REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake

The following are uncovered hacked e-mails from Trader Joe’s headquarters. The correspondence is between CEO Trader Joe and powerful cheesecake agent Graham K. Racker.

On Jun 14, 2014, at 2:19 PM, “NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Graham K. Racker”> wrote:

Joe,
Had a chance to check out the samples yet? Want to get these cheesecakes on the shelves stat.

On Jun 14, 2014, at 6:31 PM, “RE: NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Trader Joe”> wrote:

Graham,
Yes, I have. Although I appreciate the time and effort in sending me all of these cheesecake samples, there is just no way that we will be able to accommodate them all at our stores. Some of the flavors also seem strange. “Brussel Sprout?” “Toro Sashimi?” “Little Caesar’s $5 Pizza Cheesecake?” That’s not even legally possible, Graham.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 2

Though, I will say, one particular cheesecake caught my taste buds. The Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake. I think this is perfect for our stores, as it’s very good and will continue the extremely popular Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter tradition.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 3

Here’s what I think: I was at first taken aback with the fact that it wasn’t an entire cheesecake with cookie butter cream cheese or something like that, maybe a swirl. It’s more like a plain cheesecake wearing a cookie butter hat. Actually, if you consider the crumbled speculoos cookie crust, the cheesecake is wearing a cookie hat and cookie pants. Might have to save that saying for one of our sign artists!

And it’s a delightful slice. The plain cheesecake is not too sweet, allowing the cookie butter to shine. The two flavors of cheesecake and topping are relatively muted and elevate each other, allowing the consumer to mindlessly zombie-eat it, like Oreos or Doritos dust. (Ironically, I couldn’t eat more than two bites of the Oreo-Doritos Dust Cheesecake you sent)

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 4

The cookie butter top is a little denser than the cake filling itself and biting into it releases a waft of cinnamon that triggers pumpkin pie memories. Following that, the cream cheese exhibits a mild tang typical of a cheesecake. It’s almost until the aftertaste that I am walloped in the mouth by ground up shortbread dancing around my mouth. It’s not trying to reinvent cheesecake, it’s delivering what it says on the box: It’s a cheesecake with cookie butter on it. I like it.

If there is a downside, it is that it is frozen. Of course there is no way around this, as per transportation and storage necessities, but the instructions on defrosting ranges from “4-6 hours or overnight.” So people’s mileage may vary. I know myself, I sleep 3 hours a night, being the CEO of a successful company. So overnight for me is less than the recommended time. Now I’m bragging.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 5

The speculoos cookie crust does a decent job of serving up the rest of the goods, but the cookie butter top and cheesecake are definitely the stars. Also, because it is frozen, the crust absorbs a good deal of moisture, which is not a deal breaker but not the best situation for crusts. Also to consider because of it being a frozen product—how long a consumer puts it out to be room temperature will affect the softness of the cheese in the cheesecake.

But most of all it sucks that we have to wait to eat it! This item seems great for our shelves and a good supplement or replacement for the apple pie and pumpkin pies during the holidays. Thanks Graham.

On Jun 15, 2014, at 8:35 AM, “RE: NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Graham K. Racker”> wrote:

You can’t just pick and choose, Joe. If you want the Speculoos Cheesecake you have to take the Dragonfruit Salvia flavored one too. Don’t mess with me. We’re on the verge of getting Obama to pardon a cheesecake this Christmas and it will put us on the map and you will be sorry. I’m going to make it a [redacted] flavored one. You think he’ll love that?

The cheesecake industry is coming up and your Hawaiian shirt wearing pathetic losers can’t stop me. You aren’t even in control of your own brand, Joe. Not saying you’re a whore, but you’re a whore.

You can have the cookie butter cheesecake but you have to take the Cardamom Parsley Squid one too. This is not up to debate. I am not destroying my career over a minimally talented spoiled brat, Joe. I’m talking about you, Joe.

On Jun 15, 2014, at 9:06 AM, “RE: NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Trader Joe”> wrote:

Good thing I have a mouth like an elephant’s brain — it can replicate tastes with amazing recall. It also feels large but actually is proportional for my body size. We don’t need you, crazy man. Putting this stuff out by December.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6th of a cheesecake – 410 calories, 220 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 29 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake
Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: 22.5 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like cookie butter. Fans of cookie butter can enjoy it in cheesecake form. Not too sweet.
Cons: Thawing process unpredictable. Soggy-ish crust.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos

Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos Package

Say what you will about Taco Bell’s recycling of ingredients when introducing new menu items, but I will say this – they do enjoy getting creative with tacos. Whether they’re turning a Dorito into a shell, or wrapping a taco around another taco, playing origami with tortillas is not their weak spot.

And thus, the next iteration of the taco has arrived at Taco Bell: Rolled Chicken Tacos.

“Aren’t rolled tacos called taquitos?” You’re asking yourself right now. Or maybe you’re not, but it was my first thought when I saw them. The short answer is yes. I’m glad we cleared that up.

I associate these two terms with two different things, however. Whenever I visit a taqueria, I see them listed as rolled tacos on the menu. But when I visit the frozen food aisle of the grocery store, I see big boxes of taquitos.

In fact, growing up, my parents’ freezer was not complete without a big box of El Monterey or Delimex beef taquitos. It was my dad’s thing. I think he gave them out at the hospital when I was born in lieu of cigars. They tasted as cheap as they cost, but when you’re a ravenous prepubescent, the perfect food is something you can throw in the microwave, eat with your hands, and dunk into a puddle of Pace Picante.

Strangely, beef isn’t an option when it comes to Taco Bell’s Rolled Tacos. It’s chicken or GTFO. I don’t understand this decision, given that Taco Bell has loads of ground beef hanging around that would fit perfectly into a fried tortilla tube, but here we are. I have no choice but to be poultrified.

While it seems self-explanatory, I should let you know how Taco Bell describes their Rolled Chicken Tacos: “Rolled Chicken Tacos are crispy tacos rolled up with marinated all-white-meat shredded chicken.” Again, so glad we cleared all that up.

The Rolled Tacos also come with your choice of five, that’s right, FIVE different dipping sauces: Nacho Cheese, Premium Guacamole, Salsa, Reduced-Fat Sour Cream or Taco Bell’s new Spicy Ranch.

My mouth wanted to go with guacamole, but knowing that the Spicy Ranch was new, I had to pick that. Spicy Ranch is about as Mexican as dipping your rolled tacos in ketchup, but we are talking about Taco Bell, so hey.

Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos

When Taco Bell says “crispy”, what they really mean is “deep fried”, and boy are these Rolled Chicken Tacos. Upon removal from their sleeve, the delightful scent of fried tortillas wafted into my nostrils. The tacos were dark and glistening with grease. Yesss.

The texture of the tacos was indeed crispy, but not so much that they were mouth-hurty, and there was a nice, greasy give in the middle. The meat-to-tortilla ratio was pretty much spot-on; I expected them to be underfilled, but the chicken wasn’t overwhelmed by the tortilla.

The chicken itself was moist and surprisingly flavorful. When you’ve only got one ingredient going on inside a taco, it’s important to get it right, and Taco Bell did a pretty good job. Whatever marinade they used kept the chicken juicy and added seasoning and a nice little kick to what could easily have been bland, shredded meat. My favorite part were the bits on the end that had turned crunchy from the frying process. I could eat a whole stick of crunchy, deep-fried chicken.

Taco Bell Spicy Ranch

As mentioned before, dip is important when it comes to taquitos. In regards to Taco Bell’s new Spicy Ranch, I found it to be lackluster, and this is coming from a person who will dip pretty much any chicken product into any ranch product. It wasn’t bad, it was just terribly generic.

I don’t know what they used to spice up the ranch, but it had a slightly orange-ish tone with little red and green flecks. It was thick, which was good – nobody wants a runny ranch when they’re dipping – and Taco Bell was generous with their portions, as I got two cups with my four rolled tacos. In the end, though, it was just ranch with a bit of a kick, and nothing more.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Taco Bell’s Rolled Chicken Tacos. The corn tortillas were deep fried to just the right unhealthily greasy and crunchy texture and the chicken was prominent, juicy and well-marinated. While the Spicy Ranch did nothing to wow me, there are four other dip choices for your perusal.

At the price of $1.99 for two tacos and one dip or $3.99 for four and two dips, these make a fine snack or appetizer to your Fourthmeal. There’s also a “duo” (I don’t know what that means) 12-pack.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 rolled tacos – 520 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 58 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugars, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Rolled Chicken Tacos
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4 tacos and 2 dip cups
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tortillas were just the right amount of crispy. Origami tacos. Chicken filling was juicy and well-marinated. Makes a cheap but satisfying snack. Taquito Cigars.
Cons: Forced poultrification. Spicy Ranch was lackluster. Things that are mouth-hurty. Unhealthy amounts of grease (if you consider that a con).

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.