REVIEW: Chobani Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt and Yoplait Limited Edition Pumpkin Cheesecake Greek Yogurt

Chobani Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt and Yoplait Limited Edition Pumpkin Cheesecake Greek Yogurt

Sometime between the introduction of Trix-flavored Go-Gurt and the advent of yogurt with poop-inducing bacteria, I lost all capacity to keep up with what is particularly trendy when it comes to fermented dairy. Kefir, you say? You mean that guy from 24? Call me overwhelmed, but I just don’t quite understand it all.

You know what I do understand? Pumpkin.

In donuts. In ice cream. In waffles and in cookies and, by George, this flavor actually works on a Pringle! And while I’ve yet to encounter the rumored Pumpkin Spice Burger the release of two new pumpkin-flavored Greek yogurts is enough to piqué my interest to an otherwise flabbergasting catalogue of yogurt types and flavors.

First up is Chobani, which has actually had a rough go of it in 2014. Banned by Russia for the Olympics and later accused of being Turkish, Chobani’s Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt holds the distinction of having actual pumpkin in the ingredient list, something that seemingly 90 percent of pumpkin-flavored goodies seem to be missing in what is becoming the most oversaturated single-product market since Pokémon cards.

Not to be outdone, Yoplait’s Pumpkin Cheesecake also features real pumpkin puree, in addition to the one-up mention of everyone’s other favorite cultured dairy dessert. I know what you’re thinking; cheesecake beats spice every time, right? But let’s not forget both these yogurts are of the 2 percent variety, and claim actual sugar to sweeten the deal. Pumpkin, milkfat, sugar? Seems like neither can go wrong.

Chobani Pumpkin Spice

If pumpkin spice is your deal—as in, you’re one of those people who carries around your own Williams-Sonoma Pumpkin Spice canister to dump on EVERYTHING—you’re going to love the Chobani rendition. All the usual spices are present, but it’s their intensity—as if fresh grated nutmeg and ginger were added just minutes before packaging—which is most striking.

The cinnamon has a floral quality rising above cheaper imitations, and the strong ginger notes give the flavor an exotic appeal. Still, the flavor seems incomplete. There’s an absence of vanilla that would otherwise bring the flavors together, and a quiet sweetness bemoans the decision not to go with a more intense brown sugar sweetness. The texture, too, is imperfect. More jiggly than creamy, with a hint of surface water, it lacks a degree of richness which otherwise would have gone a long way to making it one of the early highlights of pumpkin season.

Yoplait’s Pumpkin Cheesecake is a different gourd, but not completely. Call it a Kabocha Squash to your typical Sugar Pumpkin, if you will. The texture is actually remarkably similar to the Chobani flavor. A bit more prone to breaking into multiple blobs of orangish yogurt, but still reacting with a jiggly effect when prodded by spoon (or finger, I don’t judge).

Yoplait Pumpkin Cheesecake

I take a bite, hoping to be greeted by a rich and creamery fresh taste not unlike that Baskin-Robbin ice cream, but instead I’m left with a somewhat artificial spice flavor and odd acidic aftertaste. It’s not altogether unenjoyable because the yogurt base is sweeter and the pumpkin flavor more intense than the Chobani yogurt, but it still leaves something to be desired. The cheesecake flavor seems more buttermilk inspired than cream cheese, but unlike the Chobani Pumpkin Spice, there’s a more familiar dessert-inspired flavor. The sweetness sure isn’t lacking, and together with a robust pumpkin flavor, it’s more versatile to use as a dip or in smoothies.

Neither Chobani’s Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice nor Yoplait’s Pumpkin Cheesecake flavors blew me away, although the freshness of the pumpkin spice flavor in the Chobani yogurt might be the most authentic rendition I’ve had to date. But the problems for both yogurts are unfortunately all too familiar for the seasonally-inspired treat. Too little brown sugar sweetness and not enough richness leave the pumpkin exposed to blandness, and despite the addition of milkfat, the texture of both yogurts doesn’t conjure up images of dessert. I may not be hip to the latest fads in yogurt, but I think it’s a safe bet to assume adding pumpkin won’t be the next big thing.

(Nutrition Facts – Chobani Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice – 130 calories, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, and 15% calcium. Yoplait Limited Edition Pumpkin Cheesecake – 150 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of sugar, 11 grams of protein, and 10% calcium.)

Item: Chobani Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Greek Yogurt
Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 5.3 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Remarkably fresh and flavorful combination of cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Contains actual pumpkin. Good source of protein and calcium. Sticking it to comrade Putin.
Cons: Not quite sweet enough to really showcase the pumpkin flavor. Lacks richness or creamy taste. Questionable country of origin.

Item: Yoplait Limited Edition Pumpkin Cheesecake Greek Yogurt
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: 5.3 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Sweet and authentic pumpkin flavor. Has a cheesecake tang. Tastes like dessert.
Cons: Jiggles more than a fat guy’s triceps. Gloopy. Spice flavor is artificial. More calories and less protein than Chobani.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Caramel Apple Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Limited Edition Caramel Apple Oreo Cookies

When I first learned about these the Nabisco Limited Edition Caramel Apple Oreo Cookies, I wondered if I would get the FULL caramel apple experience. I’m not just talking about the flavor combo of sweet caramel and tart apples. I’m also talking about getting my teeth stuck in the fall treat.

Whenever I take the first bite into a caramel apple, my front teeth always get stuck because of the caramel coating. The caramel is sticky enough that it adheres to my teeth and it’s tough enough that I can’t tear off the piece my mouth has wrapped itself around. When that happens I go into panic mode because I’m afraid, as I struggle to pull them out, they’ll break off and my mouth will look like I was on the losing end of a hockey fight or what I looked like in my first grade school photo.

My teeth also get stuck because I always take a big bite, which is what I do with caramel-less apples. This causes my jaw to be stuck at its widest position, which doesn’t give me much leeway to do much with my jaw. My teeth eventually free themselves, but I’m left with a sore jaw and ego.

Thankfully, and obviously, these Limited Edition Caramel Apple Oreo cookies won’t force my mouth to stay open for long periods of time and give me a sore jaw like a sadistic dental hygienist would.

Nabisco Limited Edition Caramel Apple Oreo Cookies Closeup

Like with previous fruit-flavored Oreo, like Fruit Punch, Watermelon, and Lemon, the Caramel Apple Oreo also comes with Golden Oreo wafers. The creme is two-toned with Kermit the Frog green and Fozzie Bear brown.

Since the creme was green, there’s a green apple on the packaging, and every caramel apple that has trapped my teeth has been a Granny Smith apple, I expected the creme to taste like a Granny Smith apple, but it tasted more like a Fuji apple. After spending a few seconds with Google, I learned Fuji apples, which can be partially green, are also used with caramel apples. The Fozzie Bear-colored creme had a strong caramel scent that was noticeable as soon as package was opened, but, even after licking my way through a number of cookies, I didn’t think it had a flavor that was as strong.

When eaten as a whole cookie, the apple creme stands out. Whatever caramel flavor there is gets lost behind the apple and the Golden Oreo. The lack of caramel makes the whole experience less satisfying. But with that said, I think it’s a decent cookie because I like the candy-fied Fuji apple flavor and it won’t force my mouth to say open for long periods.

Although, I should admit, I don’t know what would happen if I tried to stuff four cookies stacked on top of each other into my mouth at one time.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Caramel Apple Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 12.2 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Apple-flavored creme taste like Fuji apples. Strong caramel aroma. Creme has the same colors as Kermit and Fozzie.
Cons: Lacks caramel flavor. Getting teeth stuck in a caramel apple. Target exclusive flavor. Granny Smith fans will be disappointed. Having no front teeth in a school photo.

REVIEW: Pizza Hut Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

Pizza Hut Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie

Since I received the news that my fantasy baseball team was mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, I’ve been beating myself up a little bit. I mean, me, a three-time champion in the seven-year existence of The Super Best Friend’s League, missing the playoffs? That’s something that sad losers do, not Trevor. I honestly think it may be one of the first signs of the apocalypse. Now maybe, just maybe it isn’t end of the world-related, but just to be safe I’d keep an eye out for rivers running red with blood, swarms of locusts, The Four Horsemen, and seven angels with trumpets.

With the recent hardship and possible apocalypse looming, I was in need of a pick-me-up. I sought it in the form of Pizza Hut’s Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Now being in the ultimate state of depression I was in, my dumbass forgot to buy milk before ordering the cookie. When I got it back to my apartment, I didn’t want to lose out on the just-from-the-oven taste of the cookie, so I settled for no milk. This joins drafting Tampa Bay Rays Outfielders Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings on my recent list of regrets.

Pizza Hut Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie 2

The first thing I notice about the Ultimate Cookie when I open the box is that it’s just a cookie cake without frosting. I’m not sure why I was expecting it to be a giant cookie. Pizza Hut should really put “cake” at the end of the title to avoid confusion. I was really hoping for a giant cookie, the kind that Paul Bunyan would eat. But alas, it was cut into eight pieces, thus becoming a cake and not one cookie.

The best part about this dish is the heavy amount of Hershey’s chocolate. It’s made with semi-sweet chocolate chips and they were melty and delicious, kind of like Hershey’s chocolate in a s’more.

The cookie was good, but I wanted a lot more. My mother makes my brother and I cookie cakes for our birthdays every year, so my standards are a bit inflated, but I was still a bit disappointed. It didn’t have enough of that salty-sweet that I look for in a cookie cake. But I guess that’s why it’s not called a cookie cake.

It’s a tasty cookie, but it will dry out your mouth. You won’t die if you order the cookie and don’t have any milk on hand but at the same time you will miss out on a lot of the experience.

Pizza Hut Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie 3

I ate four of the eight slices while it was still fresh and after a full day had passed I went back to see how it held up to the test of time. I had put it in plastic wrap and in the cupboard and it really was not worth keeping. The cookie’s flavor is dependent on it being warm. It’s not like when you make a batch of your favorite chocolate chip cookies and they will still be good for a few days. It makes you realize how average the cookie part is and that without melty chocolate chips, it’s really nothing special.

I really wish there was a frosting on it. It’s just a cookie cake somebody forgot to finish decorating. It’s like they got three-quarters of the way there and said, “Ah, good enough.” It’s not essential for the taste or anything, though it would be better, but it’s really confusing looking at a frosting-less cookie cake.

This giant cookie is decent, but like your friend who only wears jeans and a t-shirt whenever you go out, it needs something more to reach it’s true potential.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 slice – 180 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 110 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Pizza Hut Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie
Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Loads of chocolatey goodness. Winning three fantasy baseball championships in first seven years of your league’s existence.
Cons: Cookie is a tad dry. Doesn’t taste great the next day. Forgetting to buy milk before eating a giant cookie. Having a bad fantasy baseball season and unintentionally setting the wheels of the apocalypse in motion.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Sometimes you have one of those days. You drop your toothbrush in the toilet. You eat shell in your scrambled eggs. You get attacked by three nefarious pigeons while walking to the pharmacy and break your sunglasses.

Such was the day I was having when I walked into a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, half-blind from my sunglasses-less eyes. Craving something to promote my tooth decay, Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream seemed like my Golden Ticket.

Sweet cream. Chocolate ice cream. Caramel clusters. Fudge almonds. Marshmallow swirl. Sounds like a mish-mosh put together by especially creative carnies with ingredients that would make the Grinch’s hearts grow to the strength of 10 Grinches (plus 2). How will its tastes settle on a non-Grinch? Only one way to find out…

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream Must find all the clusters!

Gilly (played by Kristen Wiig) is known as the rambunctious rally-rouser in the Saturday Night Live classroom, having created all sorts of semi-violent mischief, including walloping buckets of Chunky Monkey ice cream at the teacher. That same degree of mischief is evidenced here by the multitude of kooky ingredients pummeled into this frozen dairy concoction.

Let’s start with the two bases: the swirl of sweet cream and chocolate ice creams is distinct. The sweet cream portion reminds me of milk that’s been artfully infused with Frosted Flakes while the chocolate tastes light and sugary, much similar to a Hershey’s bar. It’s perhaps not the best chocolate you’ve had in your life, but definitely lovable. When the two mix together, that chocolate flavor takes over while a tinge of hyper sweetness comes at the back end from the sweet cream, making for a very, very light milk chocolate base. It’s dense and creamy, even if perhaps a bit subtle for my inner chocolate fiend.

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream The Cluster Cave

But what I’m really here for are the mix-ins. Just look at that rocky terrain obstructing the creaminess. Clusters! Fudgy almonds! Those fudge almonds add a deeper dimension in the universe of chocolates, touting more of a semisweet profile than the base, while the almonds contribute their thudding crunch more than any notable flavor. And, oh yes, the marshmallow swirl: it’s goopy, in that humble marshmallow fluff way, although its one-note, straight-up-sugar flavor comes across tame against the subtly cocoa-y base, a shame as the marshmallow swirl in Phish Food ranks up there in my personal Ultimate Favorite Ice Cream Experiences of All Time Ever.

But, meanwhile, the clusters. Man, those clusters. Those chunky, sweet caramel little crunches add more than all the heart, stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons combined. Chunky. Lightly burnt sugar. A tad sticky. Part of this balanced breakfast. But there aren’t enough of them! Must find all the chunkies! Must eat a whole bowl! Someone must turn these chunkies into a granola. Immediately.

My dad always told me good things come to those who persevere. But sometimes, persevering isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to wait. In a line. For 32 minutes. With a screaming three-year-old. And a tall man’s sweaty armpit in your nose. But the key is to never lose sight of the goal, for the goal will be your reward.

In this case, I was rewarded with some high-quality ice cream and, while it was good, I don’t think I’d go back for Gilly’s. The ingredients were all high quality, yet they mixed together in an altogether subtle way. It almost represents the wackadoodle character of Gilly. It had the kooky ingredients, yet the delivery was muddled. Perhaps more of those amazing clusters, some richer chocolate in the base, maybe a hint of something gritty, like a graham cracker or cookie, and BOOM. It’d be Gilly madness all up in here.

But just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it can’t be for you. If you like crunchy, caramel things, almonds, and subtle milk chocolate ice cream, this is worth persevering for. It’s really a good ice cream. Don’t be ashamed of your flavor preferences! Find the chunkies! Eat them all! Persevere!

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 250 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: 1 scoop
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop (Rockefeller Center)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crunchies! Lovable chocolate base. Thuddy almonds. Slow melting. Fudge coating adds different dimension of chocolate. Creative carnies.
Cons: Needs more clusters. Milk chocolate base may be too subtle for some. Marshmallow gets lost in sweet cream. Dropping your toothbrush in the toilet. Getting attacked by three nefarious pigeons.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (Canada)

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 1

Remember when McDonald’s was unabashedly a burger joint? This was before people like Eric Schlosser and Morgan Spurlock entered the scene and made people look at the Golden Arches a bit more critically.

Seemingly overnight it was decided that if parents are foolhardy enough to take their child to McDonald’s on a daily basis and the kid inevitably grows fat and unhealthy, that’s Ronald’s fault, not the parents’. McDonald’s went into damage control mode, falling over itself to introduce healthy items like salads, wraps, and apple slices (never mind that the average McWrap is almost as calorific and fat-laden as a Big Mac).

Of course, burgers are still McDonald’s bread and butter, but they almost seem ashamed of that fact. Here in Canada, I can’t even remember the last new burger they added to the menu. The Angus Third Pounders, I guess? And that was a few years ago. As someone who can remember when McDonald’s used to reliably come out with a new burger every month or two (or every month exactly under the Burger of the Month promotion that ran for a while in the ’90s), it makes me a bit sad.

But let me stop ranting and get to the matter at hand: McDonald’s latest new non-burger item, the Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?). It consists of crispy shrimp, grilled vegetables, lettuce, and Thai sauce, wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 3

The shrimp is surprisingly okay. The breading is nice and crispy, and the medium-sized morsels aren’t terribly overcooked. They’re a bit tough, but for the most part they avoid the rubberiness you might expect. They almost seem to be there more for texture than anything else; there’s a very vague shrimpy flavour, but otherwise the veggies and the very sweet sauce were clearly dominant.

Still, when it comes to something with as much potential to go wrong as seafood, I’ll take no flavour over bad flavour. No one’s going to confuse them for shrimp from a good seafood restaurant, but for what it is, it’s not bad. It helped that they were hot and fresh in my McWrap, but obviously your mileage may vary.

The veggies are the usual assortment of stir-fry selections — carrots, peppers, peas, bamboo shoots, etc. They’re fine; like with the shrimp, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were fairly well cooked. They’re soft without being mushy; firm without being crunchy and undercooked.

The obligatory lettuce does what the obligatory lettuce always does — it adds some fresh crunchiness and makes you feel like maybe you’re eating something healthy.

The sauce is the same one from the Sweet Chili McWrap. It’s sweet and tangy, with a bit of a garlicky hit and the faintest undertones of spiciness. It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that stayed with me all afternoon, but other than that it’s not bad. It’s a sauce that would feel right at home at a Panda Express — with the overall effect being that the wrap tastes like they took a dish from that restaurant and wrapped it up in a tortilla with some veggies.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 2

It’s not bad. I think it adds up to less than the sum of its parts, because while there’s nothing about it that was outright bad, I can’t particularly foresee a scenario in which I’d ever want to order it again. It’s certainly not my favourite of the McWraps (that would be, oddly enough, the entirely vegetarian Santa Fe McWrap), but if you’re curious about how McDonald’s has handled shrimp, you won’t be horrified. That’s a ringing endorsement, isn’t it? “You won’t be horrified.” Feel free to quote me on your marketing, McDonald’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1310 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fibre, 16 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crispy shrimp. Well-cooked veggies. Decent sauce.
Cons: Shrimp is slightly overcooked. Sauce has an unpleasant aftertaste. Inspires apathy. Makes me remember how much I miss the Burger of the Month.