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.

REVIEW: Hostess Bakery Petites

Hostess Bakery Petites

Hostess’ new Bakery Petites line looks classier than the company’s iconic gang of treats — Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs. While the old school treats continue to be the definition of convenience store chic and have names that probably have different meanings when looked up on Urban Dictionary, the new ones come in resealable bags with classy, curvy graphics and photos that put them on an actual pedestal to show that they’re better.

Hostess’ Bakery Petites are available in six varieties, which I’ve listed and reviewed below in no particular order.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights

Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights

The Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights look like mini unfrosted Hostess Cupcakes rejects. Each one is slightly wider than a quarter and has a sunken middle, which I thought is a no-no when it comes to baking. But it’s not a production error because that’s how they look on the packaging. If that bothers you, I imagine frosting would make a great toupee to hide it.

If you’re someone who loves corner brownies and thinks because they’re round they must be all-corner brownies, slow your roll. While a little chewy, it’s not edge-chewy and I wish they were a little less cakey, but that’s a personal preference. There are chocolate bits inside each one, providing a delightful creamy bite and punching up the cocoa.

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They taste like chocolate cake Hostess products and there are moments when I taste a little greasiness, but it’s still a pleasant chocolatey treat. They’re tasty enough that I ate more than the three-piece serving size in one sitting.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini brownies): 170 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights

Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights

The Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights look exactly alike its Chocolate Chunk sibling, even the dent on top of every piece. They’re so much alike that the photo below is actually not a photo of the raspberry mini brownies. Just kidding. They are.

But, while its sibling has chocolate chunks, this has real raspberries. Although, they come in a form I’ve never heard of before — raspberry flakes. They’re like Ben & Jerry’s Fudge Flakes in that they’re made from chocolate and aren’t flakes. They’re chunks, SO WHY AREN’T THEY CALL CHUNKS!!! Anyhoo, they give the brownie bites a familiar raspberry aroma that I’ve smelled with other confections and a tart candied raspberry flavor.

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While almost all the raspberry flavor comes from the flakes, the brownie part has a little fruitiness. This causes the chocolate to take a back seat. While these mini brownies are fine and I don’t have a problem with the fruit flavor, the Chocolate Chunk ones were more pleasing.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini brownies): 170 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Double Chocolate Cake Delights

Double Chocolate Cake Bites

These are like Cake Pops except without the sticks, so if you want to impress folks with cake pop, BYOS. They feature a chocolate creme center surrounded by chocolate cake that’s dipped in chocolate icing and sprinkled with white nonpareils.

The white nonpareils do the following — give a color contrast, add a crunch that contrasts the soft, chocolatey parts, and make them look more than chocolate balls. They don’t add any flavor and that’s a little disappointing because, just like the the Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights, they have that familiar Hostess chocolate cake flavor.

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While those brownies look like mini unfrosted Cupcakes, the chocolatey icing layer helps these taste a lot like Hostess Cupcakes but without the vanilla creme filling. With so much chocolate, it’s hard to taste the different components, especially creme. Wait. Why am I complaining about too much chocolate? I’m being such a chocolate grinch. The cake is moist and the icing layer has a satisfying bite like a sugary glaze on a donut. The Double Chocolate Cake Bites are the ones I finished first and they’re my favorite.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini cakes): 180 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites White Fudge Vanilla Cake Delights

White Fudge Vanilla Cake Bites

Out of all of these fancy treats, from the packaging, these look the fanciest — colorful sprinkles on white fudge that coats a yellow cake ball filled with creme. They look so neat that I just want to take a photo of them, post it to Instagram, and wait for the Likes to start rolling in.

But they look a little less impressive in real life. The colorful sprinkles’ brightness is muted because they’re in the fudge coating and not on top of it. With that said, even with the way they are, they still look fancier than the others.

But they also don’t taste impressive.

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Despite not having anything regarding cherries in its ingredients list, they smell and taste like maraschino cherries. Also, the cake is dryer than the chocolate one. As for the creme filling, its flavor reminds me custard, but it gets overwhelmed with that fruity flavor. The sprinkles do add a crunchy element to the ping pong ball-sized treats, but they don’t help make them less odd tasting.

Since I don’t think white fudge vanilla cake when I eat these, and I find that to be a bit odd, they ended up being my least favorite of the six varieties.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini cake): 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins

Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins

Hostess totally misspelled “Crispi.” It should be spelled C-O-O-K-I-E.

Their rectangle shape makes me think of blond brownies, but when I eat them, all I think about are chocolate chip cookies. They’re crispy, have a brown sugar vibe, and hard to stop eating. Well, the only times I stopped eats by them as to see if the piece I picked up had chocolate on it.

If you look at the photo on the packaging you’ll see that every piece has at least two chocolate dots on them, but in real life that’s not the case. A number of my pieces didn’t have any chocolate which is disappointing because the chocolate adds a creaminess that’s the opposite of the crispy texture. The chocolate looks like they’re a little melted but without the mess of being melted.

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The brown sugary goodness, I guess, helps it taste more like a blondie brownie, but I still think chocolate chip cookie when I eat them.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (1 ounce): 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Brownie Crispi Thins

Chocolate Brownie Crispi Thins

While the Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins taste like a chocolate chip cookie, the Chocolate Brownie version tastes more like a brownie thanks to a little bit of dark fudginess. But I could also see these being mistaken flavor-wise as chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

Unlike the blondie version, almost every piece has a chocolate or two. There was even a piece that had five chocolate chips. BONUS!!! They have the same crispiness as the blondie version and the chocolate has the same soft texture. But without the chocolate chips, the thins are bland.

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Brownie thins aren’t a new idea. Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle has been around for years, but I’ve never had it, so I can’t compare. But I can compare the two brownie Crispi Thins, and they’re equally tasty.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (1 ounce): 120 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Sooo, that’s all the flavors.

Overall, I like the idea of Hostess’ Bakery Petites. Cake bites, mini brownies, and brownie thins aren’t new, but they also aren’t very common in the snack aisle. So it’s nice to see a big brand offer them. They use real vanilla and chocolate, and aren’t made using high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavor or colors, which I’m pretty sure is not the case with their popular treats. I guess they show that Hostess is capable of something more than convenience store chic.

Thanks to Impulsive Buy reader Carla for sending me all the varieties.

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.”

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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!

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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?”

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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?

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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.