REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Ever since buying this tub, I’ve woken up to a THWUMB, THWUMB, THWUMB outside my window. Upon investigating, I find nothing at the window. I am convinced it is a) a very stupid pigeon, b) the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, or c) a telepathic message from Professor X that states, “Margaret…you’re a Mutant. You must join the X-Men!” No matter which, it’s clear this thing eats cookie butter cups and wants them bad, but can’t quite figure out the whole “opening the window” thing (hence why it is not a breed of hyper-intelligent monkey or particularly creepy human).

But it makes perfect sense for this creature to try to get in every morning to obtain this little tub of aluminum-studded cups. Let me tell you why.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups TJ Cookie Butter cup escapes from foil

Sparing us from frippery of fluted cups, Trader Joe’s delivers a simple, complete concept right out of the golden foil. The size of a mini Reese’s Cup but with a firmer, darker outer shell, these start off with a striking visual impression, a sensation that swiftly carries over to the taste.

This is not a hyper-sugared confection that coats your tongue, no glucose-ridden lozenge that burns as it courses down as if the Almighty were ripping out your trachea. No, this is just quality semisweet chocolate, dark, bitter, and smooth like a 1965 Clint Eastwood riding out into the vengeance-ridden dusk.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup insides!!

Stuffed into each nub is a generous helping of cookie butter paste. Smooth, but slightly crumbly, that inner spread tastes of the named pulverized Speculoos cookies, highlighting the oat-cinnamon streusel notes. This filling, coupled with the woodsy, coffee-wisped chocolate, pushes this candy to the top, the cream of the crop, the Chrome Viking Refrigerators of confectionary-dom.

Just one problemo: there are only 28. Sure, it’s a pretty good number, but for $4.99, I do wish there were a few more. Desperate to hold on for as long as possible, I tried to ration them out. Like today: I’ll only have 2 cups…or maybe 3…or 4…

(2 hours later, upon emptying tub)

Sugar is GOOD!!! I feel I could pick up a lawnmower and fling it across a baseball field! I am invincible! I am unstoppable! I AM a Mutant!

(1 hour later, upon going to Home Depot and looking at lawnmowers)

I overestimated myself. I am not a Mutant. I am not even an Animorph. I am more like the lanky, awkward teenager hired to stand outside the store dressed in a paper mache koala suit. Nothing near a Mutant. Just a mortal, attempting to down a bag of sugar, chocolate, and crumbled cookies.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup sculpture

But maybe that’s okay. It certainly doesn’t make these cookie butter cups any less delicious. With such quality semisweet chocolate and a good ratio of cookie butter stuffed in each, who needs to be a mutated superhero? Maybe I could become one if I were to share these with that creature that rattles at my window, but me? Share these? I think I would rather be trampled by a fleet of rabid pigeons.*

*Not sure if pigeons can contract rabies.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 180 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 11 oz. tub
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smooth chocolate. Crumbly insides. Streusel-like filling. Nice balance of sugary insides to bittersweet outsides. Provides you with enough energy to throw a lawnmower. Messages from Professor X.
Cons: Those sensitive to dark chocolate may be sad. Runs out quickly. I am not a Mutant. Rabid pigeons.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 1

McRibs, McNuggets, McFlurries — I love ‘em all. Want to know the truth? Just slap a “Mc-” prefix in front of any remotely edible substance and I’ll gladly give it a taste. McPossum, anyone?

And that’s why I’m slightly upset that these McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks aren’t actually called “McMozzSticks” or a similar clumsily-formed name. According to The Wire, these breaded, fried strips of cheese are currently being test-marketed at select McDonald’s restaurants in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Because I happen to live in the state that gave the world Bruce Springsteen, Tony Soprano, and Teresa Giudice, I’ve been granted the privilege of trying these mozzarella sticks. By the way, do you guys want Teresa Giudice? We’ve had enough of her.

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 2

For only a single dollar, I received three tiny mozzarella sticks and a packet of marinara dipping sauce. According to the accompanying cardboard box, the mozzarella sticks are made with “real mozzarella.” I’m glad to see McDonald’s chose to forego using fake mozzarella in their product. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a fake. That’s why I threw out all of my Milli Vanilli CDs, refuse to buy Chanel handbags in Chinatown, and will only look Pamela Anderson straight in the eyes.

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 3

Lucky for me, McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks were nothing but the real deal. The breading was well-seasoned and evident in each bite, but stopped short of overwhelming the mozzarella flavor. Although the mozzarella sticks weren’t hot enough for the cheese inside to ooze, they were still warm enough to be satisfying. The exterior was slightly crisp from the fryer, and each mozzarella stick maintained its shape when handled. Let’s face it — nobody wants a soggy, flaccid cheese stick. (Ladies?)

Though smaller in size than I had anticipated, the mozzarella sticks had exceeded my expectations, rivaling more expensive versions of the same product sold at other chain restaurants. I was ecstatic, floating in a state of cheesy bliss…

Then, I made a mistake.

I dipped my second mozzarella stick into the marinara sauce.

There are no words to describe the pain.

McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks 4

I’ve eaten a lot of McDonald’s products over the years. Many of them were delicious, many of them were tolerable, but very few were truly awful. Alas, this single packet of marinara sauce is the undisputed worst-tasting item I’ve ever experienced at a McDonald’s restaurant. (As a disclaimer, I’ve never tried that strange-looking black hamburger McDonald’s Japan recently launched.)

Each taste of McDonald’s marinara sauce brings to mind overcooked tomato sauce saturated with excessive amounts of oregano in an attempt to cover up the flawed flavor. As opposed to the smooth, tomato essence of a slow-cooked red sauce, McDonald’s marinara is slightly bitter, producing a mild burning sensation at the back of the throat. In short, McDonald’s has failed to replicate any positive aspect of an Italian marinara sauce. Their bastardization would make your little Italian grandmother cry for an hour, beat Ronald McDonald with a rolling pin, and then beat you with a rolling pin — just for good measure.

Disregarding the botched marinara sauce, these McDonald’s mozzarella sticks are worth a try. Sure, they might be small, but their low price makes the temptation of buying twenty-five boxes hard to resist. If these become a regular item on the McDonald’s menu, I will definitely order them again.

But take heed of my warning: if you ever purchase these mozzarella sticks, please, for the love of God, just throw out the sauce.

(Nutrition Facts – No nutritional info available on McDonald’s USA website.)

Item: McDonald’s Mozzarella Sticks
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Mozzarella and seasoned breading evident in each bite. Not limp and flaccid. Only one dollar for three. None of that fake mozzarella nonsense.
Cons: Cheese doesn’t ooze. Marinara sauce is indescribably awful. Rolling pin beatings.

REVIEW: Rockstar Energy Horchata

Rockstar Energy Horchata

Let me start off this Rockstar Energy Horchata review by stating I’ve never had horchata before. And while I’m in the state of admitting things that make me sound boring, I’ve never watched a minute of the movie Titanic (the 1953 and 1997 versions), I haven’t traveled beyond the borders of North America, and I’ve never danced with a monkey under the moonlight to the sounds of endangered birds.

Horchata, according to the editors at Wikipedia, is a beverage that can be made from almonds, sesame seeds, rice, barley, or tigernuts, which I learned from Wikipedia are not tiger testicles. As I went deeper down into the Wikipedia hole I started by looking up horchata, I learned a dried tiger penis can sell for $2500 and is used as an aphrodisiac. Then I learned deer penis is also used as an aphrodisiac. Wait. What was this review about again? Tigernuts! No wait. Rockstar Energy Horchata.

Rockstar Energy Horchata, according to the can, is made using, “Fresh dairy, rice flour, and natural cinnamon flavors.” Although cinnamon isn’t listed in the ingredients, instead listed as “Natural Flavors,” its flavor stands out from the very first sip. It pretty much tastes like cinnamon milk.

Rockstar Energy Horchata 2

The dairy, which is whole milk, and the rice flour give the beverage its milky white color and some thickness. The non-carbonated Rockstar Energy Horchata looks so pure and innocent, but don’t let that fool you. This is one caffeinated beast that’ll make your heart thump like the bass drum at a metal concert. Rockstar’s Energy Blend that consists of, say it with me, guarana, ginseng, taurine, inositol, L-carnitine, and caffeine provides each can with 225 milligrams of sweet, heart-thumping caffeine.

For the most part it doesn’t taste like an energy drink. It’s creamy, smooth, and the cinnamon and dairy do a great job at masking Rockstar’s Energy Blend and the artificial sweeteners. However, the finish does take a slight dive towards bitterness, but as a regular energy drink drinker, I didn’t mind that.

There is another minor issue with the beverage. When I let an open can sit in the fridge for a few hours, some of the ingredients congealed into tiny bits. They didn’t affect the flavor and there were very few of them, but obviously the beverage wasn’t so smooth anymore.

I’ve had four Rockstar Energy Horchatas within the past week, so I guess that means I really like it, or there’s crack in it. Since I’m not having withdrawals, I’m going to say I really like it. So if you love the C words – caffeine and cinnamon – I’d suggest you try this energy drink.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 ounces – 100 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, 6% calcium, 100% vitamin B6, 100% niacin, and 100% pantothenic acid.)

Item: Rockstar Energy Horchata
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 15 oz. can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like cinnamon milk. Wonderful flavor. 225 milligrams of sweet, heart-thumping caffeine. Creamy and smooth, at first.
Cons: If left open in the fridge, some of the ingredients will congeal into tiny bits. Slight bitterness with the finish. Comes in what looks like a 16-ounce can, but has only 15 ounces of liquid. Going down Wikipedia holes.

REVIEW: Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

There are several places I never want to find pulled pork, including a high school cafeteria, the bathroom, and inside an open wound. Fortunately, Wendy’s has nothing to do with these three things.

Similar to Denny’s fascination with bacon, Wendy’s has a newfound obsession with pulled pork. This autumn season, Wendy’s fast food restaurants will be offering a limited-time only menu including BBQ Pulled Pork Cheese Fries, a BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger, and a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wendy’s introduced a pulled pork Frosty before the month ends. Wait a second…

Oh, Wendy. You sassy, redheaded minx.

Before I continue my review, I must confess: pulled pork has always confused me. Yes, it’s delicious, but I’ve never understood which part of the pig must be pulled in order to procure said barbecued meat. Behind the ears? No. Under the stomach? Nope. Between the legs? Good lord, no!

Still pondering the anatomy of hogs, I found myself inside a local Wendy’s restaurant. With five dollars in my pocket and the hunger-pangs in full effect, I decided it was high-time to try the new BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, which features hickory-smoked pulled pork meat, a layer of coleslaw, and a toasted brioche bun. Each sandwich is finished with one of three sauces: smoky, spicy, or sweet.

The sandwich arrives in a red, cardboard box decorated with Wendy’s smiling mug. Opening this package reveals the pulled pork sandwich in all its glory, topped with a grease-soaked bun that glistens in the sunlight.

The pulled pork itself is smoky and meaty. A praiseworthy approximation of barbecue flavor, it lacks the dry, chewy qualities I’ve noticed of low-quality pulled pork. Sure, Wendy’s pulled pork might not be as succulent and flavorful as pulled pork from the finest Southern barbecue joints, but it certainly holds its own.

The pork flavor is enhanced by the sweet sauce, which has a pleasant tang reminiscent of the sauce found on both the McRib and Burger King BBQ Rib Sandwich. The amount of sauce on my pulled pork sandwich was just right; the meat was not supersaturated with sauce, but I was still able to taste the barbecue sauce flavor. The only drawback was that the sweet sauce seemed a bit lukewarm when compared to the meat. I suspect the sauce wasn’t heated before the sandwich was assembled. As I continued to eat, the residual heat from the pulled pork slightly improved the sauce’s temperature, but the first few bites were subpar.

Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich 2

In comparison to both the pulled pork and sauce, the coleslaw is a letdown. Its flavor is subdued and one-note, hardly noticeable in a mouthful of smoky pork. Its main contribution to the sandwich is textural, adding a light crunch to each bite. Even so, it fails to seem as crisp as the freshest of coleslaws.

My sandwich’s contents occasionally spilled out mid-bite, but this cannot be seen as a flaw — pulled pork is an inherently messy food. Luckily, the cardboard box conveniently doubles as a tray. You will receive full protection from falling meats, just in case you decide to eat the pulled pork sandwich while in the nude, all alone in your empty apartment on a Friday night.

I finished my Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich feeling fulfilled. Though the coleslaw topping lacked bite, the sandwich’s balance of smoky pork and tangy sauce was deeply gratifying. For a fast food take on a Southern classic, Wendy’s pulled it off. The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich rivals other barbecue sandwiches I’ve tasted at a competitive price.

As a disclaimer, I want to assure the reader that neither I, nor The Impulsive Buy, endorse the pulling of pigs. Furthermore, we have never engaged in any form of hog-yanking activity. Please be kind to our animal friends, no matter how tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 410 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1230 milligrams of sodium, 360 milligrams of potassium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 17 gram of sugar, and 24 grams of protein.)

Item: Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smoky pulled pork flavor. Tangy sauce. Perfect amount of sauce. Eating in the nude?
Cons: Lukewarm sauce. Coleslaw flavor is one-note. Ethical dilemmas of pulling pigs.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

When I dream I often come across magical dream items I wish existed in real life. If only I could Inception myself or have a dream thief Inception me (That thought makes me all warm and tingly) so these mystic items could be extracted into reality.

I mean, imagine if you could have a guitar that doubles as a television remote. Then you wouldn’t have to stop playing for a moment to turn the channel! Or a toothbrush that simultaneously flosses your teeth and then rinses your mouth with Listerine. Sure it sounds dangerous, and it probably is, but you’d still want one. I know I would.

So when I encountered McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake on a walk through Osaka, I bit myself as hard as I could on the hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Pinching yourself is so outdated. Get with the dream times, people! The milkshake was real (as was the blood running down my hand and arm) so I wasted no time in going in and getting one.

Irasshaimase!!!” said the workers.

Expect to hear this whenever you walk into just about anywhere in Japan. One time I swear I heard a toilet say it to me as I entered a restroom.

After using my pathetic routine of pointing at the item I want and saying “this one, please” in Japanese and the magic dream item extraction began. Now I know purple sweet potatoes are a real thing, but come on, when do you ever see one of them? I’m close to 30 and I have yet to encounter one, so to me this is as magical a milkshake as there is.

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan) 2

The color was very off-putting. It is a vibrant purple, which is really confusing because you think it will taste like black raspberry, or grape, or just something that is purple, yet the shake is similar to a traditional sweet potato with the orange center. It not only tastes like one, it tastes like one that has been buttered. I shit you not.

McDonald’s was able to replicate this Thanksgiving staple without being overly rich. A welcome surprise. The shake is not triple-thick like the ones in America, so you don’t have to worry about any “God Damn It All The Shake Won’t Come Through the Straw” frustrations. It’s a tad thinner than I usually like my milkshakes but the flavor more than made up for it.

Now I personally love buttered sweet potatoes, so for me this shake was amazing but I could see some people not liking it just because it doesn’t seem like a milkshake flavor that is meant to be.

The one real obstacle you have with this milkshake is the psychological game it plays with you. Imagine if you were given a milkshake that appeared to be vanilla but in fact it tasted like strawberry, or a chocolate-seeming milkshake that in fact tasted like butter pecan. Can you say, “mind fuck?” I can! It’s actually fun to say, rolls off the tongue really well. Give it a try!

So to amplify the MF experience, I drank the milkshake while walking through the famous Dotonbori area in Osaka, which is filled with all sorts of crazy mechanical crabs, electronic signs, and numerous oddities, not to mention the thousands of people walking about trying to decide which delicacy to try.

If you had told me, “Hey, Trev, you’re tripping balls right now,” I wouldn’t have disagreed with you. I would’ve been angry at you for slipping me something, but only for a minute, because what’s the point in getting angry?

Now I can’t tell you to hop on a flight, go to Japan and get this McShake because…wait, no, I can tell you whatever I want. So go book a flight, preferably leaving tomorrow, fly into Tokyo or Osaka, get the McShake and then do whatever else you want.

If you don’t speak Japanese, no worries! A combination of pointing, the words, “I don’t understand,” and crying will get you through most situations.

Ganbatte!

(Nutrition Facts – (Editor’s Note: I’d like to put the nutrition facts here, but I don’t know where it is on the McDonald’s Japan website.))

Item: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)
Purchased Price: 195 yen
Size: Medkum
Purchased at: McDonald’s Japan
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Actually tastes like a sweet potato. Buttery flavor is delicious and a minor miracle. Being in Japan. Being incepted.
Cons: Milkshake is a tad thin. Dollar to yen confusion. Irasshaimase gets old fast. Shake is a real mind fuck.