REVIEW: Surge (2014)

Surge (2014)

I want to find someone who’s been living under a rock for the past 15 years. I would greet that person with a Motorola StarTAC phone in one hand and a can of the re-released Surge in the other, and then tell him or her that there hasn’t been much change in the world. The old flip phone and the 1990s graphics on the Surge can would surely give him or her comfort.

And then when I see that comfort in their face, I’d say, “Nah! Just kidding!”

Then I’d blow that person’s mind by pulling out an iPhone, making a phone call, then taking a selfie with the, most likely, smelly person, and then post that photo on Facebook. Then I’d tell him or her Surge was discontinued, but was brought back and now it’s sold only on the internet. And then I would follow that by singing, “Welcome to the jungle. We got fun and games. We got everything you want. Honey, we know the names. Sha-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na knees, knees.”

I’d also like to go back into time.

I’d travel to 2012 and post on the most popular Bring Back Surge Facebook page, “I’m from the future. Surge is coming back in 2014. Amazon will sell it. And, oh yeah, we figured out time travel. I just blew your mind twice!”

For those of you too young to remember Surge, or don’t want to look up Surge on Wikipedia, it was Coke’s caffeinated and radioactive green answer to Mountain Dew. Wait. Let me rephrase the previous sentence so that the soda nerds don’t have to adjust their glasses, raise their fingers to protest, and begin a sentence with “Actually.” Surge was Coke’s second answer to Mountain Dew. The still available, but not widely available, Mello Yello was Coke’s first answer to Mountain Dew. While Surge has a non-rhyming name, it’s radioactive green, mean, and full of caffeine.

Okay, I’m not sure about that mean part. I just added it in there for a rhyming effect.

To be honest, even though I’ve had many cans of Surge in my 20’s, I don’t remember what Surge tastes like, or if I preferred it over Mountain Dew, or if I signed some Bring Back Surge online petition, or if I used Surge to keep me up at night to play Nintendo Super NES in college while everyone else was partying. But what I do know is that Surge’s flavor is…how can I explain this without getting a bunch of hate mail from Surge fans…not what I would expect from a soda that’s marketed to the “extreme” crowd.

Although, it might appeal to the zombie crowd today because Surge came back from the dead and the can’s design makes it look like a zombie.

Surge (2014) Closeup

While Mountain Dew has a syrupy citrus flavor that has a slight bite, Surge’s flavor and mouthfeel is a bit more mature than that. And being mature myself, I’m fine with that. Fart. It tastes like there’s a combination of lime and orange (orange juice concentrate is one of its ingredients, just like Mountain Dew), and it’s smooth and not too syrupy, which makes it much easier to drink than Mountain Dew.

Here’s another way I could explain it: If someone were to blindfold me, serve me a Surge, and tell me I was drinking a clear citrus soda and called Citrue, “The Citrus Soda with True Flavor”, I would believe them.

Overall, it was nice to be able to revisit Surge. I enjoyed its flavor, it gave me a nice caffeine jolt (it has slightly less caffeine than Mountain Dew), and if I want to dress up as 1990’s Guy for Halloween, I’ll have a great prop.

A big thanks to Aaron over at The Soda Jerks for sending me a can of Surge, which stopped me from spending $10 plus shipping to buy a can off of eBay from some stranger, since Amazon keeps selling out.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 230 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 56 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Surge (2014)
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Received from an internet friend
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nice lime and orange flavor. Easier to drink and has a more mature flavor than Mountain Dew. 69 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.
Cons: Has a flavor that I wouldn’t associate with “extreme.” Available online via Amazon, but they sell out quickly every time they get a new shipment. Available online via eBay, but get ready to pay 4-5 times more than it’s worth for one can. Has slightly less caffeine than Mountain Dew and a lot less caffeine than most energy drinks that didn’t exist in the late 1990s. Being introverted in college…and today.

REVIEW: Häagen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 1

A recent sojourn down the freezer aisles at Walmart has left me entirely convinced that the ice cream industry lays claim to some of the most linguistically appealing words. Take gelato, for example. Or better yet, Häagen-Dazs.

The way the words roll off the tongue with that seductive and sophisticated air is enough to sway a health nut away from the coarse offering of the produce department, or even a cash-strapped college student away from the economical tractor-beam that is the cereal aisle. Frosted Flakes, you say? Froot Loops? Please, mere alliteration and assonance cannot compare.

Perhaps this was the siren song which led me to Häagen-Dazs’ new line of Gelato Bars. As if transfixed by the mere sound alone, repeated in Neapolitan prose of some great poet (or at least Giada De Laurentiis) the tiramisu flavor was beyond by capacity to pass up.

Tiramisu seems to be a natural flavor choice for a gelato bar. Obviously the name alone fits in with the ethos of cultured European desserts, but the flavors, too, lend themselves to gelato. At first I was a bit skeptical; there’s a lot going on in tiramisu. Between the custard element and the coffee flavor to the not-too-tangy richness of the mascarpone cheese, it’s a lot to pack into bar form. And pack it they do.

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 3

Each bar comes in this totally adorable sleeve, enrobed with a white patchwork pattern gracing the dark chocolate shell. It’s enough to make even the most dude of dudes want to go “awe, it looks like a little tuxedoed ice cream bar!” I may or may not have done this, but regardless, you get the point. Looks count when you’re paying more than a dollar a bar, and Häagen-Dazs gets it.

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 4

The dark chocolate shell is exquisite. Yes, I believe exquisite is the right word. It’s bittersweet and smooth, with none of that off-putting metallic aftertaste some shells have. It holds its shape extremely well, yielding a slow melt and rounded flavor. I do wish the white patchwork drizzle had a bit more white chocolate flavor, but I became so engrossed in this dark chocolate shell that I can forgive what amounted to little more than ornamentation.

One often wonders about the texture of gelato, which although it claims no labeling standard in this country, is regarded as having a lower butterfat and sugar content than ice cream. In this case, though, the coffee-flavored gelato beneath the shell tastes both rich and sweet, with an authentic light-roast flavor which co-habitates wonderfully with the dark chocolate.

There’s an extra element there too. It’s hard to define, even after scouring a veritable Google search of taste-inspired vocabulary words. It’s nonetheless smooth in texture and indulgent in flavor, inspiring a cream cheese appeal without any of the stabilizing weirdness of actual cream cheese. This I can only assume is the mascarpone element combined with the egg yolk-fortified custard. I admit my lack of actual time spent enjoying real tiramisu in cafes amidst the Venato region of Italy may leave a feeling of doubt about my authority to claim this, but having had a crush on Giada and watched her shows for the better part of the time I decided girls no longer had cooties, I feel I do have some expertise in this matter.

All that being said, I can’t quite break into a Dean Martin rendition of “That’s Amore,” if only because the bar can’t fully complete the tiramisu flavor. There’s just no ladyfinger element, and given that one of the other flavors of the bar sticks freaking Pizzelle cookie pieces in the chocolate shell, I feel like I’m being shortchanged.

Ha?agen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars 5

When you think about it, the effect is really more affogato than tiramisu, although the latter is certainly more recognizable. Plus, and this would have been much more annoying on a summer day, the gelato base is more viscous than regular ice cream, and ends up exploding out of the shell if you’re not careful in eating the shell from top down.

Häagen-Dazs Gelato Bars definitely live up to their billing as sophisticated frozen desserts. With a rich coffee and mascarpone flavor and exquisitely smooth dark chocolate shell they’re worth their price tag, even if they inspire more of an affogato flavor than tiramisu. I only wish there was some kind of ladyfinger cookie or biscuit element involved, which would really push these bars into must-buy territory.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 270 calories, 160 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Tiramisu Dark Chocolate Gelato Bars
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 3 bars/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Exceptional dark chocolate flavor in the shell. Tastes super rich. Coffee flavor is light and sweet. Notes of mascarpone and custard. Pronouncing foreign words.
Cons: No ladyfinger element. Outside lace doesn’t add more than ornamentation. Gelato base melts quickly once the integrity of the shell is broken. An awesome source of saturated fat.

REVIEW: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gums

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum

In the land of guar gum and sucralose, where the pumpkins and gourds lie…

Two brands.
Many layers.
One flavor to rule them all.

Yes, it’s Pumpkin Spice Season, and, in the legion of opportunities to build up your pumpkin spice endurance, Extra and Trident are throwing themselves in the sumo circle to see which can make the product with just enough squash, just enough cinnamon, just enough grit, to transform a dessert of caramelized orange vegetables into a new and potentially terrifying medium.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident-Extra face-off

With enough tire tread marks to wrap around a Ford F-150, the Extra pieces serve up a classic, slim look. The Layers, on the other hand, are the prodigy of pudgy, 3-dimensional nubbins, the Tetris blocks of a former life, if you will.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum Trident Tetris!

And, much like Tetris blocks, there is no pumpkin in either gum. No pumpkin at all. But a chewer still gets many of the sensations that a pumpkin-spiced treat might bring (sweetness, warmth, cinnamon spice). The Extra smooshes the sugar-and-spice sweetness in one bite, with an emphasis on the sweet coming together to taste something like a strongly cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie (or, more accurately, a cinnamon-spiced Juicy Fruit).

There aren’t any squash notes, but there is a strong emphasis on caramelized sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and fruity clove. It’s hyper-sweet and the spice fills me with Christmas optimism, and, as we all know, it’s so easy to accomplish stuff when filled with Christmas optimism. I even cleaned my house thanks to Extra gum.

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum This clean house is brought to you by Extra gum

On the other end of the spectrum is the Trident, which has all the looks and smells of a Yankee Candle store in October, combining the familiar spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of sweetness. I have my hopes up, but as I start to chew…

Remember that scene in Return of the Jedi? Where Jabba’s henchmen are sucked into the maw of a gaping sandpit, wherein they are chewed and ddigested? That is how I felt while chewing the Trident: it starts off super sweet, but then eeks out into an amalgamation of popcorn, plastic, Halls cough drops, and those name-brand white jelly beans.

The spice is equivalent to gnawing on a basket of potpourri and, in a mere 47 seconds (47 SECONDS!), the gum got tough as the girders of Scottish gentlemen. Unless you have recently lost your sense of taste or have a particular nostalgia for gnawing on Goodyear Tires baked in a vat nutmeg, I’d recommend putting your pumpkin pie money elsewhere.

The Extra on the other hand? It had a solid 3-5 minute run before losing flavor, and even then, it had a soft chew and spice that stayed. Is it the sorbital? The soy lechithin? The Acesulfame-K? I dunno, but I do know that Acesulfame-K is almost as fun to say as “Stoichiometric ratio” or, “nuclear binary fission.” Thankfully, Acesulfame is not as intense or damaging to your internal organs as nuclear binary fission. Yay for not chewing nuclear radiation!

Wrigley's Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum and Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum The winner and grand champion

When I was 8 years old, I decided I’d be a Detroit Lions quarterback. As a 4.5-foot, 65-pound human who couldn’t get past the third rung on the climbing rope, I knew this was unlikely, but certainly not impossible, so I tried anyway.

Similarly, the concept of creating a gum that mimics pumpkin pie is far-reaching, but not ludicrous, and Extra did a respectable job here. While neither match the pie experience to the “–nth” degree, Extra takes a notable lead over Trident with its longer chew time and greater sense of roundedness in flavor, but just know that, like a 4.5-foot, 65-pound 8-year-old pretending to be an NFL quarterback, it still can’t quite replace the real thing.

(Nutrition Facts – Extra – less than 5 calorie, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein. Trident – 5 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Wrigley’s Extra Seasonal Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1 pack/15 pieces
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Fruity clove. Nice vanilla balance. Lasts for about 3-5 minutes. Christmas optimism. Detroit Lions.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Not as aesthetically pleasing as the Trident. After 3-5 minutes, gets rubbery. Nuclear radiation.

Item: Trident Layers Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Gum
Purchased Price: $2.80
Size: 3 packs (14 pieces each)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Pretty to look at. Tetris. Girders of Scottish gentlemen. Reason to talk about Return of the Jedi.
Cons: No pumpkin in ingredients. Like chewing a mix of cinnamon-spiced plastic, popcorn, and stale jellybeans. Gets tough after 47-seconds. Being chewed by a sandpit.

REVIEW: Sonic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae

Sonic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae 1

An ice cream sundae is nothing without its cone. Well, except if it’s in a cup. That’s why Madonna’s cone-bra was so ingenious — it was both cones and cups at the same time. For sanitary reasons, I should probably advise against eating ice cream out of anything that’s been near Madonna’s chest.

For a limited time, Sonic restaurants will be offering the new Waffle Cone Sundae in three flavor combinations: M&M’s Candies & Strawberry, Snickers Bar & Caramel, and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate. If you would like to take a walk on the wild side, you can also choose to customize your Waffle Cone Sundae. Or, if you’re bland, boring, and allergic to fun, you can order a plain vanilla Waffle Cone Sundae, devoid of all toppings, for only a single dollar less.

Me? I stand somewhere in the middle. I enjoy an occasional thrill, but I’m nowhere near crazy enough to try crowd-surfing at a Yo-Yo Ma concert. That’s why I went with a pre-made flavor: the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae.

Hmm. Sonic certainly didn’t spare the peanut butter cup topping. As soon as the carhop handed me the ice cream cone, little bits of Reese’s started falling all over the place — probably the reason why he thrust a handful of napkins in my face a few seconds later.

Sonic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae 2

I needed those napkins, too. The waffle cone itself is crisp, yet fragile. On several occasions, a single bite caused large portions of the cone to shatter. I had mistakenly left my Patrick Bateman gloves at home, so I found myself licking frantically to prevent vanilla ice cream from dripping all over my beautiful, bare hands.

Even with such a delicate cone, the ice cream never leaked out of the bottom. This was convenient, as I didn’t want to be burdened with the task of explaining the origin of sticky, white stains on the car seats to my leasing agent.

The flavor of the Waffle Cone Sundae’s vanilla soft serve base is complemented by both the peanut butter cup bits and the chocolate syrup. The first few bites combine the two toppings in perfect proportion, a familiar blend of chocolate and peanut flavors.

Sonic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae 4

Regrettably, the balance doesn’t last for too long, as the top layer of the sundae disappears quickly. What remains is little more than plain vanilla ice cream in a plain waffle cone — a dessert as boring as the Christmas with Colonel Sanders vinyl record. (There was so much potential. The Little Drumstick Boy? The Twelve Days of Chicken? These songs practically write themselves.) To attain a more thorough distribution of flavors, Sonic would have been better off swirling the toppings into the vanilla ice cream base.

I was disappointed to find that the waffle cone seems weakly flavored, smothered by the vanilla ice cream during most bites. As the cone begins to double-up in an overlap toward its bottom, the waffle flavor becomes more apparent, but the cone merely serves as a vessel to hold ice cream for the majority of the sundae.

The most attractive aspect of Sonic’s Waffle Cone Sundae is the price. Ice cream isn’t always cheap in today’s economy, and I definitely don’t want to resort to eating those questionable Walmart ice cream sandwiches whenever I’m craving frozen dairy treats. For just a few cents under three dollars, the Waffle Cone Sundae is a bargain.

Despite all of its flaws, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae remains a satisfying and inexpensive ice cream cone. Both the quantity of toppings and the waffle cone itself were less than ideal, but for the price, its peanut butter and chocolate flavor is sufficient.

On the first day of Chicken,
The Colonel sent to me:
12 pounds of gravy,
11 herbs and spices,
10 tubs of white meat,
9 thighs and drumsticks,
8 buttermilk biscuits,
7 Chicken Littles,
6 wings and sauces,
5 DOUBLE DOOOOOOOWNS!
4 Famous Bowls,
3 Go Cups,
2 pot pies,
and a bucket of Original Recipeeeeee.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on Sonic website.)

Item: Sonic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolate Waffle Cone Sundae
Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tasty chocolate and peanut butter flavors. Inexpensive. Twelve Days of Chicken.
Cons: Fragile cone. Just plain ice cream after top layer. Forgetting my Patrick Bateman gloves at home.

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.