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.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts

1964 — it was a very good year. Or so I’ve heard… technically I wouldn’t be born for another 16 years. But there’s something comforting in the idea that, as my parents sat up late, chiseling their homework by the light of whale oil lamps, they might have paused for a study break, pulled out a brand new box of Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts, and heated them over a nearby tar pit.

Or… not. You’d think that to celebrate your product’s 50th anniversary, you might indulge in nostalgia by re-issuing one (or all) of the original flavors, right? That’s what I assumed, anyway.

But no! In actuality, Pop-Tarts launched with four flavors: Blueberry, Strawberry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, and Apple Currant. Since the first three are still in production today (an impressive .750 winning percentage… not too shabby, Kellogg’s), one can see why “bringing back” the original flavors wasn’t exactly feasible. Apparently if apple currant wasn’t able to entice baby boomers, it isn’t gonna do it for the children of millennials.

Okay, so if it wasn’t one of the launch flavors, where does Milk Chocolate Graham fit in? The answer is that it’s a discontinued flavor from… some point in Pop-Tarts’ history. I’m not really sure from when — basic Googling has failed me, so if anyone knows, light up that comments section! Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter when it vanished, whether it was the ’70s or last year. What’s cool is that we have it now, and can judge for ourselves whether it was a mistake to let this flavor fall by the wayside.

The box is extremely busy, with multicolored balls all over and on the back, a cutout of a Pop-Tart with eyes and limbs. You’re helpfully advised to cut him out and photobomb your friends’ pictures, then share them online, which I predict will be done by ones of people all over the box designer’s house. Luckily I don’t mind suffering for you, lovely readers, so you can see his smiling face in one of the photos in this review. Try to figure out which one’s the real Pop-Tart!

The appearance of the tart is interesting — it’s not the relatively smooth surface I’m used to seeing on most unfrosted Pop-Tarts, with the tiny, perfectly spaced venting holes. There ARE holes, but they seem to be randomly dropped all over the place, and the texture is craggy and uneven, like a miniature desert terrain or a teenager’s face. (That wasn’t just me, right? Guys?) Cut one open and you can see a decent amount of chocolate filling — nothing that’ll knock your socks off, but it’s not indiscernible without an electron microscope either.

Kellogg's Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts 2

Fine, but how does it taste? Well… if your immediate thought on hearing “graham” and “chocolate” was “Hey, sounds like 2/3rds of a s’more!”, you aren’t alone. And the thing about a s’more is, if any one component is missing, it just isn’t as good. Why do I bring that up? Because they have S’more Pop-Tarts, and the fact that those are still around and going strong gives us a pretty big clue as to why Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts, well, aren’t.

To wit, they taste fine. The graham taste is okay, maybe a bit understated but certainly there if you’re tasting for it. The chocolate is reasonably rich, and if it won’t have you checking the label to see if they’re using Lindt, at least it’s sweet enough without making your teeth hurt. They’re about as flaky as most Pop-Tarts, if texture is your thing.

But… well, you don’t realize how much you need that marshmallow until it isn’t there anymore. And the icing on S’mores Pop-Tarts makes a ton of difference, because these taste quite a bit drier than the S’mores variety ever did. They’re not going to cut the roof of your mouth or anything, but plan on having a beverage nearby for sure.

In the final analysis, it’s nice that they brought these back, and I do appreciate the effort. Nostalgia is fun when used sparingly, and every institution deserves to indulge in a little fun upon reaching a milestone. That said, we learn from the mistakes of the past, and it seems to me that Kellogg’s clearly built on and improved this flavor when they created the S’mores variety. Maybe pick up a box of these if you’re a nostalgia buff like I am, but if you’re simply looking for a tasty breakfast pastry, just buy the S’mores.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 toaster pastry – 200 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 8 toaster pastries
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Intergenerational connection through breakfast pastries. 3 out of 4 launch products still being around half a century later is pretty impressive. Reasonable amount of chocolate. Decent graham flavor. S’mores: proof of intelligent design, or unguided evolution?
Cons: Natural selection already marked this Pop-Tart for extinction. Not being able to figure out when one out of the scores of varieties of a breakfast snack stopped being produced = thanks, Internet. Kind of like a cake with filling, but no frosting. Everyone hates the guy who forgets to bring marshmallows to the camping trip. Don’t be that guy.

QUICK REVIEW: Jack in the Box Jalapeño Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger

Jack in the Box Jalapeno Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Jalapeños provide almost all of the flavor and a little bit of heat. Jalapeño in every bite. Awesome if your taste buds are tired of eating regular Jack in the Box Ultimate Cheeseburgers. Although it’s almost all jalapeño, it’s a tasty burger. Ranch sauce and cheese give the burger a slightly creamy texture which kind of makes you forget about the slightly dry beef patties. Enough ranch sauce to make salads jealous.
Cons: Even with enough ranch sauce to make salads jealous, its flavor is overwhelmed by the jalapeños. Heck, the flavor of the ranch sauce, meat, and cheese take a back seat to the jalapeños, and that back seat is on a school bus. Let’s be honest, all Ultimate Cheeseburgers aren’t even close to being “ultimate.” I mean, if I add another beef patty and another slice of cheese, then that’s proof the Ultimate Cheeseburger isn’t the ultimate.

Jack in the Box Jalapeno Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger Topless

Nutrition Facts: 797 calories, 432 calories from fat, 48 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 3 grams of trans fat, 147 milligrams of cholesterol, 1783 milligrams of sodium, 545 milligrams of potassium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 50 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Vitaminwater Zero Drops Revive Fruit Punch

VitaminWater Zero Revive Drops

Finally, a drink that combines two of my favorite things: a Vitaminwater brand beverage and the toil and satisfaction of making something with my own two hands. Enter Vitaminwater Zero Drops. With only a few effortless squeezes, you can enjoy the familiar taste of Vitaminwater right out of any glass of water or water bottle you have lying around.

In what could only have been a response to the general public demanding an additional step in the Vitaminwater drinking process (which was just too goddamn simple before), you can now forgo the accuracy of a formula created by food scientists and received positively by millions in favor of what you think should be done. That’s right, you.

Remember when you forgot your keys yesterday, walked into your house to get them, blanked for a second, ate some pretzels you had lying around, and left your house without your keys? Yeah, well now the creation of your own Vitaminwater can be in those same hands.

VitaminWater Zero Revive Drops with regular Revive

With the pressure on, I decided to try the Revive Fruit Punch flavor. Being a longtime fan of the bottled version, I was wondering how close the two would be in taste. Unfortunately, my local Stop & Shop only had the full calorie version of Revive, apparently unconcerned with what Google tells me will take a 30 minute walk to burn off, so it will have to do.

Because Vitaminwater Zero Drops offer little detailed instruction on how much concentrated fluid to add, my strategy was to slowly keep adding it into a glass of water until it matched the color of bottled version. After a few tries, I matched the same reddish pink tone as closely as I think is possible.

VitaminWater Zero Revive Drops comparison

Had I any last minute doubts which was which, the taste comparison would have revealed which one was made by a Glacéau bottling plant and which one was made on my living room table. While the Vitaminwater Zero Drops were able to create that distinct and pleasing Vitaminwater taste that is much lighter and less sweet than its sports drink and soda competition, it is definitely apparent that something is…well, off.

But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s like eating cereal dry because you’ve already poured it into a bowl before realizing that you’re out of milk. Even without milk, cereal is still pretty good, but, just like any type of make-it-yourself beverage, it’s still gonna taste just a little bit different. Despite the clear presence of that original fruit punch tastiness, it’s still hard to shake the feeling that something is definitely missing, and not in the regular zero-calorie way.

But you know, maybe the problem is just me. Try as I might, I will never be as accurate as the industrial robots that pump this stuff out in gallons per minute. Not really helping this issue however, is the fact that Vitaminwater Zero Drops use the word “drops” pretty lightly. Instead, its a laser beam of concentrated flavor firing at an incalculable rate into your water. (Be thankful Glacéau doesn’t make eye drops). So, until you are a veteran at administering Vitaminwater drops (which I have set as my next life-goal) you are going to have to get pretty familiar with administering intermittent taste tests after each squirt. But don’t worry, this isn’t really a problem unless you purchased Vitaminwater Zero Drops because you were hoping for a fast, convenient way to effortlessly enjoy Vitaminwater on the go.

But all in all, at least the “do it yourself” aspect of this product allows you the opportunity to finally connect with your grandfather the next time he reminds you he built his own damn house using only his “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality, and his subtle yet still uncomfortably palpable racism. Vitaminwater Zero Drops may require some elbow grease, but if for some reason you plan on being away from actual Vitaminwater for a while, it’s certainly the next best thing.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 fl oz prepared – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70mg potassium 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of
protein.)

Item: Vitaminwater Zero Drops Revive Fruit Punch
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 3 fl oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: 18 servings of vitamin water for only four bucks. Stays mostly true to fruit punch flavor. Zero calories is not a lot of calories.
Cons: Not as effortless as it may appear. Forgetting your keys. Tastes mildly off from the original flavor.