REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut

Advice to my 3-year-old self from the future:

1) Don’t put Barbie in the microwave.
2) Alistair Cookie is your mentor. Watch him. Glean from him many morals.
3) Remember: Play-Doh hamburgers are not actual hamburgers, even when you dip them in Ranch dressing.

Somewhere down this list, I’d probably put, “Try, just try, to eat your carrots.” While I always liked my broccoli, it’s the carrots that gave me grief as a kid. They’re sweet, but stringy. Woodsy, but super “orange-y.” Absolutely mushy when overcooked, but slap me sideways when done right. I hate them. But I love them.

So I’m celebrating my love/hate relationship. And celebrations demand sugar and sugar demands cake and cake demands to be deep-fried. That’s the scientific chain of events, right?

Well, that’s what Krispy Kreme thinks with their newest iteration on deep-fried toroids, all gussied up to resemble carrot cake.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Deep fried cake of vegetables

Devotees of the dense cake doughnut, celebrate: this dough is a solid cake specimen, sturdy enough for the deepest dip in your tea/coffee/milkshake. While perhaps a smidge dry, it’s chock full of a cinnamon-sugar-honey sweetness accompanied by specks of raisin nibs and carrot shreds that give it a little zing. Said carrot and raisin nibbles may not be abundant in number, but are present enough to add their trademark sweetness without making the doughnut taste like Old McDonald’s Farm.

And the frosting. It’s everywhere. On the doughnut. On my fingers. On my elbows (how did it get there?). I love it. The film of cream-cheesish frosting/glaze on top is a smidge tangy, but mostly adds a sugary sweetness that rounds out the out-of-season (but still delicious) blend of fall spices. There’s even a sheen of regular sugar glaze beneath the cream cheese icing for extra sweetness. All this melted sugar leaves a slight film of oil and glaze on your hands, but, so long as you have some napkins and don’t wear neatly pressed white linen gloves all the time, this shouldn’t be a problem.*

*I just realized: Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny will both have this problem. Take off your gloves, guys!

What’s better is, as you make your way to the center, you uncover the crispy little bit in the middle of the doughnut’s ring. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that ring where the doughnut hole was carved out. It’s crunchy, sweet, gooped with frosting, just on the cusp of being burnt. My favorite. This is why I spend them dolla dolla bills.

Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut Yes, that is a mug from the Museum of the History of Tow Trucks

In an unofficial endorsement of the food pyramid, Krispy Kreme is providing you with a prime opportunity to overachieve in your life by consuming both fruit (raisins) and vegetables (carrots) via cake.

Unless my taste buds are undergoing some sort of reverse trauma from a hyperglycemic fit, the end result was tasty: the cake was cinnamon-y, the carrots were present without being stringy or overbearingly “orange-y,” the cinnamon and nutmeg gave some subtle spice, there was deep-frying going on, a few raisins splattered here and there added chewiness, and the tangy frosting added some cheesy zing. I may have even detected a hint of citrus zest in there? Oh, Krispy, you sneaky, conniving, brilliant conglomeration. Not a perfect ‘nut, but pretty good.

(Nutrition Facts – 340 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 35 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Krispy Kreme Carrot Cake Doughnut
Purchased Price: $1.10
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Krispy Kreme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Solid cinnamon cakey goodness. Deep-fried. Cream cheese icing. Sugary glaze. Chewy raisin bits. Good for dipping. Fulfilling fruit/vegetable requirement via cake. Morals gleaned from Alistair Cookie.
Cons: Cake gets a little oily. Could maybe use more carrots/raisins. Crestfallen pineapple lovers. Reflecting on the foolishness of my three-year-old self. Consequences of putting Barbie in the microwave.

REVIEW: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar

Just like blue whales, the African wild ass, and Gary Busey’s sanity, commercial soft drinks made with real sugar seem endangered. Take a look at beverages found in your local convenience store. Most likely they’re sweetened with a processed corn syrup.

A Google search can reveal a multitude of negative health effects reportedly associated with the consumption of high fructose corn syrup. But a little bad press will never curb my soda consumption. After all, I don’t give a fructose what I put inside my body.

Nevertheless, soft drinks flavored with real sugar are making a comeback. All the cool kids are drinking them now, or at least that’s what the guy who sold me ninety crates of Mexican Coke told me.

Earlier this summer, beverage behemoth PepsiCo announced it would be manufacturing Pepsi Wild Cherry with real sugar for a limited time. Upon hearing the news, I hightailed it over to the nearest Walmart. I just couldn’t miss out on an opportunity to try Pepsi Wild Cherry, one of my favorite sodas of all time, made with that precious, ecstasy-inducing white substance. (No, not that one. The other white substance.)

If you’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Pepsi Wild Cherry, trust me, it doesn’t taste like cherry cough syrup mixed with soda. Lovers of purple drank, look elsewhere. (Sorry, Lil Wayne.) Pepsi Wild Cherry is a simple beverage, offering the same cola taste of regular Pepsi but with a slight cherry zing as the flavor develops on the tongue.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 2

But this isn’t the first time PepsiCo has released a soda sweetened with real sugar. Pepsi Throwback, introduced in 2009, contains beet sugar. Though it doesn’t taste like beets, Throwback’s flavor is noticeably different relative to standard Pepsi. Because I tend to prefer Throwback, I wondered whether I would favor Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar over the original.

It’s packaged in a pink can decked out with a retro Pepsi-Cola logo. In comparison to standard Pepsi Wild Cherry, the real sugar variant contains two grams less of sugar and ten fewer calories. The caffeine content and ingredients lists are identical — aside from the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup, of course.

Wild Cherry Pepsi Made with Real Sugar 3

Poured into a glass, the sodas appear indistinguishable, sharing the same color, aroma, and amount of fizz. But what about taste? Is Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar preferable to its high fructose counterpart?

I tasted each soda in a variety of different manners. I tried them in both blind and not-so-blind taste tests, hoping to identify some true difference between the two beverages. I tried the sodas cold and at room temperature from freshly opened cans, and at room temperature served completely flat.

I wanted the real sugar variant to prove superior, but dagnabbit, these two sodas taste identical. At times, it tasted like one soda might be a hint more cherry-flavored or just a bit more fizzy on the tongue. But I was unable to re-recognize these qualities during a blind taste test. Maybe my cola-tasting palate hasn’t yet reached the level of sophistication needed to distinguish between the two. But I would be lying if I claimed to perceive a difference. If PepsiCo sought to create an exact duplicate of their original Pepsi Wild Cherry, they pulled it off. Both colas possess the same sweet cherry flavor, and both make me gassy beyond belief.

Unfortunately, this means there’s little reason to buy Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar unless you’re looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup. The flavors are identical — so why should I choose one over the other? I will likely continue drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, even if it cuts a few years off of my life.

Meh, I review junk food on the Internet. I’ll probably die young anyway.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 150 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 30 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 40 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Wild Cherry Made with Real Sugar
Purchased Price: $4.28
Size: 12 pack/12 oz. cans
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes identical to regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Made with real sugar, not HFCS. Not giving a fructose.
Cons: Doesn’t taste better than regular Pepsi Wild Cherry. Gassy food reviewers.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 1

McDonald’s seems to be going all-in with their poutines — though they only rolled out the regular one outside of Quebec fairly recently, they’re already starting to add variations to the menu.

A poutine can easily be a base for other stuff, and it’s easy enough for them to throw on ingredients that they’ve already got lying around. If this does well, it’s safe to assume that we can look forward to all kinds of poutine varieties (I’m holding out for the Big Mac poutine — I’m dead serious, I want that in my belly immediately). But first: the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine.

The base is the standard McDonald’s poutine: same gravy, same curds, same fries. I basically liked that, so it’s not a horrible base to start with. Added on top are chicken pieces, Buffalo sauce, and green onions.

The woman behind the counter asked whether I wanted the chicken crispy or grilled; of course, I went with crispy. Because, let’s face it, it’s a poutine. I want it all fried. All of it. Can we just mash the whole thing into a ball and fry that too? How about my beverage, can I fry that? Heck, you may as well fry a Happy Meal toy and throw that in too. Because why the hell not, that’s why.

The chicken is the same type of chicken strip they use for their Snack Wrap, which is chopped into pieces. Though it does add some meaty substance to an already fairly substantial dish, the real differentiator is the spicy Buffalo sauce. It’s actually a pretty great addition. It adds a nice vinegary kick that helps to cut some of the richness from the gravy and the cheese; it also adds some of the flavour that the ho-hum gravy is lacking. It’s a surprisingly effective compliment to the overall poutine. But I wish it were a bit hotter; it has enough heat for you to recognize that you’re eating something spicy, but not enough to cause any real discomfort.

The green onions, however, add very little, aside from an aftertaste; between the salty gravy and cheese, and the vinegary Buffalo sauce, they get almost completely lost. All they did was force me to spend the rest of the afternoon with that taste in my mouth.

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 2

Of course, I can’t get through this review without acknowledging that it’s not the most attractive dish ever. A poutine isn’t particularly presentable to begin with, but somehow this is even uglier than usual. Maybe it’s the way the Buffalo sauce has been globbed onto the chicken as though it were some kind of hot red toothpaste, but the whole thing looks quite unappealing. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that it’s better than it looks.

It reminded me a bit of KFC’s Famous Bowls (or as Patton Oswalt calls them, failure piles in a sadness bowl). Maybe it’s the chicken on top, or maybe it’s the fact that the fries get so thoroughly soggy that they barely have more structural integrity than a bowl of mashed potatoes. Still, they do retain a modicum of their French fry-ness, and the overall dish is more appealing than a Famous Bowl.

I liked it; the base poutine is decent enough, and the additions (mostly) improve things. It’s also a pretty decent value at five bucks. The box isn’t particularly huge, but it has heft. Picking it up, I was surprised at how heavy it was. It won’t make you the fullest you’ve ever been, but you will be satisfied.

(Nutrition Facts – 640 calories, 37 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1640 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)
Purchased Price: $4.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Decent poutine base. Spicy Buffalo sauce compliments the poutine quite well. Fried.
Cons: Fries immediately sog up. Useless green onions. Not particularly spicy. Looks gross. Inability to have them mash it into a ball and fry the whole thing.

REVIEW: Keebler Original S’mores Sandwich Cookies

Keebler S'mores Original Sandwich Cookies

I have no idea how anyone ever came up with the idea for s’mores. What exactly were graham crackers even good for before they were used as bread in a toasted marshmallow and melted chocolate sandwich?

From its name to its ingredients, s’mores remain a unique, simple campfire combination that’s as delicious as it is indicative of the summer season. Yet, many still attempt to reinvent this timeless snack, and Keebler’s new S’mores Sandwich Cookies are only the latest to provide their personal spin on the one treat that reminds us all of a flickering campfire and the chokingly potent smell of mosquito killer.

But hold on one second and allow me to preface this review by saying that I take my s’more very seriously, like very seriously. I have personally devised a three-tier system for determining a s’mores’ quality based on its preparation and presentation.

Tier One: S’mores made outside using the heat of a real fire. Maybe you are using a campfire from a weeklong camping trip with some of your top homies or a fire-pit in your parents’ backyard, either way this is the true way to enjoy this traditional snack.

Tier Two: S’mores made indoors. Yes, that’s right, there are people who use a microwave to make s’mores because 20 seconds is all you need to forgo that smokey campfire smell and a ceiling of dark sky and stars. At their best, these individuals are at least trying to capture the essence of a true s’more. However, more likely they just wanted a quick snack before watching late-night reruns of Seinfeld on TBS.

Tier Three: Anything pre-made and store bought.

Yeah, that’s right, I am a longtime believer that there are some things you shouldn’t mess with, and s’mores is one of them. However, the new Keebler S’mores Sandwich Cookies sure challenged my opinion.

Keebler S'mores Original Sandwich Cookies Innards

Although not in traditional s‘mores fashion (which we can safely say is a pretty clear message from these cookies), one of the best things about the Keebler cookie version is how unmessy it is. Far from the melty stringiness of an actual toasted marshmallow, the center of each of the Keebler cookies is somewhere between a Lucky Charms marshmallow and Oreo cream filling in consistency, and it breaks away very easily. Also, the two graham crackers are soft enough that they don’t snap, but not so soft that they to crumble away with each bite. The chocolate exterior also keeps everything together making enjoying them on the go even easier.

Keebler S'mores Original Sandwich Cookies Penny

If you are a fan of s’mores-flavored Pop-Tarts, then it is safe to say you will dig these Keebler cookies. While maybe not a perfect representation of a true s’more, the taste is pleasantly recognizable of the real deal much like the popular Pop-Tarts pastry. It is certainly one of the better s’mores-flavored snacks out there, and definitely worth at least a fun one-time purchase to get you in the summer mood.

However, the only disappointing thing is that each container has only ten smallish cookies separated on a plastic pull-out tray with a lot of wasted space. Yo Keebler, what gives? I know you all have the resources to cram, like, 24 E.L.Fudge cookies into the same sized package as well as all of those elves and their cooking utensils into that one tree, so please give us enough cookies to justify the almost four dollars I spent. Overall amount aside, I was also a bit surprised the nutrition facts revealed a serving size of one cookie—an eye opener when you consider that one cookie has 20 percent of your daily saturated fat.

But honestly, the bottom line still remains that if you are looking for a killer treat, you can’t go wrong with Keebler S’mores Sandwich Cookies. While not authentic s’mores, they definitely bring the A-game in summer flavor, with or without a campfire. Although, you just may want to save them until after swimsuit season.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Original S’mores Sandwich Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 7 oz.
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Not as messy as actual s’mores. The fact we live in a world where s’mores exist..
Cons: Cookies are kinda small and very unhealthy. Only ten in each container. No campfire smell.

REVIEW: Pizza Hut Hot Sriracha Chicken Pizza (Canada)

Pizza Hut Hot Sriracha Chicken Pizza

I like Pizza Hut. It might be my favourite of the big pizza chains. Not that I even think the pizzas are that great, but I appreciate that they know exactly what they are: a purveyor of junky fast food.

They don’t have the delusions of grandeur like some other chains; there’s no “rustic” this or “artisan” that. What they will do, however, is cram cheese, hot dogs, and whatever else they can think of into a crust so oil-laden that it will leave your hands slick with grease if you handle it for even just a second or two. They’ll top the pizza with stuff like poutine or butter chicken.

They know exactly what they are, and they’re not ashamed of it. I like that.

Which is to say that replacing the tomato sauce in a pizza with sriracha is a distinctively Pizza Huttian creation. But is it actually good? The short answer: better than you’d think! The long answer: read on, my friend.

The base of the pizza is the standard Pizza Hut Pan Pizza. It is what it is; you either like it or you don’t, and personally, I like it (and I’m a little bit in awe of how they’re able to cram so much grease into the thing). It’s not something you’d want to eat every day, but when you’re in the mood for that crispy, greasy goodness, it satisfies.

Pizza Hut Hot Sriracha Chicken Pizza Closeup

It’s topped with sriracha, green peppers, banana peppers, grilled chicken strips, and, of course, mozzarella. And they’re definitely not kidding around with the sriracha: when I was driving the pizza home, it so thoroughly filled the car with that very distinctive sriracha aroma that the spice vapours actually tickled my nose a bit.

Sadly, it’s not quite as spicy as I might have hoped. It’s hot, don’t get me wrong, but on the mild-medium-hot scale, it falls squarely in the middle. It’s certainly not as spicy as any variety of sriracha that I’ve tried — and sriracha isn’t even close to the hottest hot sauce out there. Clearly, they’re using a very mild sriracha, or they’re diluting it with something.

Pizza Hut Hot Sriracha Chicken Pizza Slice

The flavour is certainly there, however — it’s got that satisfyingly sweet, slightly garlicky flavour that’s made sriracha so hot over the last couple of years (Get it? Hot?? World Pun Championships, here I come!).

The banana peppers are banana peppers. Personally I’m not a fan, and this pizza did nothing to change my mind. I don’t mind them in theory, but every time I get them on a pizza — without fail — I wind up chomping down on a rock-hard stem. I’m convinced that banana peppers are at least 50 percent borderline-inedible stems. And they’re not even that hot, so what’s the point? Banana peppers are the spicy pizza topping for people who don’t actually like spice.

The other toppings were fine. The green peppers added some crunch and a bit of flavour, which worked well with the other elements of the pizza. The chicken is, I’m pretty sure, of the processed variety rather than actual pieces of chicken. It’s a bit rubbery, but it’s okay. It’s not egregious, and there’s enough else going on here that you can’t really tell either way.

The cheese, like the crust, is standard Pizza Hut. Gooey, slightly salty, and abundant.

All in all, it’s not a bad pizza. Subbing out tomato sauce for sriracha could have been a disaster, but somehow, it works. It certainly earns its name, as that distinctive condiment is very much the dominant flavour here. I wish it were spicier, but if you like Sriracha and don’t mind pizzas of the bastardized variety, I’d give this one a shot.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on Pizza Hut Canada website.)

Item: Pizza Hut Hot Sriracha Chicken Pizza
Purchased Price: $18.00 CAN
Size: Large
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Serious sriracha flavour. The toppings (mostly) work pretty well together. Pizza Hut Pan Pizza crust continues to be a junky classic.
Cons: Not as spicy as you’d think. Banana peppers are the worst. Slightly chewy chicken. Realizing that the “hot” pun is not nearly good enough to get me to the World Pun Championships.