REVIEW: Coca-Cola Coffee Plus (Japan)

Coca Cola Coffee Plus

Coffee and Coke sounds like the morning ritual of an 80’s Wall Street banker. It’s also the combination found in a new beverage in Japan that’s exclusively available at vending machines — Coca-Cola Coffee Plus.

For those of you who were in diapers a decade ago, Coke did offer a coffee-flavored cola called Coke Blãk. If you’re wondering if it was Coke Blech, I thought it was pretty good. But the rest of America didn’t think so because it wasn’t around for very long.

Since being discontinued, I could’ve easily and cheaply make a Coke Blãk-like beverage by combining the Coke and coffee already in my kitchen. But, nope, I did it the hard way by purchasing a can of Coca-Cola Coffee Plus from eBay for a ridiculous price plus international shipping from a seller in Japan, which would take two weeks to arrive.

But the thing about Coca-Cola Coffee Plus is that it’s not made by combining two liquids. It gets it coffee in the form of an extract powder. The cola and coffee combo gives the can’s contents 34 milligrams of caffeine, which is not a lot in this day of caffeine-filled espressos and energy drinks. But, granted, the can is a wee one. It holds about 6.5 ounces, which makes spending about $15 for a can a bit silly.

The beverage’s aroma is a bit weird. At times, it smells like coffee. Other times it’s coffee with cola spices. But that’s not why its weird. That’s expected. What’s odd is that sometimes, while finding out if my nose could pick out the coffee and cola, there were moments when I thought I smelled Japanese curry.

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As for its flavor, it tastes better than what I remember Coke Blãk was like. The coffee flavor hits my tongue first. It’s not bold, like drinking black coffee. It’s mild and goes well with the cola spices. From what I can taste, it doesn’t seem to have artificial sweeteners like Coke Blãk did, which is why I enjoy it more. It’s tasty enough that I’m sad it didn’t come in a larger can or bottle. Also, that would’ve meant more sweet, sweet caffeine.

So is Coca-Cola Coffee Plus worth picking up? If you’re in Japan and in front of a vending machine that offers it, then absocoffeely. If you’re a former 80’s Wall Street banker with lots of money because you quit cocaine early in your career, then go ahead and burn some cash.

But if you’re a normal person in front of your computer’s monitor looking at an online Japanese snack store or eBay seller that offers it for 10 times its regular price with shipping, then NOke-NOla. As much as I like it, its can size alone makes it not worth it.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 22 kcal, 0 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.02 grams of sodium.)

Purchased Price: $5.49 + $9.99 shipping
Size: 190 ml can
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant combination of coffee and cola spices. Worth a try if you’re standing in front of a Japanese vending machine that offers it. Coffee and Coke.
Cons: Not worth $15. Wish it came in a larger can or bottle. Spending $15 to get a 6.5-ounce beverage from Japan. At times, it smells like Japanese curry.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Twinkies

Who’s got a bandana that’s long and white? Twinkie’s got a bandana that’s long and white!

Who’s got a creme that’s mint instead? Twinkie’s got a creme that’s mint instead!

Mint instead, cake of red,

Bandana that’s white, winter delight,

Must be Twinkie, must be Twinkie, must be Twinkie, Twinkie Mint!

When I open up a package of these Hostess Peppermint Twinkies, I smell two distinct scents.

The first is a minty, Christmassy scent. For some reason, it reminds me of the first few hours after school on the last day before holiday break, eating the requisite candy cane they gave us at the school sing-along.

The second is the familiar odor of Twinkie sponge cake. If you’ve ever had a Twinkie, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve never had a Twinkie, it doesn’t matter, because you don’t exist anyway.

The Twinkies are described as “peppermint cake with creamy filling,” but I wonder if they got it backwards, and it’s supposed to be “peppermint creamy filling with cake.” When I try to isolate the components, I don’t detect any peppermint in the red-colored cake, but I do in the filling. Some weird kind of cross-contamination of flavors, maybe?

But maybe it’s in both because when I eat the cake like a normal person, it’s mintier than either part on its own. The textures are what you’d expect -— a soft, spongy cake with a light, airy filling. The minty flavor gives the humble Twinkie a nice festive upgrade. It’s not as minty as a mint-thusiast like me would like, but it works, and I suspect that even mint-averse folks could get on board with this candy-cane-esque cake.

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Considering that it’s a Twinkie, I have no complaints. It’s not a gourmet, decadent dessert, but it never claimed to be. It just claimed to be a limited edition suitable for the month of December (or November, apparently). I like this better than last year’s White Peppermint Twinkies or last spring’s Shamrock CupCakes.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer wanted to gain weight so he could go on disability? Dr. Nick advised him to eat from the neglected food groups: “Remember, if you’re not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain.” Well, I got that greasy spot on my paper towel. So if you’ve been asked to play Santa Claus at your office Christmas party, these Twinkies are a tasty way to become your new jolly self.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes – 230 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 13.58 oz. box/10 cakes
Purchased at: Dick’s Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nothing to complain about. Might appeal to people who don’t like mint. Festive upgrade to a classic standby. Coining the term “mint-thusiast.”
Cons: Not as minty as some would like. Leaves grease stains. The beginning of holiday weight gain.

QUICK REVIEW: Nestle Toll House Limited Edition Pumpkin Cobbler Cookie Dough

Nestle Toll House Limited Edition Pumpkin Cobbler Cookie Dough

I’ve had my share of unusual pumpkin items, and I’ve made some unique cobblers (leek cobbler, anyone?). But I have never even heard of pumpkin cobbler. I’m sure someone’s made it somewhere, but as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t exist.

Nestle has made a cookie flavored like something that doesn’t exist with this Toll House Pumpkin Cobbler dough. It’s described as “cookie dough with pumpkin, oats, spices and a pumpkin pie filling.”

Nestle Toll House Limited Edition Pumpkin Cobbler Cookie Dough 2

All the cookies are stuck together in cubes. They didn’t separate perfectly along the dough perforation, but it was good enough. In a matter of seconds, they were ready to go in the oven. Preheating takes longer than preparation.

Nestle Toll House Limited Edition Pumpkin Cobbler Cookie Dough 3

They took longer to bake than the 11–12 minutes recommended on the package, but I think that’s because I used a cooking stone instead of a metal baking sheet, and I live at an elevation of 5,000 feet.

My biggest disappointment was the pumpkin filling. I expected it to be the texture of pumpkin pie or even apple butter, but it was a syrupy, sticky substance, reminiscent of the residue leftover in the jam jar.

Nestle Toll House Limited Edition Pumpkin Cobbler Cookie Dough 4

But just because the filling wasn’t what I had hoped doesn’t mean the cookie wasn’t good. I can definitely taste the oats, and while the ingredients don’t specify what spices are in it, I could detect cinnamon and probably nutmeg. I had a harder time noticing the pumpkin, but I think it’s there.

There’s a tendency to regard these premade, preportioned cookie doughs as utterly plebeian, inferior to cookies made from scratch. I don’t disagree, but there’s something to be said for warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies without mixing bowls in the sink or flour spilled on the counter. These are a tasty option for two dozen quick treats on an autumn afternoon.

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 16 oz. package
Purchased at: Dick’s Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 cookie) 80 calories, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms Cereal

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms

Guys, wow. This is big. This is Lucky the Leprechaun (aka Sir Charms, which is how I will now and forever more think of him) doing a Babe Ruth point to the center field bleachers.

Since its debut in 1964, Lucky Charms has changed its marbits (another LC name I was unaware of until now, and love almost as much as Sir Charms) quite often, reflecting holidays and general times-a-changin’. I still remember my world being somewhat rocked when red balloons came out in 1989. In my defense, I was eight; my world was rocked on pretty much a daily basis.

But the oats, the oats were a constant. Minus the no-brainer introduction of Chocolate Lucky Charms in 2005, it’s always been oats and marbits, living harmoniously together in a well-balanced ratio.

But now, in this year that has been so tumultuous, so uncertain, Sir Charms comes along and brings us a gift: Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms.

Gosh darn, if that isn’t a lovely winter wonderland of a box. It’s October as I write this, but I’m hearing jingle bells instead of spooky ghosts. You truly are magic, Sir Charms!

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms 2

And that magic continues on the back. There are several fun puzzles to solve, although I could have done without the snowman with no eyes. There’s also a riddle: “If snowmen can’t take baths, how do they keep clean?”

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms 3

There are only three unique marbits in this limited edition cereal, but surprisingly, they differ from 2005’s Winter Lucky Charms, although they are much less varied. While not explicitly listed on the box, it appears they were going for a snowball, a snowflake, and a snowman. What actually came out was a generic aspirin, a rejected asterisk and…listen guys, I’m trying to keep it clean here because this is such a darn cute box of cereal. A bowling pin? Does that work?

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms 4

Upon opening the box, it smelled only of oats. Which was a bit of a relief, since I didn’t want to be blasted with cinnamon. Tasted dry, it came off as a nice, warm cinnamon paired with a hefty amount of sugar – sort of like a Cinnamon Toast Crunch Light.

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In milk, the cinnamon flavor almost entirely disappears, much to my disappointment. The marbits fulfill the vanilla part, but I wanted more of that warm cinnamon flavor. I was hoping for an oat-y Cinnamon Toast Crunch with bonus marshmallows, but I got a mostly regular Lucky Charms with a hint of cinnamon instead.

That said, Lucky Charms rock, and adding a touch of cinnamon makes them a little bit better. Plus, we got some special winter (they tried) marshmallows, and the cereal milk was a very light cinnamon vanilla flavor, which was lovely.

Limited Edition Cinnamon Vanilla Lucky Charms didn’t charm my pants off. It could be better. But a new LC is special in and of itself, so they get some extra points for trying.

By the way, did you figure out the answer to the riddle?

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 55 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, 11 grams of other carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein,.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A new Lucky Charms flavor. Learning about “Sir Charms”. Hints of warm cinnamon. Great box design. Tasty cereal milk.
Cons: For once, I wanted a stronger cinnamon flavor. Snowmen with no eyes. Vanilla seemed to only come from marshmallows. Marbits shapes are…questionable.

REVIEW: Doritos Crunch Mix (Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch)

Doritos Crunch Mix  Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch

I recently hit up 7-Eleven for a post-workout protein bar, because I’m super muscular and fit, and also extremely strong and powerful! While admiring my pythons in the drink case window’s reflection, something caught my eye — a stocked shelf of little Doritos branded cartons.

Variety is, as they say, “the spice of life,” and that expression has never rung truer than when pertaining to snack mixes. Why eat a pretzel when you can eat a pretzel with a corn chip, an M&M, a cashew, cereal, and a peanut butter cup?

Better question, why did it take so long for something like Doritos Crunch Mix to hit the market?

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For a long time, Munchies was the only mix available with Doritos, but we live in wild snack concoction times and Frito-Lay is at the forefront.

The “Crunch Nut” is what you think it is – a peanut inside of a Dorito. Picture a Peanut M&M, except instead of chocolate and candy shell, it’s a Dorito. That’s probably how this idea was initially pitched to a T.

As you’d imagine, Crunch Nuts are pretty good. I found that the peanut flavor pushed through more with the Nacho mix than Cool Ranch. It somehow made itself known, almost making it too nutty. The cheese mixed with the creaminess of the chewed peanut had a different dynamic than with the Ranch, which was almost dulled by the peanut if anything.

Doritos Crunch Mix  Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch 3

I was pretty satisfied with the main attraction. How was the supporting cast?

The triangles are basically mini versions of those Doritos Jacked 3D chips and thus are the closest in texture to a regular Dorito.

The puffs are appropriately flavored, very light and airy cheese balls. They’re a stark contrast to the next two players in the mix.

The pretzels are essentially Snyder’s Nacho Cheese/Ranch Pretzel Pieces, and the corn sticks only exist to make you nervous you’re gonna crack a tooth. Naturally, they were the most abundant.

Doritos Crunch Mix  Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch 5

I don’t understand why every snack mix insists on having that one ingredient that could break your molar on any given chew. Chex has the bagel chips and trail mixes have 25-year-old almonds.

This mix would have been fine with the pretzel pieces. The corn sticks, while tasty on their own, served very little purpose other than adding a rocky texture that wasn’t necessary to the enjoyment of the other pieces.

In case you’re wondering, they sell packs of the Crunch Nuts alone, but why even bother when the mix exists?

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I preferred the Cool Ranch one, but that’s always been my Doritos preference.

So, if you don’t have any dental paranoia like me, you’ll enjoy the Doritos Crunch Mixes. Frito-Lay continues to go onward and upward with their selection. Hopefully, a Doritos 3Ds revival is in our future. Let’s make that happen.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – Nacho Cheese – 210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Cool Ranch – 210 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99 each
Size: 3 oz. package
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Nacho Cheese)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Cool Ranch)
Pros: Any new snack mix is a good thing. Doritos never fail. Resealable carton packaging. My impressive physique despite eating multiple cartons of Doritos Crunch Mix.
Cons: Some pieces are rock hard. Corn sticks are just filler. Peanut taste is a bit too prominent in Nacho mix. Is a single Doritos chip technically called a “Dorito?” I miss Doritos 3Ds. I lie about my muscles a lot.