REVIEW: Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino

Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino

Starbucks putting out a Fruitcake Frappuccino is strange because the holiday baked good is not universally beloved.

To me, the fruitcake is not a horrible dessert. But it’s not something I jump at when I’m being bombarded every holiday season by more appealing treats. There’s red velvet cakes, chocolate cupcakes, sugar cookies, gingerbread men, and the list goes deliciously on and on. It’s like that email you’re not excited to reply to that gets pushed down your inbox. And by the time you get to it, its too late to do anything, so it ends up in the trash.

While there’s a good chance fruitcakes gifted to me will end up in the rubbish, I can’t say the same about Starbucks’ Fruitcake Frappuccino. It’s better tasting than any fruitcake I’ve ever had, but it’s also damn annoying to drink.

The blended beverage features a Hazelnut Frappuccino base with dried fruit, cinnamon, milk, and ice. Then it’s topped with whipped cream, caramel dots, and a matcha sprinkle.

Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino 3

The dried fruits are cranberries, golden raisins, zante currant raisins, and cherries. The fruit bits made the beverage look festive, but their flavors were hard to distinguish individually when drinking it. 

Starbucks Fruitcake Frappuccino 2

The cinnamon, caramel, and hazelnut base gave the beverage a brown sugar, pastry-like flavor. That, combined with the dried fruits, helped the beverage fit the fruitcake flavor profile. To be honest, it was a bit weird to be chewing on a beverage, but at the same time it was an appropriate texture. The matcha powder seemed odd, but I thought it added a sweet nuttiness, helping it come close to matcha-ing (I’m sorry) the flavor of fruitcake.

While the chewy dried fruits helped me imagine the taste and texture of fruitcake, they also made the coffee-less Frappuccino difficult to consume. On several occasions the dried fruit pieces that weren’t blended well ended up clogging the straw. So if your local Starbucks happens to be near a bubble tea shop, I recommend swiping one of those wider straws made to suck up tapioca balls.

As someone who’s somewhat indifferent about fruitcake, I’m a bit surprised I enjoyed Starbucks’ Fruitcake Frappuccino. If your feelings for the holiday dessert/paperweigh are the same as mine or lean towards the positive side, you might also enjoy it. But do it quick because, unfortunately, it’s available only for a few days.

(Nutrition Facts – grande with whole milk and whipped cream – 430 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 230 milligrams of sodium, 69 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 66 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Grande
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: It does remind me of a fruitcake. Better tasting than any fruitcake I’ve ever had. Cinnamon, caramel, and hazelnut base gave the beverage a brown sugar, pastry-like flavor. The dried fruit gives it some fiber.
Cons: Annoying to drink through a straw because of the dried fruit clogging it. A little weird to be chewing on a beverage. Available for a very limited time.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies

I’m starting to think I might have the wrong mailing address for Santa Claus.

You see, twenty years ago, I sent Santa a letter asking for a Super Soaker CPS 2000. All of the kids in my neighborhood were getting one, so I just had to get one too. I’d be blasting my friends in the face with ice cold water in no time!

But there was one problem…the Super Soaker CPS 2000 never came. Surely there was just a mistake at the North Pole Postal Service—they’re very busy during this time of year. So every December since, I’ve written Santa a letter asking for a brand new Super Soaker CPS 2000. You’re probably thinking, “Ben, you loser, you’re an adult! You can’t go around playing with Super Soakers, even if you do get one.” Ha! The joke’s on you. I’m a grown male who still writes letters to Santa Claus. Do you really expect me to care about what people think of me playing with a Super Soaker? Who’s the loser now?

Just to make sure Santa stops by my house this year, I’ll be leaving him these new Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies. I hope Santa isn’t a s’mores lover; these cookies aren’t made to include any graham flavor whatsoever. Instead, Toasted Marshmallow Milano cookies are just regular Milano cookies with an additional marshmallow-flavored layer.

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies 2

Well, at least I think there’s an additional marshmallow-flavored layer. Toasted Marshmallow Milano cookies have a sugary, creamy flavor to them, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s distinctly “marshmallow” or if it’s just coming from the milk chocolate layer. Either way, it’s certainly not toasted. I’m not saying Pepperidge Farm had to dip each of these cookies in liquid smoke — that would actually be pretty disgusting — but with a name like “Toasted Marshmallow,” I would hope that these Milano cookies could have some semblance of being toasted.

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies 3

I searched for a toasted flavor in the cookie, too. No luck. It’s just the same standard Milano cookie, like a lighter shortbread. Its rich, floury-yet-buttery flavor is good, but it dominates the overall flavor of the cookie. Aside from a few lucky bites, the cookie tends to overpower the flavors within — and that is the real problem with Toasted Marshmallow Milano cookies. You can taste “marshmallow” and milk chocolate, but never together. In short, these cookies are pretty good, but not nearly as great as they could have been.

If the last twenty years have taught me anything, it’s how to deal with failed expectations. But as Pepperidge Farm just taught me, two can play that game.

Pepperidge Farm Toasted Marshmallow Milano Cookies 4

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Marshmallow and milk chocolate layers are sweet and creamy. Familiar rich, buttery cookie. Learning life lessons. The North Pole Postal Service.
Cons: Not toasted. Shortbread cookie dominates the overall flavor. Still wishing for a Super Soaker CPS 2000. Passive-aggressively leaving one cookie for Santa Claus.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s It’s Sedimentary, My Dear Cookie

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie

On picking up Trader Joe’s It’s Sedimentary, My Dear Cookie mix, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a little. The precious Mason jar, the muted tones of the “candy coated chocolate drops,” the cutesy crowd-sourced name. I wanted to trust the company that’s kept me in Speculoos Cookie Butter all this time, however. I read the instructions – mix butter and egg, dump entire jar in.

Wait. What?

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 2

First rule of Cookie Baking Club is: cream the butter and sugar first. Most cookie recipes (and all mothers) will tell you that whipping the sugar and butter together until pale and fluffy before everything else is cookie gospel. It’s what makes them light and airy. Now Trader Joe was telling me not to. I feared ending up with hockey pucks – something your childhood friends’ hippie parents would give you, saying “These are better than Chips Ahoy, trust me!”

Initial impression opening the jar was the smell of OATS! The oat force was strong with this one. Peanut Butter chips and graham cracker crumbs were present, although aromatically invisible. The dough came together quickly in my mixer – less than 30 seconds. Second rule of Cookie Baking Club: Don’t overmix!

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 3

Using a loosely-packed 2-Tbsp scoop, I was able to form 30 cookies, despite the label stating it would make 18. That’s a pretty good yield. Next – refrigerate the dough for two hours.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 4

TWO HOURS? What kind of patience and willpower does Trader Joe’s think I have? With a tiny fridge, I had to cram every other cold item I own into the crisper bin so these free-range oat balls could chillax.

Eventually, it was time to bake. Since they were cold, the dough didn’t spread or flatten much – more like puffed out into domes.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 5

I must admit, these cookies surprised me.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 6

They’re dense, but not potential deadly weapons in a food fight. More than 4 might leave you feeling like there’s rocks in your belly, though. They were crumbly on the outside and soft on the inside.

After baking, the oats piped down and let the peanut butter chips and graham cracker crumbs dominate the flavor, which I appreciated.

Trader Joe's It's Sedimentary My Dear Cookie 7

I would have liked more “candy coated chocolate drops” for color, but overall, this was a pretty decent cookie mix. Could be a nice gift for busy parents, kids, or anyone who wants to upgrade from the “cut and bake” pre-made cookie dough.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/8 cup (as prepared per directions) – 200 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 23 oz. jar
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Easy to make. Nice earthy peanut butter and graham cracker flavor. Presentation is gift-appropriate.
Cons: Could use more “candy coated chocolate drops.” Cynics might contract charming-itis from the whole thing.

REVIEW: Apple Pie Tic Tac

Apple Pie Tic Tac

Tic Tacs — the little candy that pretends to be a breath mint, even though I doubt they’ve ever freshened anyone’s breath. I don’t know about you, but my mouth feels worse when I have a Tic Tac.

But that doesn’t stop me from buying their holiday versions. Usually that means they just mix a few of their existing flavors into a new color scheme. But they’re branching out more into new flavors.

Hence the new Apple Pie Tic Tacs. I found them in the Christmas candy aisle (next to Candy Cane Tic Tacs), and the label says it’s “stocking stuffer size” (because obviously regular-sized Tic Tacs are too small to fit in a stocking), but other than that, these don’t scream Christmas. I associate apple pie more with Thanksgiving, so that’s a good thing.

I find it a little odd that they’re red, because when I eat apple pie, the apples are peeled, so it’s just a mixture of whites and tans. But I guess beige Tic Tacs wouldn’t sell well. The little apple pie drawing on the label looks like it could be full of giant red Tic Tacs (or else regular Tic Tacs in a tiny pie). Also, the apple on the label is green. Weird.

When I pop one in my mouth, it just tastes like apple, fairly similar to Green Apple Tic Tacs. (Both kinds are made with dried apples, but these specify that they’re dried red apples.) After I suck on it, other flavors kick in, though I can’t tell what flavors. It’s not really spicy, but it is vaguely reminiscent of pie. My niece and my sister said it tastes like Sugar Babies, but I didn’t taste that.

Regardless of what they taste like, these are good. Imma venture these are the best fruity Tic Tacs I’ve ever had. In fact, I might go so far as to say these are the best Tic Tacs I’ve ever had, period.

But, at the end of the day, they’re still just Tic-Tacs. They have no place on the Thanksgiving dinner table. But they will gladly be passed around afterward during the football game.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 piece – 1.9 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, less than 0.5 grams of carbohydrates, less than 0.5 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 1.7 oz. container
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes vaguely like pie. Better than most, or all, Tic Tacs. Seasonal flavors. Not excessively marketed for Christmas.
Cons: Doesn’t freshen breath. Inaccurate red color.

REVIEW: Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger

From the same folks who gave you sandwiches doused in bourbon and moonshine infused sauce comes Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.’s latest alco-hamburger, the All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger.

From the get-go, it’s a much less ambitious burger than we’re used to from the chain – lest we forget, this is the same brand that once sold us a sandwich topped with a split weenie and a handful of potato chips.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger 2

The non-deluxe versions come with a charbroiled beef patty topped with a sliver of Swiss cheese and a hearty dollop of caramelized onions and thick coating of the eponymous Bud cheese, which I’d describe as a sweet nacho cheddar blend with a sugary hops and barley aftertaste (and before you ask, no, you can’t get loaded eating a small mountain of burgers). On top of that you’ve got your customary lettuce and tomato slices, with a cameo appearance by two fairly salty strips of bacon. The whole shebang is shoved into a brioche bun, which has a distinct honey-kissed flavor that gels incredibly well with the Cheese-weiser sauce.

Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Budweiser Beer Cheese Bacon Burger 3

As you’d imagine, it’s a pretty messy meal. Just removing the top bun guarantees at least a splash of cheese sauce is going to spatter on the table, but the impromptu Gallagher performance is easily forgiven considering how filling the burger is. The solo patty version pretty much immobilized me for a good half hour, so I can only imagine the severity – and satisfaction – of the after-effects of the double patty permutation or the 1/3-pounder Black Angus Thickburger.

Your mileage will vary on the saccharine nature of the burger dressings, though. An hour after eating my burger I still had a pronounced honey wheat hangover in the back of my throat, and be forewarned, when the beer cheese fully congeals, it becomes almost as sweet as cake frosting.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed the chain’s latest brew-burger. It strikes a very nice balance of savory, smoky and sugary without any one flavor becoming too dominant. As long as you can handle a little umami with your ale – and you’re not averse to a strong sucrose sensation from time to time – I’d say this Bud’s definitely for you.

(Nutrition Facts – Single Patty Burger – 710 calories, 340 calories from fat, 38 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 1430 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 40 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.59 (single patty)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very filling. A nice medley of flavors that are surprisingly harmonious. Being able to literally chew Budweiser.
Cons: An unexpectedly prolonged sugar rush; being forced to eat it with a fork to keep cheese from glomping to your fingers. Still having to wait for a Heineken-flavored chicken sandwich.