REVIEW: Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

As dawn breaks over the picturesque landscape, a farmer, with cup in hand, approaches the docile, grazing Teddy Graham that he has been raising since it was a wee cub. The Graham eyes him indifferently as he fills his cup with milk from the giant, bear-shaped cracker. He pats it on the back lovingly and carries the cup towards a counter in the distance.

“One Toasted Graham Latte for Dan?”

That’s is how I like to imagine the folks at Starbucks make their new Toasted Graham Latte, and if I hadn’t seen them mixing it together with my own eyes, I would have believed it, too.

This latest concoction from the ‘Bucks blends graham, steamed milk, cream, and espresso with a topping of cinnamon graham crumbles. It’s available in both hot and iced forms, but I chose the former, since the oxymoronic idea of having a drink be “iced and toasted” makes my brain freeze and fry.

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte 2

Prying away the lid of my cup, I marvel at the InstaGraham worthy cinnamon and graham cracker dust that looks like it was gently scattered by some hypocritical, tooth-rotting Tooth Fairy.

After sipping this top layer, I suddenly realize why the Toasted Graham Latte was released so close to Halloween time: it’s just like that infamously NSFW hot tub face-melting scene from Halloween 2, but with Michael Meyers murdering a Cinnamon Teddy Graham in a steamed milk Jacuzzi instead.

The faint spice of cinnamon and the earthier, honey graham sweetness of the crispy crumbles pleasantly balance the hyper sugary vanilla onslaught of the whipped cream.

But once the crumbs are all slurped up, things get a little…crummier. Without the complexity of the graham pieces to counteract the cream, the middle third of my TGL simply became an uncomfortable, cloying mess of melted cream and milk.

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte 3

After begrudgingly sucking this part down, I realized there was hope in the final third of the drink. Like a caffeinated Atlantis, all the espresso and graham syrup flavor had sunk down into the bottom. After many milliliters of hardship, my submarine tongue was happy to discover it.

When making my drink, the Starbucks barista excitedly exclaimed how it “smelled just like a s’more!” I half expected her to verbally add a *heart eyes emoji* to the end of her sentence.

But now I see that she was right. The bitter darkness of the espresso imparts woodsy notes on the sticky, leftover cream, making it quite like a toasted marshmallow.

This, along with the artificial and rich graham syrup, left me with a tasty, liquid s’more facsimile, albeit one where someone swapped the Hershey’s chocolate with coffee beans (I don’t care what kind of pranks they pulled in the ‘20s, Grandpa: it’s not funny!)

So like the Earth, a well made taco salad, and Shrek, the new Toasted Graham Latte from Starbucks has layers. From the blended cinnamon and sugar top, to the disturbing primordial soup in the middle, all the way to the liquefied campfire classic on the bottom, your enjoyment of this drink will likely hinge on how deep into it you’re willing to go.

Since exactly two-thirds of the latte is good, I should technically give it an infinitely repeating 6.66 out of 10. But since I’m an Internet food reviewer and not a mathematician, I guess I’ll have to round up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a box of Teddy Grahams that need a good melting. *bear emoji* *fire emoji* *skull emoji*

(Nutrition Facts – 12 oz with 2% milk – 230 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 31 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte
Purchased Price: $4.51
Size: 12 oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Teddy Graham giblets on top. Caffeinated s’more cocktail on bottom. Imaginary snack cookie dairy farms. Filing a patent for “Milk Jacuzzis.”
Cons: Overly sweet nastiness in the middle. Speaking in emojis. Trying to milk a real bear. Not being able to give Halloween snacks a 666/10.

REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies

Let it be known that if you come over to my apartment at 7:30 with a voracious appetite, an empty plate, and a demand to be filled with a joy that surpasses that of a ghost hunter finding the apparition of Aristotle at the back of a gas station, then you are liable to get dished a plate of cookies for dinner.

If you like spice cake, crunchy things, and a dauntingly bountiful amount of orange-checkered packaging, you probably wouldn’t mind if you came over today.

Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies 2

Before chomping in, let us admire the contrasting aesthetics of the Fudge Stripe: the parallel lines, the perfect ring shape, the little geometric bibbelty-bobs that pock the surface.

It’s a pattern that could rival the most intricate of doilies and possibly compete for the world’s best cross-stitching design, although I’m not 100 percent certain of that last statement. The only time I tried cross-stitching, I ended up with a “scarf” that looked like a beach towel gnawed off by Godzilla.

What I do know is that, after over 30 years, Ernie Keebler still knows how to make a mighty fine stripe cookie. Never one to hold back on the sugar intake, the cookie’s been generously shoveled with three variants of the sweet stuff, highlighting the earthy molasses against all the varieties of fructose. Combine that woodsy taste with a crunchy base, some sweet, mildly flavored white fudge stripes, and a zip of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and this bugger might as well be the perfect pumpkin pie crust.

But heed my warning, fellow pumpkin maniacs: there is no actual pumpkin here. I was a little bummed out before acknowledging that, as with all goods of the “Pumpkin Spice” ilk, I am only promised spices, not necessarily squash, and, with a cookie so fine and limited in its presence, how can I complain? (I can’t.)

Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies 3

Welp, that was a fine dinner. If you fall head over heels for the warm spices of autumn and enjoy a depth of sweetness with your spice, these are worth picking up, if only to test them out on your own taste buds. Could the cookie be crispier? Could the soft, sweet fudge benefit from less hydrogenated oil and more vanilla? Could the Keebler elfin army deliver these to my door, equipped with complimentary magical talking woodland creatures?

Sure, but, far above these idealistic visions, my need for cookies reigns. As it always should.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 gram of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy cookie. Just enough molasses. Zippy ginger. Fudge is everywhere. Geometry! The experience of using “bibbelty-bob” in a sentence. Finding the ghost of Aristotle at the back of a gas station.
Cons: No pumpkin involved. Fudge could use more vanilla. Hydrogenated oils crush dreams. Not delivered by a magical elfin army. Failed cross-stitching projects that look like they were gnawed off by an overgrown prehistoric lizard.

REVIEW: Skippy P.B. Bites (Pretzel and Double Peanut Butter)

Skippy Pretzel P.B. Bites

When it comes to peanut butter and the pronunciation of animated internet images, I – like all of those choosy moms – always choose Jif. I can’t even remember the last time I had Skippy. In fact, I’m so trained on my Simply Jif; I almost forgot Skippy was even a brand. One might say I skipped…

Nope, this one is not gonna roll with that cornball pun. Let’s get to the review instead.

A couple months back, these popped up in the “Spotted on Shelves” section of this site. A commenter named “JETKITTY” mentioned these reminded him or her of the greatest snack in the history of our time – Planters PB Crisps. Just off that mere mention alone, I made it my life’s mission to track these down. If they were anywhere near the quality of the dearly departed PB Crisps, I would have found the heir apparent to one of my five favorite snacks of all time.

So do they stack up?

Drumroll, please…

No! But they aren’t bad.

Pretzels and peanut butter are a marriage made in heaven. How could these be bad?

The peanut butter coating is creamy and not nearly as synthetic as I anticipated it to taste. I was expecting the fake peanut butter type filling from say a Nutter Butter or a Peanut Butter Oreo, but this is really smooth.

Skippy Pretzel P.B. Bites 3

It’s also a reasonably thick coating, giving each piece a nice balance with the pretzel inside. There’s a brief sweetness to the peanut butter, but once you crunch into the pretzel, it’s gone. That was a tease. Skippy P.B. Bites basically land on the “savory” side of the snack scale. As you eat them, your mouth gets saltier. So if you expect these to be a sugary snack, you might be a bit disappointed.

Peanut butter on its own isn’t exactly “sweet” per se, but I always expect a snack built around it to be really sweet. I needed more of that out of the peanut butter. If it somehow held the brief hint through the entire bite, these would be excellent. All I could think while eating them was how much I’d appreciate a thin layer of chocolate around the outside.

Skippy Pretzel P.B. Bites 2

I dig the shape and “poppability” of the bites. If they sold a bag of pretzels in this shape, I’d snatch them up, because they’d be fun to eat. You’d think by having a pretzel that small and compact, it would be on the hard side, but these have a really palatable crunch.

So while they’re not “Top 5 Dead or Alive” like PB crisps, they’re tasty and worth a buy. Just make sure you get the pretzel flavor, because…

Double Peanut Butter is terrible. While it has the same creamy peanut butter coating, the center has a texture I can barely describe. Once you get past the good peanut butter, you hit a square of hard, gritty chalk-like peanut butter. Have you ever gotten Cookie Dough Bites at the movie theater? Think of the cookie dough inside. Now age that 7 years and give it a considerably worse flavor. That’s what these taste like. The inner peanut butter tastes like a hardened block of sand. Horrible. They shouldn’t exist.

(Nutrition Facts – Pretzel – 15 pieces – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein. Double Peanut Butter – 10 pieces – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Skippy P.B. Bites (Pretzel and Double Peanut Butter)
Purchased Price: $2.98 each
Size: 6 oz. tub
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Pretzel)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Double Peanut Butter)
Pros: Creamy peanut butter coating. Shape and size. Tasty pretzels. “Poppability.” Any reason to reminisce about PB Crisps. You can reuse the container should you choose.
Cons: Melts very easily. Double Peanut Butter is awful. “Jif” vs. “Gif” battles rages on. RIP PB Crisps.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits

As lawn mowers, economic theories, and the fearsome Krang all prove, things that prevail are not simple.

Pumpkin spice is another one of those things.

Indeed, pumpkin spice requires subtly, nuance, a cautious hand. The nutmeg/cinnamon/ginger blend must be parceled out in a way that is generous rather than overexposed, compassionate rather than grating. When treated appropriately, pumpkin spice should perform one task and one task alone: highlighting the earthy-sweet qualities of the squash for which it was named. To do otherwise is but a fiasco, and me? I prefer to avoid fiascos, especially at 7:00 a.m., so I’m counting on you, belVita, to avoid another fiasco. Don’t let me down.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits 2

It can be hard to appreciate the belVita biscuit. I once stood firm in such a belief, excusing the flimsy crackers as a half-hearted granola bars stuck in a midlife crisis. That was until, after 18 days abroad in which 82 percent of my diet subsisted on such cracker-biscuits, I realized: these are just giant, non-animal-shaped Teddy Grahams.

Sure, they may contain oats and lack the inherent charm that comes with gnawing the ears off a biscuit shaped like a carnivorous mammal, but I was being given a hall pass to eat a giant, crunchy cookie for breakfast. My life choices (and sugar intake) would be forever altered.

And these biscuits hold the same qualities I found appealing in that initial experience: crunchy, thin, and tasting of cinnamon, sugar, and toasted oats. While not high in fat, there’s just enough of the oily stuff to give a good crumble to the texture while still providing a sturdy backbone should you choose* to spread them with peanut butter or dip them in your morning coffee-and-cream.

*You should choose.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits 3

It was mid-way through my second biscuit that it struck.

“What is that? That flavor?? Is that…????”

I squinted my eyeball and shoved it up real close to the box, pretending I didn’t look like a mildly insane, cookie-scarfing clown with cataracts.

There. Yes, right there, in the ingredients: dried pumpkin. I had my doubts, but there it was, both in the ingredients and the taste. Alongside that pumpkin, there’s little hint of nutmeg, perhaps even a spicy zing from ginger. These spices combine with the oat-y biscuit to keep the Beta-carotene-infused flavor of the pumpkin in check. If I search my memory, the whole experience harkens back to that piecrust that was left after I scooped all the pumpkin filling out: crunchy, sugary, with just a hint of pumpkin. This is just like that, only without the negative moral repercussions that come with scooping the pumpkin innards from a pie.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits 4

It’s easy for a company to use the celebrity powers of pumpkin spice for evil. Indeed, with the blend’s unstoppable presence in everything from Shredded Wheat to Yankee Candles, it takes a special determination to give the flavor the gentle hand it deserves.

While these aren’t groundbreakingly perfect (they certainly don’t keep me for the 4 hours promised), they are well-done. What with their light spices, sugary oat crunch, and mild pumpkin presence, it’s an honest biscuit. And, in a world in which pumpkin spice is flung willy-nilly, that honesty is worth something. Good on you, belVita, for putting one less pumpkin spice disaster into the world.

Now, if we could just do something about the Pumpkin Spice Jell-O…

(Nutrition Facts – 4 biscuits – 230 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 gram of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 95 milligrams of potassium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice belVita Breakfast Biscuits
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 5-packk
Purchased at: Publix
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crispy. Crunchy. Oat-y. Well-balanced spices. Actual pumpkin included. Reason to eat cookies for breakfast. Good with peanut butter. Reflecting on the complexities of lawn mowers and the maniacal Krang.
Cons: Doesn’t sustain energy for 4 hours. Would be more fun if it were shaped like an animal. Midlife crisis. Negative moral repercussions. Mildly insane clowns with cataracts.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

If McDonald’s took its chicken sandwich menu and made it into one of those evolution progress pictures of the monkey slowly crawling out of the sludge and walking upright, the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich would be somewhere on the right side, while dollar menu stalwart McChicken would be somewhere on the left.

That’s not to trash the McChicken, of course. On some days I would rather be a half-fish, half-monkey thing wandering around just chillin’, eating snacks on an island. Maybe I’ll eat a coconut today. Maybe I’ll eat some sand. Can I digest sand? Oh, it’s time for bed? G’nite!

The Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich boasts a buttermilk crispy chicken filet, an artisan roll, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise. That’s only a handful of ingredients, which is good news, because I can’t count past five. (My developmental years were spent eating McDonald’s.) But the low number also means they are putting stock into each element. It mostly pays off.

The chicken patty itself has a particularly fine breading and a nice uniform texture throughout the meat. The breading is also a bit grittier, which gives each bite a little more crunch. At first taste, it comes off a bit over-salted, but as the entire sandwich is taken in, the flavor seems to even out. The protein is a step up in quality from the other chicken offerings, but it’s unclear what part buttermilk actually plays in the cooking process. Doused? Marinated? Friends with benefits? Admired from afar for many years?

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich 2

The artisan roll is the same one featured on all the other premium McDonald’s sandwiches. It’s soft, chewy, and a suitable springboard for this sandwich. The tomato is unspectacular but inoffensive and the lettuce has a decent snap that breaks up the monotony. In fact, the entire item is a textural success, with almost every bite featuring a spectrum of feelings, like a teenage romance.

If there is a complaint, it is of the mayonnaise. I will concede that on my particular sandwich the construction was uneven—the “mayonnaise dressing” was applied in a glob on one side and sparsely on the other. So your mileage may vary, but my bites that contained the mayo spread were pretty overpowering. They actually reminded me a lot of the taste of the McChicken, which is often doused in the stuff like it came out of a fire hose. That treatment seems especially egregious since this sandwich is around three bucks more than the McChicken.

The quality is there and so is the price. Is the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich three times better than a McChicken as the price would indicate? I’m not sure. While it has all the trappings of a higher quality sandwich, if I were scratching that chicken itch, I don’t know if I would regularly splurge. Now, if McDonald’s made a sandwich out of that half-fish, half-monkey thing, I would be all over it. But they’d probably only offer it in Norway or something.

(Nutrition Facts – 580 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 grams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.79
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Great texture. Chicken is quality compared with previous chicken offerings. Artisan bun is soft.
Cons: Could be too salty for some. Globs of mayonnaise. Pricey.