REVIEW: Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies

Sometime during the 1920s, amidst the green oak pines of St. Lambert Country Club in Quebec, a wealthy hotel mogul by the name of David Mulligan tightened his knickers, squared up to the tee, drew his driver back, and proceeded to hit a golf ball directly into a sand trap—on an adjacent hole.

“Shiitake mushroom!” he exclaimed, realizing there were ladies nearby and wishing to abstain from obscenities. “I do believe I shall need a correction shot for that one!”

“Another one!?!” his friend, Rupert T. Bosworth Esquire III bellowed. “My, you take so many correction shots they ought to just call them mulligans!”

And so the common term for a do-over was born.

Food companies don’t often get mulligans —- at least not as many as the U.S. golfers admit to taking. But then again, companies don’t really deserve second chances, if you ask me. If you’re paying people to engineer delicious, they damn well better engineer delicious the first time around. That or they need a really good reason to try a flavor again.

In the case of Cookie Dough Oreo Cookies, I’m glad Oreo took a mulligan. It’s not that the 2014 limited edition cookie was bad, but rather that it should have been called “Caramel Latte” Oreos. Such was the intensity of the coffee flavor. But when it came to pure, unadulterated, E. coli-be-damned cookie dough madness, well, Cookie Dough Oreo left a lot to be desired.

The new Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo leave far less to be desired. This is a cookie that blurs the line between sandwich cookie and chocolate chip cookie like no other, capturing the very best of packaged chocolate chip cookie flavor without forcing you to stop in front of the Chips Ahoy! display and ponder the question chewy or original?

Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies 3

The “choco chip” cookie base, an entirely new conception for Oreo, is crunchy and balanced, with notes of brown sugar and tiny bursts of chocolate. It’s not the greatest representation of a chocolate chip cookie we’ve ever seen in packaged form, but it has a sort of dippable appeal that I’d compare to a chocolate chip Teddy Graham or those old Nabisco Chips Ahoy! 100-calorie pack cookie thins.

Limited Edition Choco Chip Oreo Cookies 2

Speaking of dippable –- yeah, that’s where the creme center comes in. Where traditional Oreo creme is a bit stiff and grainy, the choco chip cookie creme has a frosting-like smoothness and viscosity to go along with a strong burst of sweetness and an aftertaste of molasses and brown sugar. On its own it’s a bit too sweet, but taken in a complete bite with the crunchy wafer, it’s like chomping down on a cookie dough stuffed cookie.

There’s no coffee flavors, and unlike the sometimes disjointed bite of the Cookie Dough Oreo, where the chocolate wafer and coffee creme competed, the flavor of the Choco Chip Oreo is pure chocolate chip cookie. The only downside is predictable: there’s only so much buttery and eggy richness that can be stuffed inside a shelf-stable 14-ounce cookie.

Choco Chip Oreo Cookies aren’t a hole in one, but I’m okay with that. Sometimes you just gotta admire a straight drive down the fairway, and be content with very good. I mean, it could be worse. You could be eating coffee-flavored cookies out of a sand trap or something. So thank you, Mr. Mulligan, for sucking at golf. This Oreo redo is for you.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 10.7 oz package
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Chocolate chip cookie dough meets Duncan Hines frosting. Much more authentic chocolate chip cookie flavor than Cookie Dough Oreo. Second chances in the cookie aisle.
Cons: A bit too sweet. Both the wafer and filling lack eggy and buttery richness. What the fudge is “choco” anyway?

REVIEW: Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs

An éclair looks like a chocolate bar donut and sounds like some kind of frou frou French gizmo. I can practically hear my high school French teacher scolding: “Don’t you dare forget that accent aigu above the eh (how “e” is pronounced in French)!” But, if you’ve tried to make éclairs, you’ll quickly realize that this classic French pastry deserves to be embellished with that dang accent because of how complicated it is to make.

So what business does Hershey’s have with éclairs? Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs of course! Yep, sounds odd to me too. But I taste-tested these with an open mind. After trying these babies, Hershey’s can make all the frozen ready-to-eat desserts they want!

Instead of instant gratification, I had to thaw the mini éclairs for two hours in the fridge or 30 minutes at room temperature. I jokingly complain, but I’ll take a 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time any day. Unfortunately, my first red flag was that there was freezer burn; little ice crystals were hugging each of the mini éclairs. But, there’s no way to tell if the freezer burn was user error. So, I’ll give Hershey’s the benefit of the doubt – maybe I didn’t get the box into the freezer quickly enough from Walmart. The packaging does warn not to refreeze!

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs 2

Either way, because of the freezer burn, the mini éclairs didn’t look great thawed. The ice crystals melted down and made the chocolate look like it was balmy with sweat. Yum, sweaty chocolate. Surprisingly, the overall structural integrity of the oblong choux pastry remained intact. I expected the pastry itself to collapse after the freezer burn thawed out.

Hershey's Cre?me Filled Mini E?clairs 3

I got through each mini éclair in three swift bites. The crème inside was very luscious and did not have an oily mouthfeel. Paired with the Hershey’s chocolate glaze, it was like I was eating creamy, milk chocolate goodness. The combination was also not sickeningly sweet; I’m not a fan of desserts that are cloyingly sweet. The glaze reminded me of the outside of a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone. And, like a dipped cone, the chocolate wrapped each choux pastry perfectly and the ratio was perfect – just enough for the amount of pastry.

The chocolate glaze was the choux pastry’s saving grace because the pastry itself wasn’t great. Could I tell the éclair had been frozen? If I didn’t personally thaw them, I might not have been able to. But, there was something about the pastry texture that clearly wasn’t fresh. It’s like fresh bagels vs. the day-old bagel pile – it tastes about the same but it’s missing that fresh dough elasticity and spring.

I could totally see myself bringing Hershey’s Crème Filled Mini Éclairs for a potluck and shamelessly taking credit for making them. But, Hershey’s must think we’re all ants because these mini éclairs are teeny-tiny! This is ‘MURRICAA!! However, Hershey’s is staying true to the essence of an éclair with this mini innovation. After all, éclairs were named after lightning because people eat ‘em (especially me) lightning quick!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 éclairs – 270 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.52
Size: 10.58 oz box/about 20 pieces
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: 30-minute thaw time over four-hour éclairs-from-scratch time. Luscious crème. Creamy, milk chocolate goodness like a Dairy Queen Dipped Cone.
Cons: Freezer burn. Sweaty chocolate. Choux pastry = day old bagel pile. Éclairs for ants.

REVIEW: Nabisco Red Velvet Chips Ahoy Cookies

Nabisco Red Velvet Chips Ahoy Cookies

Wouldn’t life be more fun if humans were stuffed with sugary white crème?

Doctors would use frosting bags instead of syringes. Getting a paper cut could help you ice that last cupcake. Donating blood would be as easy as pushing down on your nose like a whipped cream nozzle. What a good ol’ gooey world it would be.

Hey, I see you groaning out there. Why don’t you try writing an entertaining introduction to yet another processed snack cookie?

Today’s Instagram-able and instantly grab-able treat is Red Velvet Chips Ahoy!, a new flavor from Nabisco’s cookie brand that loves pissing off autocorrect by requiring exclamation points in the middle of sentences.

Look Chips Ahoy!, just because you’ll never live up to big brother Oreo’s legacy doesn’t mean you have to take it out on us.

Speaking of brothers, Red Velvet Chips Ahoy! debuted alongside S’mores Chips Ahoy!. But while S’mores is the extroverted cookie that goes to bonfires, Red Velvet is the basement-dwelling “womanizer” who tries to act classy while lamenting to his body pillow.

Nabisco Red Velvet Chips Ahoy Cookies 2

Like any such basement “gentleman,” these cookies are super oily, more than a little buttery, and have a belly full of cream cheese. Slick and crumbly to the touch, my moist cookie practically melted under the weight of my gaze, let alone my teeth.

With one cookie down, I can already say these taste a lot like real red velvet cake. Well, maybe not “As Seen And Drooled Over on the Food Network” real, but definitely “As Purchased from the Walmart Bakery” real red velvet cake.

The maroon dough has a great fluffy, sweetened cocoa base inside of its squishy exterior, and there are persistent pulses of browned butter throughout.

Nabisco Red Velvet Chips Ahoy Cookies 3

I’m not sure if the cream cheese chips and crème core are supposed to taste the same, but as I crammed entire cookies into my mouth like they were plastic pizza disks into that retro Ninja Turtles toy we all owned, they certainly had the same flavor. The crème and chips are quite buttery, creamy, and buttercream frosting-y, with a slightly off-putting — but no less authentic — granulated texture.

As for red velvet cake’s signature, slightly sour tang, it can be tasted in these Red Velvet Chips Ahoy! cookies, but not if you nibble on ‘em slowly. To get “astronaut beverage” levels of biting tang, you have to cram entire cookies into your mouth like they’re obscure Ninja Turtles metaphors crammed into my reviews.

Red Velvet Chips Ahoy! cookies really do taste like 1-2 bite sized versions of grocery store red velvet cakes —- the kind you buy on clearance because they already have “Happy 74th Birthday Clarence” sloppily iced onto them. Though these cookies have a more tactile cookie “crust” than a real cake, they share all the buttery ups and gritty downs of the real thing.

They even have the faint chemical aftertaste from the food dye. While this artificialness may be off-putting to some, I’ve tasted eau de Red 40 in so many red velvet cakes that it’s become a welcome part of the red velvet experience.

Nabisco Red Velvet Chips Ahoy Cookies 4

These pleasant, yet shamelessly processed cookies would nonetheless work as a welcome snack at a summer picnic or a dessert pizza at an action figure birthday party.

And if that last picture didn’t clue you in:, let me tell you: I am not a S’mores Chips Ahoy! in real life.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 65 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.59
Size: 9.6 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Grocery store-grade red velvet authenticity. Moist and spongy cookie “crust.” The underrated joy of buttery saturated fat. Lifesaving cookie crème transfusions.
Cons: Mostly unwanted dye aftertaste. The necessary evil of gritty cream. Secretly being a basement-loving cookie in real life. Accidentally spilling cookies on my floor while checking nutrition facts.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Bacon Mozzarella Burger

Wendy’s Bacon Mozzarella Burger

Listen close, boys and girls: today’s secret word is “twang.”

Yep, “twang:” everyone’s favorite flavor descriptor that’s fun to overuse and hard to explain, but easily recognizable when you taste it. And every time I use it in my review of Wendy’s new Bacon Mozzarella Burger, I want you to scream as loud as you can like it’s Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

My apologies to any librarians reading this.

There’s a lot going on in this sandwich, and as the kind of easily overwhelmed person who can’t even decide which grocery aisle to go down first, it helps for me to quickly break it down into parts. So after fixing my hair in the bun’s reflective gloss and becoming That Guy Publically Pointing A Camera At His Hamburger™, I started dissecting.

Wendy’s Bacon Mozzarella Burger 2

Let’s start with that Brioche bun: it has a hyper garlicky and buttery glaze on top of a fragile and well-browned shell that hides fluffy, doughy innards. It’s addictively lick-able, but make sure you don’t touch your camera lens after handling it, unless you like having your review photos look like something out of a hazy movie desert scene.

The festive leafy greens on my Bacon Mozzarella Burger ranged from “fresh, and crisp” to “dark and damp clumps that belong in an amateur production of Little Shop of Horrors.” However, every leaf does a good job of absorbing the addictive twanginess (AHHH!) of the Parmesan Garlic sauce.

And speaking of Parmesan Garlic sauce: Parmesan Garlic sauce! It’s easily the best part of this sandwich, as it combines a buttery base with a biting garlic twang and nostril-tickling notes of nutty cheese that’s been carefully aged in the remote hills of Italy by a wise hermit.

The combo of cheesy and creamy really did remind me of Italian restaurant Alfredo sauce. When doused in this sauce, the burger’s raw red onions deliver a welcome two-pronged bite effect. That’s right: this twang’s got fangs.

The beef burger itself is impressive, too. It tastes freshly browned and salted without being dry, while its core is juicy without being messy. I just wish the bacon and cheese had as much flavor. The Applewood Smoked Bacon tasted of neither apples nor fresh cedar planks, and it had little charcoal-smoked twang.

The mozzarella, meanwhile, was smooth but practically tasteless—it’s a boring cheese choice that really puts the sleepy “zz” in mozzarella.

Wendy’s Bacon Mozzarella Burger 3

It doesn’t matter too much, though. Just like in nature and in many other multi-ingredient burgers, when eaten as a whole, the Bacon Mozzarella Burger’s strongly flavored ingredients swallow many of the weaker ones. In this case, the bun, burger, and Parmesan Garlic sauce dominate with a tasty trio of buttered garlic beef.

It’s like an Olive Garden meal (with breadsticks) in squeezable sandwich form and on a drive-thru budget. Though my single burger rang up at $5.99, the suggested price is $4.69. At that dollar figure, I’d highly recommend this “Taste of Fast Food Italy Burger.”

Even though some ingredients underwhelmed, the rest were impressive enough that you’d think Wendy brought them back from a study abroad trip in Italy that she won’t shut up about for the next five years.

Now I think I need to stop licking butter off my camera and get out of this restaurant before the secret Wendy’s police hauls me off kicking, screaming, and babbling about twangy Italian cheese hermits.

(Nutrition Facts – Single burger – 620 calories, 330 calories from fat, 37 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 120 milligrams of cholesterol, 1430 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: Single
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Italian-American fusion you can eat at 70mph. Buttery Brioche worth ruining technology over. Parmesan cave gurus. Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Twang Chung tonight.
Cons: MozzZzzZZarella. Having to go to Home Depot for properly woody bacon. Burger price variability. Limp spinach swamp monsters. Eternally being “That Guy.”

REVIEW: Lay’s Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips

Barbeque season is upon us once again, and your old friend Vin is here to share a dirty little secret with you.

No one really likes your potato salad.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the side dish you made/bought is not as big a hit as your well-meaning friends are making it seem. There’s a reason it’s the last thing remaining on the table as the sun drops, just rotting there in a warm, gelatinous clump of misery as the guests head for their cars.

In terms of the salad offerings at any given BBQ, potato almost always ranks behind macaroni. If chicken salad is on the menu, forget about it! Hell, potato salad usually ranks behind regular salad. With all due respect to all the red headed stepchildren of the world, potato salad is truly the you of summer BBQ staples.

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips 2

Crispy chips are tastier than starchy spud cubes slathered in a gross mayo concoction and the good folks at Frito-Lay are well aware of this. That’s why they’re ready to make the summer of ‘16 potato salad-free with the introduction of their “new” flavor, Creamy Bacon Potato Salad.

Now that I think about it, potato salad was probably an easy flavor to reproduce in chip form. You’re already working with potato. Add a buzzworthy ingredient – possibly the buzziest – in “bacon,” and yup, this seems like it might actually work.

They certainly smell the part. These are the best smelling chips I’ve had in some time. Upon tearing open the bag, I was hit with the aroma of bacon bits. It’s a bit more artificial than freshly cooked bacon, but amazing nonetheless.

I guess the initial flavor is the “salad” component of the chip. There’s a sharp vinegary, mayonnaise taste, but that is immediately trounced by bacon. Beyond that quick surge, these are basically a loaded baked potato.

Lay's Creamy Bacon Potato Salad Potato Chips 3

Sure, I was put in mind of potato salad for a split second, but it doesn’t seem like they even tried to steer this away from loaded baked potato. Sour cream, onion powder, and cheddar cheese are listed in the ingredients. It’s a potato chip and bacon is the star of the show. What’s missing? That’s a loaded baked potato.

Think of them like this – If you filled three-fourths of a bowl with 3/4 loaded baked potato chips and then filled the rest with salt and vinegar, this would be the end result.

These chips are a delicious sham. Lay’s repackaged a slight variation on an old flavor and designed a shiny new bag. I’m not mad at ‘em, and when you try these, you won’t be either. I am however mad about one minor thing.

I realize sour cream and onion is one of the most popular chips in the world, but why is “Creamy” necessary here? First of all, “Creamy Bacon” is a weird combination of words that illicit some weird thoughts in my brain. Second of all, it’s a chip. It’s not creamy. Even if you’re mimicking the taste of “creamy” potato salad, we don’t need to know it’s creamy, it’s assumed. Not to mention, “creamy” is a disgusting word. It’s my “moist.” This concludes my creamy rant.

Next time you’re considering bringing potato salad to a BBQ, think better of it. Grab a bag of these and pick up some macaroni salad. Your hosts/guests will appreciate it.

Fans of any of the numerous bacon-centric flavors Lay’s has put out in the past will love these. If you like potato skins appetizers, you’ll love these. If you like summer, you’ll love these.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce – 150 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.48
Size: 7 3/4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: One of the better new flavors in a while. Worthy replacement for gross potato salad. Smells great. Buzzworthy bacon.
Cons: Basically a retread flavor in a shiny new bag. Imagining what creamy bacon might taste like. The word “creamy” in general. Potato salad.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Empower Mint Ice Cream

Ben & Jerrry's Empower Mint

What’s that old adage about pizza and sex? I think it’s something like, “Hey, both of these things are good, even when the quality is less than ideal.” Well, ice cream is sort of the same way. I mean, when was the last time you took a large spoonful of ice cream and immediately spit it out in disgust? Never, that’s when.

But that’s not to say that all ice cream is necessarily created equal, either.

Eschewing brick and mortar operations where your cone is packed by a surly teen, and the potentially terrifying experience that comes with purchasing something from a rusty truck piloted by an angry man of some vague, eastern European origin, one is left with the dizzying array of options from the local supermarket.

As a generally indecisive person, the ice cream aisle cripples me. So I just always go with what I know: Ben and Jerry’s. The two cordial hippies from Vermont really do make a fine ice cream. Really, it’s hard to find a bad entry in their catalogue. They’ve made an art-form — and a gajillion dollars —- out of something simple: quality ingredients melded together masterfully in interesting ways with complete disregard for the health of the partaker.

God bless them, I reckon, for giving the people what they want.

And EMPOWER mint (that’s how it’s spelled on the label, anyway) is no different. The packaging explains that it is “peppermint ice cream with fudge brownies and fudge swirls,” and brother, that packaging ain’t lying.

Ben & Jerrry's Empower Mint 2

Pulling the top off is like crashing your car into a candy cane factory and it only gets more insane from there. The base cream is exactly what you’d expect: an overPOWERing amount of mint (haha, get it?). And, as a fan of mint ice cream —- typically featuring chocolate chips, though -— I enjoyed this aspect. Your mileage may very.

Not too far beneath the surface, you’ll encounter something chewy and dense and absurdly chocolaty… this is the brownie. It sticks your teeth together and makes your heart hurt, and man, is that good brownie chunkage.

Interspersed between the mint and the brownie explosion are delectable teases of fudge ribbon. It tastes like hot fudge, only not hot and a little less pliable.

Ben & Jerrry's Empower Mint 3

Everything in this ice cream works together toward the greater good: giving the recipient a terrible stomachache after imbibing far too much. And maybe that’s the point? Freedom of choice? This ice cream carries some sort of political agenda, as many of B and J’s treats do. The label proclaims “Democracy is in your hands,” and that’s true enough, I guess.

If I had some sort of vote pertaining to his particular iteration, though, it might be: let’s add some kind of nut, dudes. Because, really, that’s my only complaint. Everything is smooth, creamy, and soft. Why not chuck in some chopped walnuts? The texture variation would provide a welcome break and, I mean, don’t all sane people like nuts on or in their brownies?

In the end, though, this is a minor quibble and EMPOWER mint is just fine on its own. Although it doesn’t seem like rocket science to combine mint ice cream and gigantic, pulsating hunks of brownie (oh, and the fudge swirls), I guess nobody had really done it before. Kudos, gents, enjoy your next million.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 270 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 26 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: 2 for $7
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Delightful. The Full Minty. Super Brownied. Cures what ails you.
Cons: Richer than the people who make it. Holy fat, calories, etc. Could use some sort of crunch, maybe.