REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I injured myself yesterday.

It was in aisle 3. The Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream had been sold out for the previous 10 days. Already half-defeated, melodramatic dairy cravings oozing from my limp, lactose-deprived mind, I turned my head and there, between the frozen waffles and Pomegranate Sherbet: one last quart.

“Blah! Cream! Ice! Butter! Cookie! Now!”

It was then that Zeus looked down upon me and said, “You! You did not form a grammatically coherent sentence! You MUST SUFFER!” A bolt of Karma-infused lightning darted from Mt. Olympus, swooshing carts, Trader Joe’s employees, and oblivious human beings right into the 12-foot path that stood between me and dairy perfection.

Grabbing a nearby Kouign Amann from the sample station, I leapt over the baskets, the boxes, and the kindly Trader Joe’s employee who was re-stocking the Salsa Authentica (saying “Excuse me” along the way). I reached down, my goal in sight, when my noggin bonked the shelf above and the slew of Very Vanilla meringues avalanched on my cranium.

Luckily, neither Ancient Greek-inspired divine intervention nor avalanching plastic tubs can stop a true dextrose zealot.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream The untouched ice cream

Having brought the tub home and peeled off the safety-sealed container, I can see white creamy stuff and (small) brown chunky speckles. Smells of vanilla and sugar crackle into the air. By all the gold in Robin Hood’s barn, this stuff looks good. With the cover devoid of any specifics, I can only take an amateur dive at what awaits: vanilla, perhaps even sweet cream, ice cream with cookie butter swirls…and Speculoos cookie chunks? Maybe? MAYBE??

No. No cookie chunks. But cookie butter swirl chunks? Yes! And in wide abundance. Those chunky, gritty, swirly thingies are spattered throughout, gathering up on your golden spoon 1, 2, 5 chunks at a time. Unlike a dense, crunchy cookie, these cookie butter swirlies are gritty and loose and crumble with their spicy warm bite.

The art of perfecting the ratio of cookie-butter-to-cream is an exercise worthy of a sensei master. When gathered in their best proportion, the chunks accentuate a warmth from cinnamon and clove in the Speculoos butter while also bouncing off the sweetness in the vanilla base. What’s better is chunks get chunkier as you dig, rewarding you with golden nuggets so big they’d send the gold panners from ‘49 into a tizzy.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Proof that swirly chunks may take over the world

And that vanilla-cream base? It’s pretty good. Not enough to make a possum do a back flip or anything, but pretty good. Thick and creamy with a super sweet melt, it makes for a smooth foundation that’s just on the cusp of tasting like an Oreo filling. The Trader chose not to toss in any vanilla bean speckles in this particular base, but who needs speckles when you have chunks of pulverized cookie goo all around? Give me the cookie goo. Give me it all.

For those in the Vanilla Clan with a penchant for spicy-warm, yet wonderfully simple concoctions, this ice cream will do you right as it stands. If you like your ice cream with more of a punch, you might be well-served to incorporate other mix-ins or smoosh it up with another ice cream flavor. Think chocolate. Coffee. More cookie butter. That triple-layer Mocha Cake your Aunt Sally baked for you last week. Almost anything will do. The vanilla has a lighter flavor, so anything you dump on it will be a dimension to all that perpetual lightness, a yin to its yang, a Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Close up of swirly chunkies

On the whole, this ice cream registers as “good” in both the tender, youthful, overly optimistic part of my brain as well as the crumpled, calloused, grumpity part. In fact, it may be the only thing that these parts of my brain agree upon. Ever. While not chaotic or exploding with mix-ins, it’s a simple, slightly spicy, sweet cream that makes good for eating right off the sugar cone, between French toast, or in a bowl after you’ve dumped your entire Halloween candy stash upon it.

I plan to eat this quart in the morning. I plan to eat this quart at night. I plan to eat this quart until it is finished… and what if someone tries to eat it from my freezer before then? I will not let them. And if they do, I will buy another. I will collect the cookie butter ice cream. All of it. I will stock my freezer to the brim, supporting the dairy farmers as I fill my belly with cookie-butter-laden cream. I suspect future historians will dig me out of a landfill of empty ice cream containers. I will have no regrets.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 220 calories, 130 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Cookie swirls, cookie swirls, everywhere, everywhere. Gritty cinnamon goodness. Solid vanilla-cream base. Less sugar than most powerbars. Good for breakfast. Good for dinner. Supports dairy farmers. The Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.
Cons: Could have EVEN MORE cookie swirls. And more cookie swirls. Ice cream base may be too sweet for some. Being buried in a landfill of ice cream pints. Poor grammar. Karma-related injuries. The wrath of Zeus.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar

Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar

Most people know maple syrup as a sticky substance coveted by Canadians, the official currency of Vermont, and something that Kanye West sips when somebody orders pancakes. Though nothing can quite take the place of that precious Acer saccharum sap, Jif envisions a world where hungry citizens never have to resort to dousing their pancakes in syrup to receive their daily dose of maple flavor.

New Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar blends the traditional flavor of peanut butter with hints of brown sugar and maple, all in a whipped peanut butter form. In contrast to its non-whipped counterpart, whipped peanut butter is considerably more light and airy. As a result, it spreads effortlessly onto both white bread and body parts.

Even the packaging of Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar helps make the peanut butter experience a bit less painful. No longer will you find yourself struggling to scrape the last bits of peanut butter from the bottom of a glass jar — the wide plastic tub provides easy access to the whipped peanut butter from all angles. It’s the work of German engineers, I’m sure.

Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar 2

Peeling off the lid, we discover that Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar shares the same off-putting, scatalogical appearance with the last Jif Whips I reviewed. Only this time, the nut butter more closely resembles what I find in my backyard when the neighbor kids feed tan crayons to my dog. In other words, Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar looks like a big ol’ pile of pale brown shadoobie.

Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar’s scent is pungent, a mixture of peanut butter and maple aromas — as if Mrs. Buttersworth decided to play with Mr. Peanut, if ya know what I mean.

Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar 3

In comparison to this scent, the flavor of Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar seems less intense. Initially, the taste is nutty and sweet, like any typical peanut butter mixed with a touch of maple syrup. I was expecting the maple flavor to seem either exaggerated or artificial, but fortunately, it was neither. A spoonful of this legume spread culminates with a hint of molasses, alluding to the advertised brown sugar flavor. On the tongue, the whipped peanut butter feels somewhat less viscous than traditional peanut butter, but coats the throat identically.

I’m not a huge fan of maple flavor — I tend to resist it outside of maple syrup. Even so, I have to admit that Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar is pretty dang good. This whipped peanut butter would pair nicely with ice cream, crackers, cookies, babies, and countless additional snack foods. It even tastes great in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, as maple complements the fruity flavor of jelly surprisingly well. All things considered, I highly recommend Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar. Disregarding the defecatory appearance, this is one flavored peanut butter worthy of praise.

Jif, you’ve made me a fan of your crazy, new-fangled peanut butter. I realize now that when a problem comes along, I must whip it.

Before the cream sets out too long, I must whip it.

When something’s goin’ wrong, I must whip it.

Whip it. Whip it good.

Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar 4

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp (24 grams) – 140 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Jif Whips Maple Brown Sugar
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 15 ounces
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Easier to spread than traditional peanut butter. Balanced maple flavor. Devo references.
Cons: Resembles tan dog feces. Body parts covered in peanut butter.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Tzatziki Potato Chips (Canada)

Lay’s Kettle Cooked Tzatziki Potato Chips (Canada)

The whole theme of the Do Us A Flavour contest seems to be off-kilter flavours that you wouldn’t otherwise see — going through the various participating countries, this year there’s stuff like Chip Shop Chicken Curry, Cappuccino, and Cinnamon Bun.

Tzatziki chips sound a bit odd at first, but really, condiments and dips are a bedrock of classic chip flavours: e.g. BBQ, ketchup, ranch, and this flavour’s closest cousin, sour cream and onion.

Still, I can’t say that I’d ever tried a tzatziki-flavoured chip, so I was kind of excited to try it.

The first thing that hit me when I opened the bag: the smell. Resting somewhere in the scent spectrum between old cauliflower and a moderately ripe sweat sock, it wasn’t an aroma that filled me with a ton of confidence.

Thankfully, I can say with a great deal of confidence that it is much, much better than it smells.

It’s actually surprisingly good. Like the Do Us A Flavour variety I just reviewed, Cinnamon Bun, it does a really great job of replicating the taste of the thing it’s supposed to be. Unlike that one, however, this is a flavour that you’d actually want on a potato chip.

It starts with an addictive tart, lemony yogurt flavour, with the dill and cucumber coming through a few moments after you start eating it. It ends with a lingering punch of garlic that really drives home the tzatziki flavour.

Lay’s Kettle Cooked Tzatziki Potato Chips (Canada) Closeup

It tastes, in a lot of ways, like a kicked up sour cream and onion, but with the flavours intensified and broadened. I’ve never been a huge fan of that flavour, but this one I liked a fair deal.

It’s not subtle, however. What’s the exact opposite of subtle? Because that’s what these chips are. It’s an intense, face-punch of flavour, so don’t expect to taste anything else for the next little while. In fact, even removing the smell from my fingers was challenging; I had to wash pretty thoroughly with soap two or three times before my hands smelled normal.

Tzatziki is the only one of the four Canadian Do Us A Flavour varieties that’s made with kettle chips, which was a wise choice by Lay’s. The thinner, more delicate regular chips would get completely steamrolled by the aggressive tzatziki taste. The kettle chips, however, do a pretty decent job of standing up to the other flavours.

Ultimately, though the chips are probably a bit too intense to be something you’d want to add to your regular snacking rotation, it’s pretty darn good if you’re in the mood. If you like tzatziki and you like chips, then it’s not even a question. You’ll like these chips.

(Nutrition Facts – 50 grams/per 28 chips – 260 calories, 15 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 340 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 1 gram of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Tzatziki Potato Chips (Canada)
Purchased Price: $3.69 CAN
Size: 180 gram bag
Purchased at: Longos
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Captures the tzatziki flavour perfectly. Addictive. Kettle chips hold up well to the very aggressive flavour.
Cons: Getting punched in the face with flavour. Lingering aftertaste. Sweat sock aroma.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Croissant Donuts

Jack in the Box Croissant Donuts

Are you one of those people who hate greeting cards that are booby trapped with confetti and glitter because, despite how careful you are, you end up showering your floor with sparkling envelope puke?

If that bothers you, I’d suggest you avoid Jack in the Box’s new Croissant Donuts because there’s a good chance you’ll get cinnamon sugar everywhere. But if that doesn’t bother you or it does bother you, but you have an awesome vacuum, love ants, or you’re eating them at a location where you don’t care if you make a mess, like at a Jack in the Box restaurant, you shouldn’t hesitate picking up the fast food croissant donut hybrid.

In 2013, Dunkin’ Donuts in South Korea and Krispy Kreme in the Philippines were the first major fast food chains to offer knockoffs of Dominique Ansel’s popular Cronut. But both specialize in donuts, so it’s not really impressive. However, having a burger chain like Jack in the Box attempt to make a Cronut knockoff is impressive…and a bit scary.

Jack’s Croissant Donuts are made with buttery croissant dough rolled in cinnamon sugar. They’re served warm and sprinkled with more cinnamon sugar, which provides all the flavor. Oh wait. Did I say “sprinkled”? I meant to say suffocated with cinnamon sugar. Each one is around 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inches wide, but just like the spiky hair on my head makes me look slightly taller, the cinnamon sugar coating on the Croissant Donuts make them look slightly bigger.

I bought a 3-piece serving and, at the bottom of the sleeve they came in, there was enough cinnamon sugar to make a batch of snickerdoodles jealous. If I tilted the sleeve at a wrong angle, it would’ve meant sparkling sleeve puke everywhere. And I have a horrible vacuum cleaner.

Jack in the Box Croissant Donuts Innards

The Croissant Donut’s innards don’t have that impressive flaky layered look that Cronuts have. Instead, it looked more like airy bread, but at least the innards’ texture was soft. The outer shell wasn’t oily and had a nice crispiness, although some of that crunch could’ve been the heavy cinnamon sugar layer. The exterior was also a smidge tough, but not enough to take away from how wonderful these Croissant Donuts are.

I’m not a huge fan of Jack in the Box’s previous warm desserts, like their Mini Churros, Mini Cookies, and Brownie Bites, so I came in with low expectations. But these Croissant Donuts are a sweet tooth satisfying dessert that I would see myself buying again, even if they force me to have a vacuum at the ready whenever I bring them home.

Jack in the Box Croissant Donuts Closeup

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pieces – 136 calories, 56 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 58 milligrams of sodium, 21 milligrams of potassium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Croissant Donuts
Purchased Price: $2.69*
Size: 3 pieces
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Suffocated with cinnamon sugar. Slightly crispy exterior. Sweet tooth satisfying. Not oily. Soft innards. Best when served warm. Much better than most previous warm Jack in the Box desserts. Strong vacuums.
Cons: Can be messy if you’re not careful. Exterior is slightly tough. Doesn’t have that neat flaky layered look. Having a piece of crap vacuum. Doesn’t have a creme filling like real Cronuts. Booby trapped greeting cards.

*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.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Grande Scrambler Burrito (Bacon and Sausage)

Taco Bell Grande Scrambler 001

I’m a big fan of breakfast. Like most things bad for us, it has that magical power of wrapping together comfort food and guilty pleasure into an eternal dance. It’s like the edible yin and yang: bacon and eggs; pancakes and syrup; butter and toast; chicken and waffles; bourbon and Frosted Flakes. You get the point.

And with that great pleasure comes the other end of the spectrum, uncontrollable rage. There was this time when I had thick cut bacon that was overcooked to hell. I’ve seen relics that remained from the ghastly A-bomb drop in Hiroshima that were less scorched. This built up my inner rage to a maximum, ruining my day.

I also once threw a disproportionate fit at a hipster breakfast joint because the promised rye toast finally came when my wife’s southern fry plate was half done. A lot of beards, let alone my patient wife, were unhappy with me that day.

I just ask for one simple thing, please don’t fuck with breakfast.

When Taco Bell first introduced their breakfast line, particularly the breakfast burrito, I was disappointed and pissed off. How can one mess up salty, fatty, porky sausage and eggs with melted cheese wrapped in a tortilla? Taco Bell did.

In fairness, everyone deserves a second chance even if someone rendered so much fat from thick cut bacon, I’ve seen Ethiopians that were chubbier (Zing! The 80’s want their tasteless jokes back). Taco Bell updated and tweaked their brekkie line with new menu items, which is a sign of encouragement to their dedication to the breakfast menu.

The Taco Bell Grande Scrambler Burrito comes with bacon, sausage, or their questionable and dreadful steak. Simply put, this is an upgraded breakfast burrito from the original and comparing the two is like comparing a greasy road map (the ones you have to annoyingly fold back correctly) to a GPS.

Taco Bell Grande Scrambler 004

I ordered both the bacon and sausage to appease my piggy meat breakfast fervor. The first sign I knew the Taco Bell Grande Scrambler Burrito was traveling on a different path from its predecessor was how surprisingly weighty it was. There was a comfortable heft to them that whispered, “I’m the real deal jackass.” The warmth of holding it in my hand was comparable to pulling fresh boxers out of the dryer on a cold morning.

Sinking my teeth into the Grande Scrambler Burrito with bacon, I immediately noticed the eggs were fluffy and looked scrambled. They were rich and buttery, the way my Grandma never made because she made me eat ginseng root soup instead…stupid Grandma!

The warm nacho cheese sauce, which normally makes me gag because I hate that stuff, worked well with the cold sour cream. They melded in supreme fashion together and the slight acidity of the sour cream cut right through the heavy nacho cheese. There to add another layer of flavor was the pico de gallo. It had fresh chunks of tomato, which also coursed successfully through the heavy nacho cheese sauce.

Taco Bell Grande Scrambler 005

The bacon was in “Bacobits” style, but that in no way muted the salty and crispy bite we demand. I do wish the chunks were bigger to make the bacon flavor more prevalent, but it’s there. The melted shredded cheddar cheese was surprisingly not drowned out by the nacho cheese sauce and it competed well with the tanginess from the pico.

However, the true star of these burritos were their “seasoned breakfast potatoes.” They were perfectly seasoned and had a hybrid tater tot/home-fries like consistency. The only way these could be better is if they were actual tater tots. The potatoes add a satisfying texture to the delicious gloppyness of the burrito. To crank the achievements even more, the tortilla was fluffy and warm like a pillow birthed from a smiling cartoon cloud pooping a rainbow.

Taco Bell Grande Scrambler 006

With that said, the sausage one yielded even better results. The sausage’s peppery flavor imparted a nice compliment to the chunky pico de gallo and it swathed right through the nacho cheese sauce. Although the sausage was in that crappy “kibble” form, it still provided that salty and fatty mouthfeel we crave. Again, the melted cheese and potatoes nicely rounded out the burrito. This time, Taco Bell was less heavy-handed with the sour cream which was fine because it could easily wash away the spicy notes from the sausage.

The price is $2.49 for each, which seems reasonable to me considering the generous size of the burritos. I’m not one of those old timey types that cry out, “you get what you pay for.” Despite that, like scotch or dildos, you really get what you pay for in regards to a breakfast burrito.

The quality is not anywhere near you would get from a good breakfast house that seductively charms you with the aroma of bacon and fluffy pancakes. Yet, for fast food, it really puts some of those meager fast food breakfast burritos to shame. Taco Bell set the bar pretty high and I would bet, if it didn’t violate my probation, that some of the other chains may follow suit. If not, they’re stupid idiots like my grandma who fed me ginseng root soup for breakfast.

(Nutrition Facts – With Bacon – 680 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 195 milligrams of cholesterol, 1570 milligrams of sodium, 68 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars, and 22 grams of protein. With Sausage – 670 calories, 330 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 195 milligrams of cholesterol, 1410 milligrams of sodium, 67 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugars, and 19 grams of protein)

Item: Taco Bell Grande Scrambler Burrito (Bacon and Sausage)
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Bacon)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Sausage)
Pros: The melted cheddar cheese, the warm nacho cheese sauce, the sour cream and pico de gallo all complement each other. The potatoes are texturally and flavorfully awesome. The $2.49 price tag is more than reasonable. Piggy Meat Breakfast Fervor (best name for a band that never existed). Getting angry and shouting.
Cons: The bacon could be bigger, thus the bacon flavor would be more prevalent. The sausage is in “kibble” form. When servers bring toast late, it’s like the fries come last after you have received your cheeseburger. The spouse dealing with you getting angry and shouting.