REVIEW: Apple Pie Tic Tac

Apple Pie Tic Tac

Tic Tacs — the little candy that pretends to be a breath mint, even though I doubt they’ve ever freshened anyone’s breath. I don’t know about you, but my mouth feels worse when I have a Tic Tac.

But that doesn’t stop me from buying their holiday versions. Usually that means they just mix a few of their existing flavors into a new color scheme. But they’re branching out more into new flavors.

Hence the new Apple Pie Tic Tacs. I found them in the Christmas candy aisle (next to Candy Cane Tic Tacs), and the label says it’s “stocking stuffer size” (because obviously regular-sized Tic Tacs are too small to fit in a stocking), but other than that, these don’t scream Christmas. I associate apple pie more with Thanksgiving, so that’s a good thing.

I find it a little odd that they’re red, because when I eat apple pie, the apples are peeled, so it’s just a mixture of whites and tans. But I guess beige Tic Tacs wouldn’t sell well. The little apple pie drawing on the label looks like it could be full of giant red Tic Tacs (or else regular Tic Tacs in a tiny pie). Also, the apple on the label is green. Weird.

When I pop one in my mouth, it just tastes like apple, fairly similar to Green Apple Tic Tacs. (Both kinds are made with dried apples, but these specify that they’re dried red apples.) After I suck on it, other flavors kick in, though I can’t tell what flavors. It’s not really spicy, but it is vaguely reminiscent of pie. My niece and my sister said it tastes like Sugar Babies, but I didn’t taste that.

Regardless of what they taste like, these are good. Imma venture these are the best fruity Tic Tacs I’ve ever had. In fact, I might go so far as to say these are the best Tic Tacs I’ve ever had, period.

But, at the end of the day, they’re still just Tic-Tacs. They have no place on the Thanksgiving dinner table. But they will gladly be passed around afterward during the football game.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 piece – 1.9 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, less than 0.5 grams of carbohydrates, less than 0.5 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 1.7 oz. container
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes vaguely like pie. Better than most, or all, Tic Tacs. Seasonal flavors. Not excessively marketed for Christmas.
Cons: Doesn’t freshen breath. Inaccurate red color.

REVIEW: Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

From the same folks who gave you sandwiches doused in bourbon and moonshine infused sauce comes Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.’s latest alco-hamburger, the All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger.

From the get-go, it’s a much less ambitious burger than we’re used to from the chain – lest we forget, this is the same brand that once sold us a sandwich topped with a split weenie and a handful of potato chips.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger 2

The non-deluxe versions come with a charbroiled beef patty topped with a sliver of Swiss cheese and a hearty dollop of caramelized onions and thick coating of the eponymous Bud cheese, which I’d describe as a sweet nacho cheddar blend with a sugary hops and barley aftertaste (and before you ask, no, you can’t get loaded eating a small mountain of burgers). On top of that you’ve got your customary lettuce and tomato slices, with a cameo appearance by two fairly salty strips of bacon. The whole shebang is shoved into a brioche bun, which has a distinct honey-kissed flavor that gels incredibly well with the Cheese-weiser sauce.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger 3

As you’d imagine, it’s a pretty messy meal. Just removing the top bun guarantees at least a splash of cheese sauce is going to spatter on the table, but the impromptu Gallagher performance is easily forgiven considering how filling the burger is. The solo patty version pretty much immobilized me for a good half hour, so I can only imagine the severity – and satisfaction – of the after-effects of the double patty permutation or the 1/3-pounder Black Angus Thickburger.

Your mileage will vary on the saccharine nature of the burger dressings, though. An hour after eating my burger I still had a pronounced honey wheat hangover in the back of my throat, and be forewarned, when the beer cheese fully congeals, it becomes almost as sweet as cake frosting.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the chain’s latest brew-burger. It strikes a very nice balance of savory, smoky and sugary without any one flavor becoming too dominant. As long as you can handle a little umami with your ale – and you’re not averse to a strong sucrose sensation from time to time – I’d say this Bud’s definitely for you.

(Nutrition Facts – Single Patty Burger – 710 calories, 340 calories from fat, 38 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1430 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.59 (single patty)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very filling. A nice medley of flavors that are surprisingly harmonious. Being able to literally chew Budweiser.
Cons: An unexpectedly prolonged sugar rush; being forced to eat it with a fork to keep cheese from glomping to your fingers. Still having to wait for a Heineken-flavored chicken sandwich.

REVIEW: Vanilla Milkshake Whoppers

Vanilla Milkshake Whoppers

Every year, post-Halloween, I see lists of peoples’ least favorite candies.

For some reason Whoppers always crack the list. I don’t get it. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of these “malted milk balls,” don’t you like a little variety? What’s wrong with a couple malt(ed milk) balls mixed in with the rest of your haul? (Don’t you dare simply refer to them as “Malt balls!”)

I’m actually surprised Whoppers are even still around. They feel like a candy of yesteryear. We as a culture just don’t seem to appreciate malt anymore. When was the last time anyone under the age of ancient ordered a malted milkshake?

Speaking of, the fine folks at Hershey seem to think people still have a hankering for them with their release of Vanilla Milkshake Whoppers. I’ve always been a fan of the originals, and dug the Strawberry Milkshake Whoppers a good deal, so I snatched two of these cartons as soon as I saw them.

Upon ripping open said carton I was met with a vanilla scent that got masked quickly by the smell of cardboard. Once I poured the contents into a glass, they regained their pleasant vanilla smell. 

The waxy outer coating had a “white chocolatey” flavor. I know it’s vanilla but it tasted like white chocolate to me. Let’s be real, there’s not THAT big a difference between the two anyway. Whether you taste vanilla or white chocolate, the flavor really doesn’t last long enough to make a major impact. This is a common theme among malt(ed milk) balls in my opinion. 

Vanilla Milkshake Whoppers 2

After talking them up, allow me to knock Whoppers down a peg.

I don’t really like to chew on Whoppers. I feel like I immediately lose the outer flavor once I bite into the malt center. Malt is an overpowering taste. I much prefer to suck on Whoppers instead of biting them. I absolutely hate that previous sentence and didn’t want to write it, but hey, that’s how I like my Whoppers.

That being said, if you allow about ten Whoppers to melt in your mouth, the gritty texture of the ball itself starts to do a number on your tongue. This has always been my knock on them. Either you chew them and get that rock hard sugar stuck in your molars, or you suck them and get Cap’n Crunch mouth.

Vanilla Milkshake Whoppers 3

Still, letting them melt was the best way to really enjoy that outer “vanilla” flavor. The thing about Whoppers is that no matter the coating, the strongest taste will always be the malt itself. Just to test my theory I had a few chocolate Whoppers left over from Halloween, and it checked out. Once I chomped down it was just a maltfest.

And while I prefer not to chew them, I absolutely LOVE those weird chewy runt Whoppers that inevitably sneak into each batch. You guys know what I’m talking about? There are always one or two pieces that are smaller than the rest. Sometimes half the ball is caved in on itself. To me they’re like the bonus onion ring in an order of fries. I had three of those that had the texture of a Tootsie Roll and they were the MVPs of the carton.

I may have actually liked Vanilla Milkshake more than the chocolate originals. The jury is still out. They’re certainly better than those Easter Whoppers Robin’s Eggs. 

Hershey should team with Burger King on these somehow, because I subliminally wanted a Whopper and a vanilla shake by the time I was done.

(Nutrition Facts – 18 pieces – 200 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 7 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 27 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.22
Size: 10 oz. carton
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Solid white chocolatey/vanilla flavor while it lasts. Super fresh malted milk ball centers. Milk carton packaging. Might be better than the original. The chewy runts of the Whopper litter.
Cons: Malt overpowers outer flavor. Scratches up tongue/roof of mouth if sucked on. Gets plastered in teeth if chewed. Gateway to wanting Burger King. Where have all the malts gone?

REVIEW: Ripple Chocolate Milk

Ripple Chocolate Milk

If you told me a decade ago I’d be drinking pea milk and enjoying it, I’d laugh and tell you I’m not into that gross stuff. Then after explaining it’s p-e-a and not p-e-e, I’d again laugh and tell you I’m not into that gross stuff.

I don’t care for the pea’s texture, flavor, and ability to affect a princess’ sleep. I avoid chicken pot pies because of the chance I’ll eat one and I always throw out that one freeze dried pea you get with every Cup Noodles.

So it’s odd I ended up buying a bottle of dairy-free Chocolate Ripple Milk, which is made with flavorless pea protein. It’s not the green peas you’ll find swimming in a chicken a la king, it’s yellow peas. But it’s still peas. Although I don’t care for the vegetable, I might’ve bought this so that I can say in a pretentious tone, “Oh, you drink almond milk? Well, have you tried pea milk? No? You should try it someday.”

According to the Ripple website, a cup of Chocolate Ripple has more protein and less sugar than an equal serving of chocolate soy milk. Plus, it provides Omega-3 fatty acids.

Ripple is available in original, unsweetened, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. I haven’t tried any of the others, but this chocolate one reminded me of reduced fat chocolate milk. If you gave some to a kid and told them it came from a cow, they’d believe you. But I guess if you put cocoa into any milk it’ll do a great job at hiding whatever it’s made from, probably even pee milk.

While I enjoyed its flavor, I noticed an oddity with its texture. It initially was creamy in my mouth, but then it became thinner. However, I noticed it because I was swishing it around in my mouth, like some pretentious wine taster or Listerine burn lover. But I imagine most folks won’t notice since their mouth to throat transit time will be much quicker than mine.

There’s also the issue of price. Forty-eight ounce bottles retail for five dollars. A half gallon (64 ounces) of other dairy-free milks are about the same price or cheaper.

Overall, I do see myself buying Chocolate Ripple Milk again, if its price comes down. When it does, it’ll be the only way I’ll consume peas.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 fl oz – 220 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 680 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, 12 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 70% calcium, 45% vitamin D, 20% iron, and 4% magnesium.)

Purchased Price: $2.79*
Size: 12 fl oz bottle
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like reduced fat chocolate milk. More protein and less sugar than chocolate soy milk. Provides Omega-3 fatty acids. Conversation starter with vegetarian or vegan? Listerine burn.
Cons: More expensive than other dairy-free milks. Slightly changing texture is odd. Peas. Listerine burn. Bragging about all the dairy-free milks you’ve had.

*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: Hostess Limited Edition White Peppermint Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition White Peppermint Twinkies

It’s mid-November. Even though our nation’s turkeys still await their presidential pardons (if they’re lucky) and ‘ducken-ings (if they’re not), grocery store shelves have chosen to completely ignore Thanksgiving and just put out their merriest wares. I kind of wish seasonal snacks would go from “Monster Mash” to “Potato Mash” instead of jumping straight to “Assorted Non-Denominational Red & Green Mish-Mash,” but it’s hard to stay mad when a box of sprinkled white fudge cylinders sits in front of me.

I’m going to try my best to review Hostess’s new White Peppermint Twinkies, but be warned: my favorite radio station is already playing Christmas tunes, and I get distracted easily.

Hostess Limited Edition White Peppermint Twinkies 2

I’m dreaming…of a white Twinkie
Just like the Ghostbusters ones from not long ago
But this one’s red sprinkles glisten
And it’s so fun to listen
As they crunch like feet on snow

The white fudge on every White Peppermint Twinkie is reminiscent of this summer’s marshmallowy Twinkies: a nearly cloying white chocolate that’s blended with confectioner’s sugar and a hint of vanilla. But this new stuff also feels fudgier, oiler, and more buttery, almost like freshly iced sugar cookies. These Twinkies must’ve been made by the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man’s loving grandma.

The icing on this icing’s cake is the sprinkles. They don’t bring any noticeable bursts of sugar, but these Twinkies don’t need more sugar—I’m already writing this at 120bpm. The sprinkles do provide a neat crunchiness that contrasts all the creamier elements, which is much needed: if I wanted to eat a tube of pure mush, I’d rather suck down a roll of Pillsbury Holiday Shapes cookie dough like it’s a reindeer-stamped popsicle.

Peppermint bark! this Hostess angel cake brings
“Glory to its clear wrapping!
Light on bite and mercifully mild
Mint and chocolate, reconciled”

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the peppermint taste yet. That’s because there isn’t a lot of it. Like custardy peppermint bark, White Peppermint Twinkies only have a mellow undercurrent of candy cane flavor. It won’t prickle your taste buds, freshen your breath, or produce a tracheal chill when you breathe inwards, but this peppermint pulse is still a refreshing complement for the chocolate: just imagine a gelatinous, doughy Thin Mint with an inverted color scheme.

Hostess Limited Edition White Peppermint Twinkies 3

I’ll try the sponge cake,
(But baby, it’s dry inside)
the cream for old times’ sake
(But baby, it’s bland inside)

It’s not all winter wonderlands and tubular Girl Scout cookies, though. At the heart of every fudge-slathered Yule log lies a ho-hum combo of cake and cream. The cake layer seems more aerated and floury than usual, leaving me to wonder whether Hostess ran out of golden Twinkie sponge cake and started coating rolled Wonder Bread in white chocolate instead.

The cream filling is up to Hostess standards, but that’s the problem. It just tastes like sugared whipped cream, without a unique twinge of mint, fudge, or Christmas magic. I bit in expecting a delightful Twinkie stocking stuffer, but it turns out that the stocking was the most fun part.

Fros-ted white chocolate
Could lead to a jolly happy whole
But boring cream and cake that blows
Make this a Twinkie without soul

I wanted to adore White Peppermint Twinkies, but I merely like them. Like a holiday light show on a house without a tree inside, these cakes’ Scrooged-up innards betray their exciting exterior. I recommend buying these Twinkies for an early Christmas spirit sugar rush or as mantle decorations, but don’t expect to remember them fondly (or at all) come Groundhog’s Day.

Now if we could just get some Mashed Potato Twinkies.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 160 calories, 8 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 13 oz box/9 Twinkies
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Albino sugar cookie ectoplasm. Peppermint that tastes like smooth jazz. The oddly satisfying goodness of a crunchy Twinkie. Daydreaming about Maple-Glazed Yam Twinkies.
Cons: Stuffing plain ol’ year-round cream into the most wonderful time of the year. More like, “fallen angel food cake,” am I right? Not enough mint to please Candy Cane Forest dwellers. Thanksgiving: always the bridesmaid, never the snack food aisle bride.