REVIEW: Peeps Mystery Flavors (2016)

Peeps Mystery Flavors (2016)

Like the Star Wars fans who avoided watching, reading, or listening to anything before seeing The Force Awakens to make sure they didn’t accidentally come across spoilers, I’ve steered clear of anything about these 2016 Peeps Mystery Flavors so I wouldn’t have any idea what the flavors could be. I’ve avoided reviews, tweets, Instagram pics, Facebook posts, Snapchats, and Peeps sexts. That’s a thing, right?

I’ve even avoided comments from this post we did about them when they first came out.

(covers eyes) LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA.

And I intentionally haven’t read any of the comments from this Instagram photo I posted the other day.

(covers eyes) LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA.

So I finally had all three Peeps Mystery Flavors and I’m slightly disappointed. I’m not disappointed with the flavors Peeps chose, which I’ll get to a bit later. I’m disappointed with the flavors Peeps didn’t choose.

If I owned a marshmallow making company called Tweeps, I would’ve had some fun with our mystery flavors. I would’ve had Ghost Pepper Tweeps, Lobster Tweeps, Garlic Bread Tweeps, or Bacon Tweeps. Or maybe go the Jelly Belly BeanBoozled route and have Cat Food Tweeps, Vacuum Bag Contents Tweeps, Motor Oil Tweeps, or Interior of a Ten-Year-Old Microwave That Has Never Been Cleaned Tweeps. Sure, those may have caused gagging and our eventual bankruptcy, but it would’ve been so worth it.

Well, I’m not happy to report that Peeps kept it safe, like they do all the time, and didn’t make any mystery flavors that they’d regret or cause them to lose money.

Peeps Mystery Flavors (2016) 2

Let’s start with Mystery Flavor #2 of 3.

After opening the package, my nose detected a familiar smell from my childhood — butter and sugar toast. Mmmm. Those were the sweet days (of cavities). As for the flavor of these colorless Peeps, they also had a buttery flavor. I’m leaning towards buttered popcorn, because they kind of remind me of Jelly Belly’s Buttered Popcorn, but it could also be a butter roll or a stick of butter. I’m not a huge fan of buttered popcorn jelly beans, but I did enjoy these buttery Peeps. Although they are my least favorite of the three.

Next, I’ll go with Mystery Flavor #1 of 3.

They smell like chocolate frosting. Obviously, they also have a chocolatey flavor, but what it is I’m not exactly sure. The flavor was lighter than the other two, so it’s hard to pinpoint what it’s trying to emulate. My original guesses were chocolate birthday cake, chocolate mousse, or hot cocoa. But they couldn’t be hot cocoa-flavored Peeps since they already exist. So I’m going to say birthday cake. I liked them, but I wish they had a stronger flavor.

Finally, there’s Mystery Flavor #3 of 3.

They smell like fruit punch, but they definitely couldn’t be fruit punch since one of last year’s Peeps Mystery Flavors was fruit punch. Although, it would’ve been funny if they threw a curveball and it actually was fruit punch. But after tasting it, it’s definitely not fruit punch. I get a slight citrus vibe from them, but they mostly remind me of Haribo peach gummies. But my taste buds think it could also be grape. So I’m going to say they’re grape Peeps. While I’m not 100 percent sure if they’re peach or grape, I do know I liked these the best out of the three Mystery Flavors.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 chicks – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00 each
Size: 3 oz./10 chicks
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (#1 of 3)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (#2 of 3)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (#3 of 3)
Pros: No gross flavors. All were decent to good. The sugar crystal exterior of Peeps. The fun in trying to figure out what the heck they are. The smugness I’ll feel when it turns out I’ve correctly guessed the flavors.
Cons: No gross flavors. Trying to avoid spoilers. #1 of 3 could’ve had a stronger flavor. Buttered popcorn jelly bean haters might not like #2 of 3. Vacuum Bag Contents Peeps.

REVIEW: Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

In the Lay’s potato chip flavor universe, Cheddar & Sour Cream has lived in the shadow of sour cream & onion. If sour cream & onion is the more popular Ben Affleck, then Cheddar & Sour Cream is Casey Affleck. Or if you’re looking for an Affleck-less reference, sour cream & onion is Luke or Owen Wilson, while Andrew Wilson is Cheddar & Sour Cream.

Yes. There’s a third Wilson brother who’s also an actor.

Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream isn’t a new flavor, but it’s not available in my area like sour cream & onion, which is EVERYWHERE. But there’s a chance that Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream might end up being nowhere, thanks to Lay’s new Flavor Swap promotion. The contest involves voting between two flavors and the winner stays while the other one gets sent out into deep space or something.

Cheddar & Sour Cream is up against a new flavor — Smoked Gouda and Chive.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 3

The flavor sounds like a hoity-toity offspring of Cheddar & Sour Cream and sour cream & onion, getting the cheese DNA from one and the herb DNA from the other. While I’ve had gouda, I’ve never really gotten to know gouda, so I read up on it.

Gouda is one of the oldest cheeses in the world that’s still being made today. It’s named after the Dutch city of Gouda. Young gouda has a mild fudgy flavor with nuts and older gouda has a sweet, slightly fruity flavor. And now you are ready to pretend to be a cheese expert, if that cheese is gouda and you run away if you’re asked about any other cheese.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 2

These chips look exactly like sour cream & onion potato chips, but they smell sweet and cheesy. They don’t have a fudgy or fruity flavor. Instead, they taste like smoky bacon, which makes sense because it’s SMOKED gouda and because of this Reddit thread I came upon. The first chip is smoky and cheesy, but subsequent ones are definitely more on the smoky bacon side. As for the chive flavor, I couldn’t taste any. But, overall, I really enjoyed the flavor of the chip.

Lay's Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap) 4

So between Smoked Gouda & Chive and Cheddar & Sour Cream which one would I send into deep space and which one would I save? Well, to be honest, it’s a very hard decision, because both are equally fine tasting empty calories. It would like choosing which is more entertaining — a video of a kitten playing peekaboo with his or her owner or a video of a puppy licking peanut butter off a window.

The Cheddar & Sour Cream definitely has a stronger cheese flavor than its competitor, but if the Lay’s one goes away, there’s still the Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream (which is the better one). If Lay’s Cheddar & Sour Cream went away, I wouldn’t miss it. As for the Smoked Gouda & Chive, it doesn’t really taste too cheesy and it’s not necessarily better, but it does taste like bacon, and bacon is yummy, so I’d probably miss it.

So I guess I’m #TeamSaveSmokedGoudaandChive.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 330 milligrams of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Smoked Gouda & Chive Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 2 3/4 oz.
Purchased at: Tesoro Gas Station
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like bacon. Smoked gouda tastes like bacon. Ruffles Cheddar & Sour Cream. Gouda’s longevity.
Cons: Not too cheesy. Not too chivey. Getting sent out into deep space. Ending a review with a hashtag.

REVIEW: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips (Flavor Swap)

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips

Funfetti.

Chocolate-covered olive.

Nashville Hot Chicken and pickles.

These are but a few flavors we won’t be tempted to try as part of Lay’s annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest. After a three-year run with some highs, some lows, and frankly just some seasoning that had no business coming into contact with a potato, Lay’s is asking for America’s feedback in a totally new competition. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Flavor Swap offers a chance to pick the next Lay’s chip flavors, but only at the cost of an existing flavor, which will be exiled to the world of Oreo O’s cereal, Dunkaroos, and Black Pepper Jack Doritos. One of the flavors on the chopping block: the iconic and always reliable Honey Barbecue.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. We are getting a choice, and when it comes to the barbecue category, the new Korean Barbecue chips offer something totally different from the eight other barbecue chip flavors listed on the Lay’s website — a taste of one of America’s hottest trends.

I first discovered Korean barbecue when a crapload of Kalbi and Bulgogi restaurants showed up in my Maryland suburb. I couldn’t speak a word of Korean, but the language of grilled marinated rib eye transcends ineffective Google translators. Marinated in a combination of soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and other spices, the thin cuts of grilled meats are totally unlike those loaded with vinegary Carolina sauces or sweet Kansas City sauces. Dare I say it, in some ways they’re better.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips 2

I can’t say that’s necessarily true about Lay’s take on the Korean barbecue. The chips are definitely unique; I’ll give them that. And they’re tasty too. Darker, with a grey shadow and specs of onion and garlic powder, they’ve got an initial salty and meaty flavor which tastes like instant beef bouillon, except not quite so disgusting-sounding. The strong umami notes soon give way to a prominent smoky flavor and a touch of sweetness, and when eaten straight from the bag, they’re almost impossible to put down.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 1

Almost. The thing is, Lay’s Honey Barbecue chips are impossible to put down. It’s an orange chip with a light tomato and paprika flavor that perfectly complements its sweet brown sugar and molasses touch, and its finish is distinctly potato-ey. It’s clean, simple, and just a good old potato chip.

Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips Head-to-Head 2

To use a rough barbecue analogy for the chips, Honey Barbecue is about the sauce and the spice, and Korean Barbecue is about the meat and the smoke. They’re both really good, and in the case of the Korean Barbecue flavor, the chips are distinct from other flavors we’ve seen before. But the former flavor is what I’m craving on a chip, and the latter on, well, actual meat.

As much as I love the idea of Korean Barbecue potato chips and want these to stick around, I’m not ready to exile Honey Barbecue to the island of misfit snacks for them. Salty, smoky, and meaty, the Korean Barbecue chips are just a little too heavy for a potato chip flavor, and could have really used a bit of ginger or additional backend sweetness to round their flavor out. Nevertheless, I hope Lay’s toys with the idea of keeping the chips around, because the Korean Barbecue has more than earned its place at America’s culinary table.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 140 mg of sodium, 330 mg of potassium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Lay’s Korean Barbecue Potato Chips
Purchased Price: $1.28
Size: 2.75 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nails the smoky meaty flavor of bulgogi meat in chip form. Complex saltiness with sweet notes in the background. Breaks relatively new ground in an already saturated barbecue chip market. Not chocolate-dipped olive.
Cons: Soy sauce flavor tastes a bit more like Worcestershire sauce. Umami flavor covers up clean finish of the potato taste. Not enough sweetness and no ginger. Not as good as Honey Barbecue flavored chips. Kind of wanting to try a Funfetti flavored chip.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies

The year was 1922 when Sir Leonard Woolley began his excavation of the Mesopotamian city-state of Ur. It was here where he found a pair of dice dating back 4000 years, thus proving that humans have been degenerate gamblers since the ancients.

And it looks like Oreo is here to carry on the gambling legacy.

Indeed, diving headfirst into max-capacity, all-hands-on-deck lunacy, Oreo follows the shadow of its perfect cinnamon bun predecessor with a take on the original Hostess Cupcake, a nostalgic (if sometimes dry) packaged good with a highly specific flavor and repute of great renown.

No matter your thoughts on the Hostess chocolate cupcake itself, there’s no denying its very specific, mildly chocolate-y, super sweet, slightly preservative-twinged taste. To take on such a classic calls only the High Rollers to the gambling halls, but do you hear the wind? That’s the whisper of an Oreo accepting a challenge.

Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies 2

The chocolate cookies are of the classic disc form, providing the crisp, dark, earthy, almost French-roasted-coffee chocolate flavor that toes the line of sugary charcoal briquettes while still avoiding tasting like you’re gnawing on your grill grates.

The chocolate frosting is dark and sugary as well, but also slightly muted, like dark chocolate that got sent through the car wash. It wants to harken back to Brownie Batter Oreos, but lacks the same fudgy, dark chocolate pudding-like flavor. No biggie, though. It’s really just a protective circumference for the dollop of white frosting in the center.

Hyper-sweet like the classic, yet also gooier that regular Oreo creme, the cookie’s center dab of white floof strikes a special place between Betty Crocker Frosting and Toaster Strudel Decorative Icing. What’s more, its unobstructed sugar balances out the roasted dark chocolate cookie with a texture and flavor that revives the cookie from the dull chocolate frosting, harkening back to the contrasts that gave the original cookie its reputation: the bitter with the sweet. The crunchy with the creamy. The Surrealist experience with the Euclidean Geometry of cookie design. That’s real life mathematics.

For a company that’s constructed its status on how to eat sandwich cookies, these new biscuits present new horizons. Sure, you can still chomp, twist, nibble, and dunk, but you can also eat just the creamy white center separately. You can have the icing all in one go. You can twist and dip your cookie in the white floof like a nacho. You can stack, dissolve, crush, crumble, and cure the common cold. (This statement has not been approved by the FDA.)

Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies 3

What with their apparent skill at taking gambles, it’s a wonder that Oreo hasn’t launched a car line, lifestyle website, and competitive TV series. While some of Oreo’s efforts have seen immediate demise, this new spin does a moderately good job. The hyper-sweet frosting coupled with the surrounding dark chocolate harkens back to the flavors of its Hostess inspiration. Unfortunately, the humdrum chocolate frosting alongside the notably small number of cookies given in the limited time package mutes the experience a bit.

All in all, though, I can’t be too disappointed: the floof of white crème, crispy cookie, innovative construction, and capacity to be a massive Dunkaroo brings them up past Average to Enjoyable. They’re sugary, slightly chocolate-y, and do a respectable job at mirroring their inspiration. Heck, if you pay close attention, you can even taste the whisper of preservatives at the end. That’s detail.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 50 mg of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and Less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Filled Cupcake Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 10.7 oz package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crispy chocolate cookie. Floofy, sweet white frosting. Potential to be a massive Dunkaroo. Mimics Hostess Cupcake flavors well. Geometry in real life. Ancient Mesopotamian city-states.
Cons: Not much different than an original Oreo. Chocolate frosting got sent through the car wash. Package is significantly smaller than standard Oreos. Not yet proven to cure the common cold. Lifestyle websites.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Cake My Day Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Cake My Day Ice Cream

Okay. Ben and Jerry’s has an ice cream name that includes number six on AFI’s 100 movie quotes, Dirty Harry’s “Go ahead, make my day.” Let’s see how I fare with the rest of the top six:

“Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Graham” — Ground up graham crackers, pieces of Clark bars in a vanilla Confederate base.

“An Offer He Can’t Re-fudge” – Orange ice cream swirled with fudge and bits of cannoli.

“I Coulda Been a Gum-tender” – Bubble gum-flavored bits for chewing scenery in a Terry-misu ice cream.

“Not in Kumquat Anymore” — Technicolor swirl of various fruit flavors in a lollipop candy base, conspicuously no kumquat (we’re not in kumquat).

“Here’s Looking at You, Squid” — Squid-flavored ice cream, with squid ink core.

Good job, Kevin. No, great job. So how’s Cake My Day? It’s vanilla cake batter ice cream with vanilla cake pieces, buttercream frosting and raspberry swirl. And did it “cake” my day? “Pie” will “tart” you — and “donut” “streusel” — but it’s a “lemon meringue” “babka” so when there’s “muffin” left, it’s “flan.”

Oh gosh. Sorry about that. Clears throat.

“I will tell you — and do not stress — but it’s a limited batch so when there’s nothing left, it’s gone.”

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Cake My Day Ice Cream 2

The cake is in tiny off-white balls, scattered amongst the creamy, soft ice cream. The buttercream frosting gives it a rich kick and makes the entire thing smell like a frozen cream puff. The raspberry swirl surfs on a wave of cake-y undertones. It features that unmistakable raspberry-in-form-other-than-whole-fruit taste. Is there a word for that phenomenon, like in German?

Anyway, some people might not like that pseudo-pungent, nose-twisty taste, but I think it gives it a decent personality. In fact, it is the only personality in this ice cream. The cake bits give it a good counterbalance of flavor but ultimately the raspberry is the prevailing taste. It’s swirled in there nice for a great visual and is also present in every bite, which gets a tiny bit repetitive as the plainness of the cake batter plateaus out into normal.

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Cake My Day Ice Cream 3

It’s a solid, if not sweet, bite of ice cream though. You ever have a birthday cake for an aunt who collects spoons from around the world? She watches Supernatural. She roots for Tom Brady. Her favorite movie is The Notebook and her jeans ride high on her waist. Well, that birthday cake is mashed into an ice cream and it’s this ice cream right here.

Come to think of it, maybe Ben and Jerry aren’t into movie quotes. “Ben and Jerry” rhymes with “Dirty Harry.” Maybe they’re into Clint Eastwood, and will continue Clint Eastwood-related flavor names. I just really hope one of his movies rhymes with “squid.”

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 280 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 55 grams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Cake My Day Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Ice cream balances raspberry flavor well with buttercream base. Tasty and evokes a cake well.
Cons: One note.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Molten Chocolate Macarons

Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Macarons

Let me guess. It’s a weekday. You’re busy. Too busy.

If you’re lucky you have a whole extra 2 minutes and 45 seconds to put your lasagna in the microwave, take out the trash, put on a cleaner pair of pants, and water the petunias. Wait, do you have a garden??? Who cares. Dump some water somewhere. This is no day for stops. No day for gentle meandering. No day for the 2 hours and waaay too many steps it takes to make a macaron.

Nonetheless, you want one.

So it was for me last Wednesday. Thus, low on blood sugar and pressed for time, my hand did not hesitate when I saw my craving had been sloshed through a Dexter’s Laboratory ray to create some giganto incarnation that may or may not come alive and try to take control of the city. They were huge. They were chocolate. They would be mine.

Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Macarons 2

First off, let’s get the overgrown, bloated elephant out of the room: the instructions suggest that the reader microwave these pastry beasts.

Resist.

Put your hand down. Step away from the cubic kitchen appliance. Look, I tried using el microondas with one of them and the thing came out with a half exploded, half burnt filling and a soggy cookie. In hindsight, this makes sense: microwaves cook the water inside the cookie. That water turns to steam. Steam makes soggy cookies. Soggy cookies makes puppies cry. Don’t make puppies cry.

Instead, I advise keeping these in the refrigerator and enjoying them at room temp. In this incarnation, the cookies are pretty boss. The outer crust crackles while the inside remains not too puffy and not too squishy in that “just right” way that makes Goldilocks wanna bust a move.

From there, it only gets better. The dark chocolate filling is piled in a hunk of nutty, roasty, fudgy goo whose depth contrasts well with the sweet cocoa cookies and whose richness could knock my Italian grandpa outta his pinstripe suit (love ya, grandpa!).

As if that weren’t enough, that filling is capped with a layer of some sort of nutty paste. Not Nutella, but rather some thick chocolate goo that, from what I can gather, has toasty nutty nubs (are they almonds?).

Sure, it may all be nothing beyond a glorified, high-quality chocolate frosting, but I’m admittedly a sucker for such things. Of course, the nuance of the filling is all lost if you slip these in microwave, so don’t listen to the instructions. The box tells lies. Lies!

Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Macarons 3

There is an admirable pugnacity about taking something splendid in its ordinary form and making it massive, but, as I learned from that classic box office flop, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, one must approach one’s gigantified power with caution lest chaotic, giant-baby-induced destruction ensue.

Similarly, these cookies have benefits and downfalls in their bulk. On the one hand, you get served an enormous, tip-top, mildly unorthodox chocolate cookie. On the other, said cookie can get overwhelming, overloading you with sugar and richness and lies about putting them in the microwave. Then again, these boulder-sized hunks become pretty grand when eaten defrosted at room temperature, retaining a crisp crust, soft cookie, and rich ganache filling.

Sure, they’re not too spiffy and won’t be replacing Francois Payard anytime soon, but did I mention they’re huge? Huge. If you eat one, you should wait 45 minutes before swimming or waive any complaints of digestive issues.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Macaron – 390 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 39 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein..)

Item: Trader Joe’s Molten Chocolate Macarons
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 2-pack/7 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Massive. No oven required. Crust on outside. Sweet, soft cookie insides. Nutty, slightly bitter dark chocolate filling. “Pugnacity” is a lovely word. Will make my grandpa jump out of his pinstripe suit.
Cons: May be too massive. A little hum-drum. Microwave gives poor results. The box tells lies. Crying puppies. All that time I wasted watching Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.