REVIEW: Mountain Dew Dew Shine

Mountain Dew Dew Shine

Here’s a completely useless nugget of information you will never have to recall in your lifetime. Before Mountain Dew was Mountain Dew, it was slang for the clear liquor called moonshine. And now Mountain Dew is honoring its past by selling a non-alcoholic clear soda called Dew Shine.

This isn’t the first alcohol-sounding, non-alcoholic Dew the folks at Mountain Dew have developed. A few years ago, they rolled out Mountain Dew Gold, a citrus and malt liquor-flavored soda. It was supposed to roll out nationwide and it had a campaign that gave Dew fans the chance name the beverage in different regions. The nationwide rollout never happened. Instead, it was sold only in a few regions across the U.S.

However, Mountain Dew Dew Shine has been rolled out nationwide and is available in single bottles or four-packs.

There’s a lot of retro going on with bottle’s label, which looks like a weathered piece of paper and features Willie the Hillbilly, the original Mountain Dew mascot, and “It’ll Tickle Yore Innards”, the original Mountain Dew slogan. The bottle is made of glass and beverage contains real sugar, which, if you think about it, is kind of retro in this day and age of high fructose corn syrup.

The beverage is as clear as water, and to make sure it was, I filled an empty Dew Shine bottle with water, put the screw top back on, placed it next to an unopened bottle, and had someone arrange the bottle with my back turned. After comparing the two for a few moments, I couldn’t tell the difference. Can you determine which is which using the photo below?

Mountain Dew Dew Shine 2

According to the bottle, Dew Shine is a “clear citrus flavored Dew,” and with its name, I assume it might taste somewhat like moonshine. Unfortunately, I can’t confirm that since I have no idea what moonshine tastes like and I’m not willing to drink moonshine because I don’t want the internet to have photos of me walking through Waikiki with no pants.

Dew Shine has a light citrusy aroma that reminds me of a generic lemon lime soda. Its flavor also has a mild citrusiness to it that leans towards lemon. But I detect a slight maltiness too. The combination is giving me flashbacks to Mountain Dew Gold, but with a much mellower flavor. The mellow flavor and light carbonation makes Dew Shine easy to drink.

Dew Shine is refreshing, not overly sweet, pleasant, and has the same amount of caffeine as a can of regular Mountain Dew (52 mg), but I’m not sure younger Dew fans would like it because it’s not like most Mountain Dew flavors. There’s no radioactive color, no bite, and it doesn’t slap you with sweetness. It’s a different kind of Dew.

The glass bottle, the beverage’s clear color, the use of real sugar, and its flavor makes it appear and taste like its for older or sophisticated taste buds. Because of those attributes, Dew Shine could be considered a Craft Dew. I also want to call it Crystal Dew.

But with that said, if I need a soda to pick me up, I would rather have regular Mountain Dew. Dew Shine has the same amount of caffeine as regular Dew, but I feel regular Dew’s combination of a sugary punch, stronger carbonation, and caffeine content does a better job at energizing me.

But if you happen to find some Dew Shine on shelves, I think it’s definitely worth picking up.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 160 calories, 0 grams of fat, 60 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 42 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, and 54 milligrams of caffeine.)

Item: Mountain Dew Dew Shine
Purchased Price: Way too much on eBay ($26.99)
Size: 4 pack of 12 oz bottles
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nice citrusy flavor with a bit of maltiness. A sophisticated Dew. Easy to drink. Not made with high fructose corn syrup. Same amount of caffeine as a can of regular Mountain Dew. Nifty retro label.
Cons: Younger Dew drinkers might find this flavor to be too mild when compared with other Dew flavors. Might be difficult to find. I prefer regular Dew when it comes to getting energized. The internet having photos you wish it didn’t. Only available in glass bottles.

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REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut

Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut

When it comes to cheese and desserts, I have mixed feelings.

Cheese and pie? No thanks. The last time I tried a slice of apple pie topped with cheddar cheese, I began gagging like my neighbor’s cat when it swallowed a whole hot dog. (Come to think of it, we never did figure out how poor ol’ Sassy Boots fit that 6-inch frankfurter down his esophagus, but damn, that’s one talented cat.)

Cheese and cake? Cheesecake!? Yes, please! I love cheesecake, so when I heard about the new Oreo Cheesecake Square at Dunkin’ Donuts, I began drooling more than my neighbor’s cat does whenever someone starts grilling a pack of Oscar Mayer Wieners. (Sassy Boots really, really likes hot dogs. Don’t judge.)

Available through April, the Oreo Cheesecake Square donut is frosted with white icing, topped with Oreo cookie crumbles, and filled with a creamy cheesecake filling. To be clear, Dunkin’ Donuts products and Oreos have mingled in the past, and Dunkin’ certainly isn’t doing anything radical or original here. Both Oreo and cheesecake flavors are hard to dislike, making the Oreo Cheesecake Square an easy shot at a crowd-pleaser.

Like most filled donuts sold at Dunkin’ Donuts, the Oreo Cheesecake Square suffers from PCD: poor cream distribution. With the filling concentrated entirely in the middle of the donut, all four corners of my Oreo Cheesecake Square were as empty as a mosh pit at a Bee Gees concert. (Ever try thrashing to “How Deep Is Your Love?” Yeah, not possible.) These first few creamless bites melded the sugary white frosting with the chocolate Oreo crumbles into a traditional cookies ‘n cream flavor.

Frankly, I’m surprised a cookies ‘n cream donut has yet to join the regular menu at Dunkin’, and this donut presents a glimpse of what we’ve been missing. The duo of white frosting and Oreo crumbles seems a perfect fit for the fluffy yeast donut base.

Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut 2

As I reached the center of the donut, I encountered the cheesecake cream. The filling’s most apparent trait is its cream cheese-like tang, which pushes to the forefront of each bite. The creamy, dairy flavor is more mild than in an actual cheesecake — this could be why the filling also feels less dense than an actual cheesecake. At times, the cream’s lukewarm temperature made me uncomfortable; I’m used to eating my cheesecake chilled, and I can’t help but feel this donut would be better after an hour in the refrigerator.

Though the filling inside of the Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square isn’t a perfect replication of cheesecake flavor, I enjoyed the creamy, chocolatey, and tangy characteristics of this donut. It’s just as tasty as the other donuts on the Dunkin’ menu, but because there’s nothing groundbreaking here, I can’t call it spectacular. In other words, it’s not worth a special trip to your local Dunkin’, but it certainly deserves a spot in your next dozen.

Ya know, maybe a little cheese in desserts isn’t so bad after all.

But definitely not with my Grandma Nadezhda’s Chocolate Head Cheese Surprise. Blech.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Donut – 370 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 400 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Oreo Cheesecake Square Donut
Purchased Price: $1.04
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Frosting and Oreo crumbles blend into Cookies ‘n Cream flavor. Tangy cheesecake filling. Feels less dense than actual cheesecake. Thrashing at Bee Gees concerts.
Cons: Lukewarm cream makes me uncomfortable. Not tastier than other Dunkin’ donuts. Cats obsessed with hot dogs.

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REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Partially Popped Popcorn

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn with Butter & Sea Salt

What is happening?!?!?!?!

Cars are driving themselves.

Cookie Monster is a life coach.

Pink chickens are running around Portland.

And now this. Partially Popped Popcorn.

Like the rest of the above news, I am terrified, curious, and impossibly hopeful. Could this be re-animated Corn Nuts, one of the most brilliantly underrated gas station snacks of all time? Or is it the gunk at the bottom of my half-burnt popcorn bag? The stuff that drilled me with two cavities? Will it be brilliant? Will it be terrible? Will it be edible? (I don’t have dental insurance, people.)

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn with Butter & Sea Salt Tumble

Bust open the bag and gaze in wonderment at the poofs. They are smaller than I imagined (think: tinier than a marble, yet larger than a ladybug), but they make up for their diminutive size in aroma: just a slight crevice in the bag and wafts of butter, salt, and slightly sweet corn breeze into the air.

Less poofy Styrofoam associated with over-popped movie kernels, Trader Joe’s special “mushroom kernel” has a slight crisp-crackle before giving way to an inside that is both crisp and smooth with each kernel having a different level of partial puffiness. The kernel bits still have a special skill of getting snagged between teeth, but it seems that my former fear of actually chomping out a tooth has no basis in reality or logic, which seems to be a common trend with most of my thoughts.

Each corn bit is coated in a salty, buttery film that strikes a balance between the nutty butter and sodium while allowing the corn’s sweetness to come in at the end. What’s better is that this film is actual butter (in fact, the entire ingredient list is as follows: popcorn, canola oil, butter, and salt). It leaves a gentle trace on one’s fingers in much the same way as Cheetos might. This butter-salt mix combines with little crumbles of corn, leaving you with salty-sweet fingers to lick at the end of your journey and, as a result, less sorrow when you find your bag is empty. Less sorrow is good.

Trader Joe's Partially Popped Popcorn with Butter & Sea Salt Bowl of Habit Forming Goodness

Well, what a pleasant surprise. I dig these partially popped nubs. They are inverted and wackadoo, and, depending on your propensity for corn-like goodies, the full bag might be in your digestive system less than 15 minutes from the moment you crack it open. The plain butter-salt flavor may be boring for adventurous tasters, but when/if you get a hankering for a simple salty snack, these are worth a shot. If you pick them up and find yourself uninterested in their Plain Jane flavor, perhaps you could put them on mac ‘n cheese before you pop it in the oven or sprinkle them on an ice cream sundae for a crunch. I imagine it all going excellently.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Popcorn Traditionalists. I’m not saying these are better than regular popcorn. I’m just saying Orville Redenbacher should be distressingly anxious about his business right now.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/3 cup– 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Partially Popped Popcorn
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Butter, butter everywhere. But not too much butter. Poofy. Crispy. Crunchy. Something new, delicious, and a little wonky. Low ingredient count. Corn=counts as a vegetable (right??). Cookie Monster as a life coach.
Cons: Generic butter-and-salt flavor may put some to sleep. Kernels have chance of getting stuck in teeth. Probably not REALLY a vegetable. Lack of dental insurance. Questionable pink chickens.

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REVIEW: Starbucks Birthday Cake Frappuccino

Starbucks Birthday Cake Frappuccino

Happy 20th Birthday, Starbucks Frappuccino!

And I’m sorry to everyone, including myself, who feels old after reading the previous sentence.

Yup, the Starbucks Frappuccino has been around for 20 years. And, as Oreo and Pop-Tarts have taught us, the appropriate way to celebrate a significant birthday of a sugary treat is to come out with a birthday cake flavored version of it.

I’m also sorry to everyone who’s reading this review because the Starbucks Birthday Cake Frappuccino was for sale only between March 26-30. But, who knows, it could come back every year for the Frappuccino’s birthday. Or during Howard Schultz’s birthday. Or when the Starbucks Siren sings the Happy Birthday song.

The limited time blended beverage combined a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino (vanilla bean, milk, and ice) with hazelnut syrup and is topped with a raspberry-infused whipped cream. The pink whipped cream and the beverage’s white color brought up one question in my mind.

Will this be sold in Asia as the Hello Kitty Frappuccino that comes with a red bow-shaped crazy straw?

Even though the raspberry whipped cream came between my nose and the Vanilla Bean Frappuccino base, the blended drink smelled like vanilla ice cream when I took a sniff through the hole in the Starbucks cup’s dome lid. The raspberry whipped cream didn’t have a noticeable aroma, but it did have a light, sweet raspberry flavor.

Starbucks Birthday Cake Frappuccino Raspberry Whipped Cream

The combination of vanilla, hazelnut, and raspberry doesn’t sound like it would taste like cake, but, holy crap, it did taste like a heavily frosted cake. So much so that it made me wish I had stuck a lit candle into it so I could blow it out before drinking it. The vanilla syrup and raspberry whipped cream brought out the cake frosting flavor while the hazelnut helped imitate the cakeiness in the drink. I didn’t get to drink it until after a car ride home and pictures were taken, but the consistency of the blended beverage was still slightly icy.

Just like the Vanilla Bean Frappuccino, there’s no coffee in the Birthday Cake Frappuccino. So the only jolt of energy you’d get from it would be from the dozens of grams of sugar it contains. Then you’ll crash as hard as an 8-year-old at a birthday party about an hour after the cake was served.

The Birthday Cake Frappuccino was delightful and I think everyone who has a sweet tooth should try…oh wait. That’s right. As I mentioned near the beginning of this review, it’s no longer being offered. However, don’t fret, my sugary friends. If you want something close, minus the raspberry whipped cream, you can order yourself something off the secret Starbucks menu — the Cake Batter Frappuccino. Just get a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with a couple of pumps of hazelnut syrup, drink, and wait for the sugar crash.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website, but here’s the nutrition facts for a Grande Vanilla Bean Creme Frappuccino with whole milk and whipped cream – 400 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 59 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 57 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Birthday Cake Frappuccino
Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: Grande (16 oz.)
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: It’s surprising vanilla, hazelnut, and raspberry ends up tastes like cake. Matches Hello Kitty outfits. SUGAR! SUGAR! SUGAR!
Cons: No caffeine. Available for only a few days. Learning the Frappuccino is 20 years old makes me feel old. Sugar crash.

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s first wave of Core ice creams consisted of ice cream surrounding a core of ooey, gooey stuff that was sort of like eating a sundae straight out of the pint.

The idea was pure genius and highly successful, if you ask my freezer, which currently contains three pints of the stuff. If you ask my freezer, also inquire as to what’s in the Ziploc in the back of it, because I forgot to label it before I threw it in there and now I’m scared because I think it’s been in there for some years and I should probably just throw it away.

Now they’ve come out with three different Cookie Core varieties. The Boom Chocolatta version sounded like way too much chocolate for my taste, and I still don’t really understand what Speculoos are, so I figured my best bet would be to try Peanut Buttah Cookie Core.

Ben & Jerry’s describes it as “Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Crunchy Peanut Butter Sugar Bits, Peanut Butter Cookies & a Peanut Butter Cookie Core”. This raised Peanut Buttah above just “default flavor” status, because just reading that description probably made those with peanut allergies reach for their EpiPen.

Speaking of EpiPens, have you ever seen the commercial that advertises them? “Ask your doctor about EpiPen today!” What person with a severe allergy doesn’t already know about EpiPens? I imagine someone watching the commercial and saying to themselves, “Wait, you mean I don’t have to take an ambulance ride to the emergency room with my throat closed up every time I accidentally eat something that came in contact with shellfish? This is amazing, and I’m going to get a new doctor since I should have heard about this years ago!”

Sorry, I just had to share that. It’s been bugging me for a while now.

I’ve always considered the gold standard of peanut butter cookies to be my mom’s, who always baked them at Christmas time. Since you probably haven’t tried my mom’s homemade cookies, I give second place to Grandma’s brand, which has the bonus of being available year-round but doesn’t make the kitchen smell awesome.

All other peanut butter cookies pale in comparison, and I hate the taste of artificial peanut butter flavoring, so I approached Peanut Buttah Cookie Core with caution. I also wondered why we had to go with the unnecessarily dorky “Buttah”.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream Open

The only weak explanation is the description on the carton: “For p.b. fans & cookie spread-heads who want it all, here’s a flavor that delivers it, from the creamy to the crunchy to the peanutty core of crushed-cookie stuff that spreads like buttah (and tastes even bettah).” I feel like New Yorkers are going to be insulted by this mockery of their accents. Then again, they do love insults. Eeeey!

I’m happy to report that every bite of Peanut Buttah Cookie Core is the essence of all that is good about peanut butter cookies. The ice cream alone tastes like it, but I dare you to catch a bite that doesn’t contain some evenly-dispersed chunks of delicious peanut butter cookie.

The same goes for the “crunchy peanut butter sugar bits”, that strike me as more grainy than crunchy. “Grainy” doesn’t usually sound like a positive descriptor for food, but in this case it’s representative of the sugar bits that are big enough to crunch and add an extra layer of texture to the ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream Top

As for the core, it’s like the distilled essence of a peanut butter cookie. Smooth yet crunchy, cookie yet buttery, it is rich, delicious and everything that a Cookie Core should be.

I only have two complaints about Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream. The first is that it comes off as having only one note of flavor. Trust me, if you love peanut butter cookies, you’ll love this ice cream. And the various textures come through in each bite. But it lacks the mishmash of flavors that Ben & Jerry’s is so well-known for.

The second is that it’s so rich. With all that peanut butter cookie going on, after just a few spoonfuls I felt like I’d already overindulged. This may not be a problem for some, but to me, I could only eat it in small doses.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup — 320 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 10% calcium, 2% iron.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Absolute peanut butter cookie taste. EpiPens saving lives. Plentiful peanut butter cookie chunks. Wonderful blend of textures.
Cons: Bit of a one-trick pony. Mystery freezer items. Too rich for prolonged consumption. Insulting New Yorkers. Peanut allergies.

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