the “Ministry” in Atlanta. For the first time, that data has been put into play, as the two most popular choices have been bottled and rolled out nationwide.

Moving past the debate about privacy invasions that are just as commonplace at the grocery store and Amazon.com these days, cherry soft drinks have been popular since the 1930’s, and it’s no surprise Cherry Sprite is the top Freestyle option for most anyone – other than the namesake of one version of the concoction. Apparently identity appropriation doesn’t get you a seat on the “Good Ship Lollipop”.

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The press release states: “Formulations for the fountain and bottled versions of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero vary”. Let’s hope this isn’t like heading to a Chevrolet dealership to find out the SS Sedan doesn’t look like this.

Sprite Cherry and Cherry Zero are clear, identical to original Sprite, but unlike the red-tinted versions that come from the Freestyle. The initial scent of Sprite Cherry was a strong cherry, with the citrus notes fading in at the end. Sprint Cherry Zero was less distinct, fruity and fresh but not as discernible.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 3

Sprite Cherry was a wonderful experience. It was crisp and really suggested a balance of cherry with a lemon/lime combo and equal in sweetness to original Sprite. It was one of the best new bottled sodas I have tried in recent years.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 4

Sprite Cherry Zero was adequate, but in comparison to Sprite Cherry, was a relative disappointment. No individual flavor stood out. This was a particular letdown as cherry flavors have proven very effective in no-cal soft drinks. Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry, and Diet Mountain Dew Code Red stand as some of my all-time favorites.

The primary reason is that the strong cherry flavor seems to make up for the artificial sweeter, resulting in a less diet-feeling experience. Coke may have tried to achieve the balance of cherry with the other flavors in the full sugar version, but it was the wrong call in the diet version.

My hopes for a new go-to diet drink were dashed as abruptly as Winston’s fleeting happiness before the novel’s climax. Sprite Cherry might end up with more staying power, as an enjoyable but not radically different option (Ministry of Plenty approved!)

As for me, I’ll go back to dreaming about my soft drink “dark haired girl” – when Coke decides to add Mango, Watermelon, Pomegranate, and Chocolate options to the Freestyle – or my “Golden Country” – a Pepsi Spire machine near my home.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 fl ounces – Sprite Cherry – 200 calories, 0 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 54 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Sprite Cherry Zero – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3.50
Size: 20 oz. bottles
Purchased at: Wawa
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry Zero)
Pros: Freestyle feedback leading the R&D process. Balanced Cherry hit of Sprite Cherry. Brave New World. Fahrenheit 451. It Can’t Happen Here.
Cons: Not enough cherry “umph” in Sprite Cherry Zero. Uber-safe options coming from the Freestyle (no Grape Mello Yello?). The Pepsi Spire locator map that indicates a Subway next door to where I work in Delaware that is actually in Saskatchewan.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Grilled French Toast Plate

Jack in the Box Grilled French Toast Plate

It’s important to start your morning right with a tasty breakfast, but I can’t say Jack in the Box’s Grilled French Toast Plate helped me accomplish that. And now my day has gotten off on the wrong foot and, I mean, they say it comes in threes, so what other two gloomy events are going to happen to me today?

The Grilled French Toast Plate is part of Jack’s Brunchfast menu and it features three pieces of French toast, your choice of bacon or sausage, and syrup. Mine came with two syrup containers. I don’t know if that’s the universe trying to balance my bad start or if that’s what Jack in the Box employees are instructed to do.

But those containers came in handy because the French toast by themselves are a bit bland. There’s a slight egginess and an even more slight sweetness, but it’s lacking flavor beyond that. There was powdered sugar on the pieces, but most of it had melted into the bread by the time I opened the plastic container they came in. I’m disappointed they didn’t have any cinnamon flavor or butteriness.

Jack in the Box Grilled French Toast Plate 2

I dumped the syrup from one of the containers onto all three pieces. One container has enough to coat all of them, but even with that, the grilled bread didn’t have as much sweetness as I’m used to with French toast. So I found myself using the second container as a dip.

The pieces were soft enough that I could use my fork to cut through them. But that’s the only positive thing I could say about them. Well, I thought they looked great, but that belief faded away as soon as I tried them.

As for the sausage, it too was soft enough that I could use my fork to cut through it. It’s salty, porky, and, now that I think about it, I should’ve used it as the meat for a French toast sandwich. That might’ve made the French toast better.

I really like the Southwest Scrambler Plate on the Brunchfast menu. I’ve ordered it almost a dozen times by now. But I can’t say the same about the Grilled French Toast Plate, and this is the only time I’ll ever buy it.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have go prepare myself for whatever calamities will come my way today.

(Nutrition Facts – w/sausage and w/o syrup – 555 calories, 213 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 193 milligrams of cholesterol, 1263 milligrams of sodium, 137 milligrams of potassium, 66 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: French toast pieces were soft and easy to cut with a fork. Looks good. Two syrup containers. Sausage was fine. Eating breakfast.
Cons: Not a good way to start your morning, afternoon, or evening, since it’s available all day. French toast NEEDS syrup. It needs it SOOOO BAD. No cinnamon or butteriness. Not making a French toast sandwich with it.