REVIEW: Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino

Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino

The Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino ingredient that most intrigued me was the “cooling mint sugar crystals.”

The wording gave me flashbacks of the flavor crystals in Ice Breakers chewing gum and how they would make my mouth feel as if I just had a heavy make out session with Jack Frost.

The mint sugar crystals are part of two blended layers that also feature extra dark cocoa, coffee, milk, and ice. In between those two is a layer of whipped cream. And on top of all that there’s more whipped cream and dark cocoa powder.

Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino 2

As I sipped on the blended beverage that’s significantly less Instagram-able than the Unicorn Frappuccino, I could feel a cooling sensation building up in my mouth. Hello, Jack! But then I realized something. Is it the cooling mint sugar crystals or the cooling ice crystals causing that? My mouth wasn’t sure.

Now you’re probably thinking dark cocoa + mint = Thin Mints (or Keebler Grasshoppers, whatever floats your boat), which is an almost accurate description of this Frappuccino’s flavor and probably the only words I needed to type for this review. It’s similar enough that I feel as if the green Starbucks logo on the cup should be replaced with the green Girl Scouts logo.

Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino 3

But the mint and its cooling is faint, which disappoints me because I thought it would be stronger. It’s not at a level that makes you think you’ve brushed your teeth or popped a York Peppermint Patty into your mouth or consumed EVERYTHING in a mojito. So I guess you could say the mint was thin.

Sorry.

Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino 4

Although the mint is lighter than I would’ve liked, it still an enjoyable vessel of sugar. The use of dark cocoa powder prevents the drink from being overly sweet. I mean, it’s still quite sweet, after all it’s a Frappusweetno with two applications of whipped cream. But it wasn’t the cloying overload I’ve experienced with others.

Overall, the Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino is great treat to have at midnight, mid-day, or whenever your local Starbucks is open.

(Nutrition Facts – 470 calories, 25 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 52 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, and 80 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Grande
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a Thin Mint (or Keebler Grasshopper). Great vessel for sugar. Not overly sweet like other Frappuccinos. Not as Instagram-able as the Unicorn Frappuccino.
Cons: Cooling mint sugar crystals aren’t that minty or cooling. Not as Instagram-able as the Unicorn Frappuccino.

REVIEW: M&M’s Caramel

M M s Caramel

The history of the M&M goes something like this.

They were released in 1941 to melt in the mouth of our soldiers, and not in their hands, while they fought the bloody battles of World War II. After the United States’ victory it was clear the candy was also a success, and the Peanut variety came along in 1954, followed by Almond in 1960, and then things got really “nuts” in the 90’s with Peanut Butter, Mini’s, and Crispy versions.

But recently, Mars developed the technology to fill the center with a “liquid” filling to hopefully burst in your mouth, and not in your hands. The first result of that is M&M’s Caramel.

M M s Caramel 2

Out of the bag the candies look no different than your standard Peanut or Peanut Butter M&M – bubbly round balls of green, yellow, red, brown, and blue, stamped with the signature lowercase “m”. Biting into the bulb-y beasts gives way to the classic candy coating crunch with a layer of chocolate and then a squishy chew.

M M s Caramel 3

It’s a mellow caramel that isn’t intensely sweet. It has a thick smooth texture that has the density of a Rolo but the consistency you would find in a Milky Way. It isn’t the super silky, wispy, almost runny type of caramel you’d find inside of Cadbury’s Carmello Bar, but it isn’t grainy or cheap tasting either, and ends with a solid milky finish.

The restrained sweetness in these M&M’s is kind of surprising. Considering how sweet some of the seasonal White M&M’s can get and how sweet caramel traditionally is, I was anticipating a significant sugar burst from the filling. I want the caramel to be a touch sweeter, or even salty, as it doesn’t have the explosion of flavor that I really wanted.

M M s Caramel 4

While the Peanut Butter, Peanut, and Crispy M&M’s deliver a significantly different flavor and/or texture inside of the shell, the caramel and chocolate in these have a similar sweet-to-salty ratio that makes the caramel notes less distinct. The milk chocolate actually overpowers the caramel until the very end of the candy, where the caramel peaks through for the final extra chewy chomps.

When all is said and done, these are still M&M’s, so they’re good, but they’re far from the breakthrough candy technology that Mars hyped them up to be. Poppin’ a couple of these will definitely quench your generic sugar craving but won’t hit the spot if you’re seeking some perfectly caramelized sugar flavor because they’re much more chocolate dominant than buttery caramel perfection.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 a pack (40g) – 190 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 2 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 2.83 oz. package (Share Size)
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Classic M&M crunch. Doesn’t melt in your hand. Tasty milk chocolate. Could help win wars. Smooth milky caramel finish.
Cons: Not enough caramel. Caramel needs more contrast. Chocolate overpowers.

REVIEW: Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola

Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola

When the NCAA Basketball Tournament became “March Madness,” a national spectacle filled with office pools, unexplainable sick days, and an increase in vasectomies, it wasn’t long before morning radio shows and Buzzfeed slideshows wanted to get in on the excitement.

However, basketball isn’t everyone’s cup of tea — and thus bracket-style “tournaments” began to pop up ranking candy bars, vacation activities, and comic book villains.

Much like turkey with the trimmings or costume wearing, bracket-fying should no longer be restricted to seasonal status. Welcome to TIB’s first-ever grapefruit-flavored cola bracket!

Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola 2

#4 1893 Citrus Cola over #1 1893 Citrus Cola was upset city baby! 1893 Citrus Cola is a PTPer (Pepsi Thirst Pleaser)! Dick Vitale Impression intonation!

So 1893 Citrus Cola appears to be the first grapefruit cola. The can is small, sleek, and slender, and felt like a kid brother compared to the Mountain Dew White Label can I picked up at the same time. It does come in a burnt orange color, setting it apart from the other three 1893 variations as a brighter look.

Pepsi 1893 Citrus Cola 3

Grapefruit essence is noted on the side of the can, and although it doesn’t appear specifically on the ingredients list, “Natural Flavor” appears higher than usual, and perhaps includes for the grapefruit. When you open the can, you’re hit with a strong, refreshing grapefruit scent that shouldn’t be unexpected, but is. Perhaps years of Fresca disappointment had biased my expectations.

The soda’s taste was very effective. Cola out in front, followed by a noticeable, pleasing grapefruit taste that lingered appropriately as an aftertaste as well. The execution reminded me of Pepsi Blue, another product that overcame my cognitive dissonance of a fruit and cola flavored beverage that delivered what it intended, arguably exceeding those expectations by having the flavors occur sequentially.

In March, an unexciting team that executes well is always a pretty good bet to go on a deep run. But there’s a reason few people pick Butler, Xavier, or Wichita State to go far in their brackets. A grapefruit cola is not likely to appeal to many, and my primary reaction to the product is “who is going to buy this?”

If that “who” is you -— the kind of person that appreciates offensive efficiency ratings and senior-laden squads — then 1893 Citrus Cola will surely outplay their seed. Just know that they’ll likely be right back “on the bubble” come next March.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 39 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3 (on sale)
Size: 12 oz. can
Purchased at: Country Maid Deli
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Innovative flavor combination. High marks for execution. Stands out on the shelf.
Cons: Questionable market for grapefruit cola. Pricey for a small can. Being told by the dental hygienist I should no longer sip on soda. Pat Riley will probably trademark “Greatfruitest.”

REVIEW: Ritz Crisp & Thins (Salt & Vinegar and Cream Cheese & Onion)

Ritz Crisp  Thins  Salt  Vinegar and Cream Cheese  Onion

When I first heard that Nabisco’s Ritz Crackers were moving into chips, I was terrified. I have PTSD from Cheez-It’s attempt to move into chips with Grooves. Grooves didn’t do the Cheez-It cracker justice! I have almost the same love for Ritz as I do for Cheez-It; I love those damn buttery Ritz crackers. Point is, I had high expectations for Ritz’s new Crisp & Thins.

So, what are they?

It’s Ritz’s attempt to hop on the “Better For You” train – touting oven-baked, not fried, potato & wheat chips. It launched in the U.K. first and now they’re rolling out globally. There’s a lineup of four flavors on U.S. shelves: Sea Salt, Bacon, Salt & Vinegar, And Cream Cheese & Onion. I picked out Salt & Vinegar (because I like salt & vinegar chips) and Cream Cheese & Onion (because I kept thinking it was sour cream & onion and wanted to see why Ritz had to be all frou frou about it).

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion

I first smelled the Cream Cheese & Onion ones, which didn’t really smell like much. On that basis, I vigorously inhaled the Salt & Vinegar, which was a mistake. The pungent vinegar invaded my olfactory with no mercy. 100 percent user error, not Ritz’s fault.

The chips themselves were very, for the lack of a better word, artsy but the kind of pretentious and annoying artsy. I say this because they couldn’t just choose a damn circle or square like all other crackers. Instead, they chose a puddle shape. But we all know that it probably took their manufacturing team way too long to perfect the mold for these. These puddles also had seemingly random air pockets/bubbles.

Ritz Crisp  Thins Cream Cheese  Onion Orange

In the same vein of pretentious artsy, it looked like they tried very hard to have a baked look – one side of the chip had scorch marks. They really reminded me of naan bread – oblong-ish shape, air pockets, and with the occasional imperfect scorch marks. The Cream Cheese & Onion had a slight orange tinge, while the coloring of the Salt & Vinegar was just normal, pasty cracker color.

Ritz Salt  Vinegar Crisp  Thins Salt  Vinegar

At this point, I concluded that these would probably be nothing like the buttery crackers that I know and love. But, you know what, I was okay with it – I knew I couldn’t hold Ritz back from their healthy chip dreams.

The Cream Cheese & Onion surprisingly tasted more like subtle cheddar & sour cream than sour cream & onion. Trusty ol’ cheddar & sour cream is always salty cheesy goodness, but it’s nothing mind blowing and I’m still eye rolling at the artsy fartsiness. However, I can’t believe I dismissed the air pocket/bubbles because they made the texture. Something about the crunch of the cracker with the extra oomph from the air pockets is amazing. Never judge a book by its cover, y’all!

As for the Salt & Vinegar, same textural amazingness but unlike other salt & vinegar flavored chips, there was a subtle-y sweet aftertaste. After almost an entire bag of them, I concluded that it might just be from the chip itself being wheat and potato that’s helping to balance out the vinegar tang.

After two bags of munching, I really appreciated that my fingers weren’t left with a greasy, powdery residue. There was some, but nothing like the usual chip residue mess.

Valiant “Better For You” attempt, Ritz! It might actually work; I liked the Salt & Vinegar ones so much that I’d consider replacing my usual salt & vinegar kettle chips with them.

(Nutrition Facts – 21 Pieces – 130 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 270 grams of potassium 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price:
Size: 7.1 oz. bag
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Cream Cheese & Onion)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Salt & Vinegar)
Pros: Nothing like a Ritz Cracker, but tasty AND “better for you”. Textural amazingness. No greasy, powdery residue.
Cons: Why the artsy fartsy chip shape & names? Cream Cheese & Onion is just semantics for cheddar & sour cream.

REVIEW: Burger King Froot Loops Shake

Burger King Froot Loops Shake

Slowly, but surely, cereal is becoming more of a dessert than a breakfast.

While starting the day with a bowl of Fruit Loops is a time-honored tradition, cereal as a nightcap is gaining. It’s sweet enough to follow up a savory meal, but hearty enough to fill the role of a late night snack. Something about cereal at night just makes good mature sense. As a kid, a bowl of Fruit Loops was the one thing getting me out of bed to start the day. As an adult, cereal is how I get over the day.

Cereal is an indulgence. So it’s only fitting that Burger King is celebrating this luxury with the Froot Loops Shake. This treat blended loops of sweet fruity cereal immersed within a rich vanilla shake, and an invisible dash of flavored syrup. The result is a treat that tastes familiar, but feels remarkably unique.

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Froot Loops Shake for plain vanilla. But on closer inspection, the crumbs of multicolored cereal pop against the white cream. They also hold their color over time, meaning the shake never turns into a rainbow sludge. It stays consistently polka-dotted with reds, blues, oranges, and yellows.

The flavor is immediately reminiscent of cereal milk, the leftover “broth” that ends any morning (or evening) bowl. It’s creamy and lightly fruitful, boosted by occasional bits of cereal.

Froot Loops prove to be the perfect choice for this shake, as they stay crisp until the last sip. It’s a very pleasant texture, with a satisfying crunch. Shockingly, none of the pieces were large enough to lodge themselves in the straw – which often happens with other “chunky” milkshakes.

Overall, the Froot Loops Shake delivers on a simple premise. It’s a vanilla milkshake blended with Froot Loops. There’s no fancy presentation, or elaborate concept. But the real surprise comes from how satisfying this simple combination proves to be.

It’s definitely not a breakfast bite, and isn’t going to wash down a burger. But the Froot Loops Shake will feed that craving for cereal flavor, without the pretense of breakfast.

(Nutrition Facts – 720 calories, 190 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 126 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 103 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes exactly like a bowl of cereal, with added richness of ice cream. Delightful texture that doesn’t clog the straw. Colors don’t run.
Cons: Very simplistic. Doesn’t offer much of a surprise. A bit pricey if bought on its own.