REVIEW: Starbucks Pink Drink

Starbucks Pink Drink

You know what’s awesome?

Secret menu items.

You know what’s not awesome?

Ordering a secret menu item and the employee not knowing what you are talking about.

However, when a secret menu item is then elevated to the main menu it’s like the best of both worlds. A special, kind of exclusive treat that you don’t have to worry about acquiring. That’s exactly what has happened with Starbucks’ new Pink Drink. It contains their strawberry acai refresher mixed with coconut milk and strawberries and is now officially available.

Since its moniker is simply a color, I was very hesitant to see the drink in person as I didn’t want to be let down if it wasn’t enough pink enough. I was definitely hoping for execution more like the fantastic colored ketchup of yesteryear and less like the recent underwhelming naturally colored Froot Loops. The color didn’t disappoint, though, as it was a lovely pastel pink with nice pops of red from the strawberries.

Starbucks Pink Drink 2

The strawberries get a passing grade, probably a C or so if I was a grade school teacher. They are freeze-dried so make sure you let them soak a bit in the drink. Otherwise, they are crunchy and dry which means the flavor is a bit subdued. They are much better with some moisture in them as they provide a nice blast of tartness.

Even though it is advertised to be acai flavored with accents of passion fruit the only flavor I could taste is that of the main one, strawberry, and it comes through very nicely. The drink isn’t a sugar bomb either. It has a creamy nature but is still incredibly refreshing. It’s again the best of both worlds!

It reminded me of a light strawberry milk or even better yet Yoo-hoo’s strawberry drink in a fancier, lighter, and fresher version. I’m not usually a straight coconut milk fan but here it made for the perfect base for the refresher without being too overpowering.

With this drink being promoted to the official menu and being pretty darn good, I wonder if any other of the colored drinks that blew up Instagram last year will make the jump as well. Since it’s my favorite color and there has been an immense void in this segment for years (R.I.P. Pepsi Blue), fingers crossed for the blue one!

(Nutrition Facts – Grande (16 oz) – 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.85
Size: Venti
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Creamy and refreshing strawberry flavor. Secret menu items getting a promotion. Fondly remembering childhood food.
Cons: Strawberries that are better suited for space travel. Unnoticeable passion fruit and acai flavors.

VIDEO REVIEW: Jack in the Box Cinnabon Iced CinnaCoffee

Purchased Price: $2.89*
Size: Large
Nutrition Facts: (Large) 341 calories, 125 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 36 milligrams of cholesterol, 133 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 43 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

NOTE: If you want to watch the video without sound, video captions are available. Just click the CC button on the player.

REVIEW: Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

AP English nerds rejoice! The world has redeveloped an interest in classic dystopian novels, the likes of which “Cliff Notes” developed an entire business off the laziness of the rest of us.

At the top of the list stands “1984”, the seminal Orwell work about the sacrifices of personal privacy in modern society and how individuality can be suppressed through fear.

This resurgence is just in time for a new development. When the Coke Freestyle soda fountain, seemingly a paragon of choice, was released eight years ago, numerous pundits referenced “1984” in regards to one feature: that each Freestyle machine collects data on the beverages we have dispensed for “Big Bubbler” at the “Ministry” in Atlanta. For the first time, that data has been put into play, as the two most popular choices have been bottled and rolled out nationwide.

Moving past the debate about privacy invasions that are just as commonplace at the grocery store and Amazon.com these days, cherry soft drinks have been popular since the 1930’s, and it’s no surprise Cherry Sprite is the top Freestyle option for most anyone – other than the namesake of one version of the concoction. Apparently identity appropriation doesn’t get you a seat on the “Good Ship Lollipop”.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 2

The press release states: “Formulations for the fountain and bottled versions of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero vary”. Let’s hope this isn’t like heading to a Chevrolet dealership to find out the SS Sedan doesn’t look like this.

Sprite Cherry and Cherry Zero are clear, identical to original Sprite, but unlike the red-tinted versions that come from the Freestyle. The initial scent of Sprite Cherry was a strong cherry, with the citrus notes fading in at the end. Sprint Cherry Zero was less distinct, fruity and fresh but not as discernible.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 3

Sprite Cherry was a wonderful experience. It was crisp and really suggested a balance of cherry with a lemon/lime combo and equal in sweetness to original Sprite. It was one of the best new bottled sodas I have tried in recent years.

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero 4

Sprite Cherry Zero was adequate, but in comparison to Sprite Cherry, was a relative disappointment. No individual flavor stood out. This was a particular letdown as cherry flavors have proven very effective in no-cal soft drinks. Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry, and Diet Mountain Dew Code Red stand as some of my all-time favorites.

The primary reason is that the strong cherry flavor seems to make up for the artificial sweeter, resulting in a less diet-feeling experience. Coke may have tried to achieve the balance of cherry with the other flavors in the full sugar version, but it was the wrong call in the diet version.

My hopes for a new go-to diet drink were dashed as abruptly as Winston’s fleeting happiness before the novel’s climax. Sprite Cherry might end up with more staying power, as an enjoyable but not radically different option (Ministry of Plenty approved!)

As for me, I’ll go back to dreaming about my soft drink “dark haired girl” – when Coke decides to add Mango, Watermelon, Pomegranate, and Chocolate options to the Freestyle – or my “Golden Country” – a Pepsi Spire machine near my home.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 fl ounces – Sprite Cherry – 200 calories, 0 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 54 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Sprite Cherry Zero – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3.50
Size: 20 oz. bottles
Purchased at: Wawa
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry Zero)
Pros: Freestyle feedback leading the R&D process. Balanced Cherry hit of Sprite Cherry. Brave New World. Fahrenheit 451. It Can’t Happen Here.
Cons: Not enough cherry “umph” in Sprite Cherry Zero. Uber-safe options coming from the Freestyle (no Grape Mello Yello?). The Pepsi Spire locator map that indicates a Subway next door to where I work in Delaware that is actually in Saskatchewan.

REVIEW: Reese’s Crunchers

Reese s Crunchers

Someone at Hershey’s has a crunch fetish. After 2016’s super hyped launch of the Cookie Layer Crunch Bars, the chocolate giant is back with the textural fixation via the release of Reese’s Crunchers.

Since the cookie bars didn’t have a peanut butter version at launch, it only seems right that the crunch train keeps rollin’ in the direction of one of Hershey’s strongest and most recognizable brands.

Reese’s Crunchers combine mini peanut butter chips, puffs, and peanuts covered in milk chocolate in a resealable bag so you can casually crunch the day away.

Reese s Crunchers 2

The aroma is immediately recognizable – the signature sweet and salty Reese’s perfume that all good orange packages ought to smell like. It’s a distinct smell that could be filed under “delicious” for the 97 percent of the world’s population who don’t have a nut allergy.

Reese s Crunchers 3

Chomping into these Crunchers delivers the same flavor that my nose perked up to and has that great balance of peanut butter and chocolate that Reese’s is known for, but just a bit more muted. The presence of the rice crisps dulls the impact of the peanut butter to make it a less rich and intense flavor, and essentially tastes like the peanut butter sibling to Nestle’s Buncha Crunch.

Although the package says there are chocolate covered peanuts I don’t get any distinct peanut flavor or texture amongst the sea of crisps, and I wish they were stronger as their snap would be a welcome addition to the snack party.

Reese s Crunchers 4

The only problem with this product is it really isn’t all that crunchy. Yes, the pieces are more crunchy than a standard creamy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but definitely less crunchy than the Reese’s Snack Mix that gets a big chompy boost from pretzels and whole peanuts.

The Crunchers are a bit salty but not so much so that they elevate the flavor beyond an actual cup, and without any sort of variety in the bag beyond small and large pieces the eating experience isn’t as exciting as I had hoped it would be.

As much as I love some crunch to go along with my chocolate and peanut butter I would much rather have a single Reese’s cup and eat it alongside some pretzels or popcorn than what these Crunchers offer.

They do, however, seem like a perfect movie theater companion where I could blindly reach in and alternate from Cruncher to corn and corn to Cruncher while the big screen story unfolds before me without worrying about what kind of handful I was going to get in the darkened theater.

At the end of the day they taste like Reese’s, and Reese’s taste like mouth dreams.

(Nutrition Facts – 14 pieces (40g) – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 4 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 6.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Classic Reese’s peanut butter flavor. Ability to blindly crunch. The rebirth of Buncha Crunch. Textural fetish fulfillment.
Cons: Not as crunchy as the name would imply. Not enough peanuts. Rice crisps cut the richness of the peanut butter. Less satisfying than a regular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

REVIEW: Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Cake Mixes (Confetti Cake and Chocolate Lover’s Cake)

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Funtastic Confetti Cake Mix

It goes without saying that the internet has given us many beautiful things. Memes, for instance, provide a necessary distraction from work, school, or the ads at the beginning of YouTube videos. Likewise, I’m not sure if I could survive a day without having my lame Baltimore Orioles spring training observations liked by random strangers.

But all these things pale in comparison to the internet’s greatest gift: the proliferation of mug cake popularity.

I used to be firmly against the mug cake. For starters, they’re just not practical. I like my cake after exceptionally large dinners with my belt loosened and eaten while sipping coffee. From what, may I ask, do I drink coffee from if I’m eating cake in my coffee mug? The cake pan?

And then there’s the issue of measuring out ingredients and having things like flour, eggs, and oil on hand. Frankly, I’m lucky if I have leftover McGriddles in my fridge. The odds of having all those ingredients in my apartment are worse than maneuvering a modified YT 1300 light freighter through an asteroid field.

That said, Duncan Hines new Perfect Size for 1 Cake Mixes are doing a lot to change my thinking, thanks largely to a dummy approach that involves nothing more than a few tablespoons of water and a mug. Thankfully, I do, in fact, own a sink.

The new mug cake packets come in 18 flavors, which, let me be honest, is more cake than anyone really needs. So it made sense to start with the essentials: A birthday cake flavor and something chocolaty.

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Funtastic Confetti Cake Mix 2

The Confetti Cake is surprisingly good —- much better than your standard Pillsbury Doughboy Funfetti, if you ask me. I got notes of a strong vanilla and buttercream element throughout the cake, which was light and fluffy yet still moist. The little bursts of sprinkled sweetness provide a great touch, especially when you consider that you don’t have to eat them at a ten-year-old’s birthday party. My only complaint is that there’s a slight aftertaste and grittiness of uncooked flour.

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Decadent Chocolate Lover s Cake Mix

Weary of the uncooked flour, I upped the cooking time by a whopping ten seconds on the Chocolate Lover’s Cake, which I imagine was inspired by all the past cake’s on Pinterest which were made for somebody’s DH. That, or the marketing folks ate it and proclaimed it to taste like the love child of a chocolate chip muffin and chocolate angel food cake. In this they were spot on. There’s a lightness and airy structure to the crumb, but there’s definitely a moist, rich element that explodes with little morsels of semisweet chocolate. This cake was excellent, even sans frosting.

Duncan Hines Perfect Size for 1 Decadent Chocolate Lover s Cake Mix 2

Certainly, my mug cakes weren’t Pinterest quality in appearance, but I can live with that. In fact, since the Perfect Size for 1 Cakes only take about a minute to make, I plan on ditching cake porn altogether and investing even more quality time with memes while, as they say, having my cake and eating it too.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pouch – Confetti Cake – 270 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 370 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 3 gram of protein. Chocolate Lover’s – 300 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 380 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 32 grams of sugar, and 4 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50 each
Size: 4-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Confetti)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Chocolate Lover’s)
Pros: Incredibly easy to make, even for the most kitchen averse people. Moist yet fluffy cake element combines best of muffin, poke cake, and angel cake worlds. More time for memes.
Cons: Varieties do not include chocolate eclair or pumpkin cheesecake. Undercooked cake has gritty texture and aftertaste. Will explode if you add to much water.