REVIEW: Pepsi Max Cherry Blast

Pepsi Max Cherry Blast

To be honest, I thought Pepsi Max would’ve been discontinued by now. Because it seems every beverage and snack that I love ends up being removed from shelves. I’d list all of the discontinued products, but I’m not in the mood to cry right now.

For those of you not familiar with with Pepsi Max, it’s a sugar-free, zero calorie cola with ginseng extract and nearly twice the caffeine of regular and Diet Pepsi. It’s been around since 2007 and it competes in the same market as Coke Zero, which is the diet colas with black labels market.

Although it’s a diet soda, it tastes different than Diet Pepsi. Pepsi Max is sweetened with aspartame and ace-K, while Diet Pepsi has just aspartame. This difference gives Pepsi Max a less harsh artificial sweetener aftertaste.

It’s a favorite of mine mostly because of the higher caffeine content. A 20-ounce bottle has 115 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.

Although it’s been around for a while, Pepsi Max has had only one new variety in the U.S. market — Pepsi Max Cease Fire. But that changed recently with the introduction of Pepsi Max Cherry Blast. Hey, I just realized the name kind of rhymes. I guess that’s why Pepsi didn’t call it Wild Cherry Pepsi Max. The soda only comes in 16-ounce tall boy cans, is a 7-Eleven exclusive, and I love this soda…aspartame and all.

I’m a fan of Pepsi Wild Cherry and Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry, and their syrupy artificial cherry aroma and flavor. If you’ve never experienced either soda, their cherry flavor is a hypersweet candy version of cherries, but for some it makes them wonder if they’re drinking cough syrup. Even though some folks think it tastes like something from the cold medicine aisle at your local Walgreens or CVS, I love that cherry flavor and it goes extremely well with Pepsi Max.

I. LOVE. PEPSI. MAX. CHERRY. BLAST.

Pepsi Max Cherry Blast Closeup

I’ve purchased five cans of Pepsi Max Cherry Blast over the course of a week. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.

Although, to be honest, I think a major reason of why I love this soda so much is because, after drinking enough regular Pepsi Max to fill a few bathtubs over the years, my taste buds have gotten extremely tired of it and they yearned for something different.

As much as I love the flavor and the 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine in each can of Pepsi Max Cherry Blast, I do wish it was available in other sizes and stores. Also, I wish I knew if it’s a regular flavor or if I should prepare myself emotionally for when it gets discontinued.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Max Cherry Blast
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: I love this soda. If you enjoy Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry and want more caffeine, this soda will definitely do. Finally, another Pepsi Max flavor! Has 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.
Cons: Non-diet soda drinkers will not like it. Those who think the cherry flavoring tastes like cough syrup will not like it. 7-Eleven exclusive and only available in 16-ounce cans. The possibility that it’ll get discontinued.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry

It started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always?

I want something simple, but get carried away. A search for a song and I buy the album. A hankering for a show leads to the no-sleep Netflix dive. A pondering of a Christmas party and suddenly I’m considering the 3-foot inflatable snowman and $549 deluxe Santa Suit. Who needs this? (Nobody)

And yet…

I NEED THIS!

So I shouldn’t have been surprised with my reaction to these Pop-Tarts. It’s only a box. A box of six tarts. Simple. Easy.

But then I peeled back the lid. And that’s where it all began.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry PBJ goo insides

The crust on these tarts is the pinnacle of Pop-Tarts: a crackly crumble with a slight sandy grit, the sugary peanut butter icing crackles underneath. The peanut butter insides are sweet with a hint of salt while the strawberry jelly serves as a sweet/tart counterpoint. While this inner layer’s a bit on the thin side, it all comes together with the crust to showcase a balance of icing, sugar, salt, crust, crunch, and goo. Three bites in and I felt better about my broken heater, the work I had left, and the universe at large.

But it didn’t stop there.

The opportunities for Pop-Tart creations now became a new avenue through which I could channel obsessive creativity. I was thinking of the Pop-Tarts at the Post Office, contemplating how to get the best ratio of inner goo-to-crust while standing in line at the grocery, and getting wound up about the setting of my toaster in places that did not offer the appliance I needed.

“No more!” I told myself. But it didn’t work (never does). Like the kinky pop song that gets stuck in one’s head, the only way to quell absurd, delightful obsessions is to pursue them without restraint. I knew what I had to do.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry I ate all the PBJs

If I were a different, better person, I would tell you that I shared the rest of the Pop-Tarts with my office mates, how we parceled them between the three of us, toasted them in our toaster oven, and consumed them with generic Kirkland’s coffee, savoring their salty-sweetness.

But I didn’t share.

I ate them all. And I would do it again. Santa will, no doubt, be tempted to slip me onto the naughty list, but just wait till he sees his cookie plate. He’ll change his mind.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry PBJ Santa's cookie plate

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Pastry – 190 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 6 toaster pastries/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Crackly crust. Salty-sweet. Goo. Icing with sprinkles. Excels both toasted and untoasted. Makes you feel good about the Universe. Good vehicle for convincing Santa you’ve been Nice via Cookie Plate.
Cons: Insides are a bit thin. Tempts you to not share. Kinky pop songs. $549 Santa suits.

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Orange (Japan)

Coca-Cola Orange (Japan)

In order to taste an orange-flavored Coca-Cola, you could do it the easy way.

That involves visiting one of the many Coke Freestyle machines throughout the country and selecting a Coke with orange flavoring. Here’s a link to help you find your nearest Coke Freestyle machine. There’s probably one within driving distance from you.

But if you want to taste an orange-flavored Coca-Cola the hard way, you could search eBay for someone selling Coca-Cola Orange, which is new in Japan, mull over spending $10 or more to purchase and ship a bottle from an eBay seller in Japan, decide to pull the trigger when you rationalize to yourself that it’s cheaper than flying to Japan, and then wait 1-2 weeks for it to arrive.

Guess which path I chose.

Yes, I took the harder option. I believe a wise man once said, “Satisfaction is sweeter when the tougher path is taken.” Or did I read that from a fortune cookie? Or is that a combination of inspirational song lyrics?

Anyhoo, I picked up a bottle of this limited edition soda from a seller in Japan for the low price of $3.99 plus $8.99 for shipping.

When it comes to new flavors, Coke in Japan is much more conservative than Pepsi Japan, who puts out exotic flavors like baobab, cucumber, and strawberry milk. The other Coke Japan flavor I tried was green tea. That might sound exotic to you, but in Japan green tea is like pumpkin spice in the U.S. It’s in everything.

Coca-Cola Orange (Japan) Closeup

Coca-Cola Orange has a slight orangey aroma to it and, when I hold it up to a light, it looks like it has a slight orange hue. To me, its flavor ratio is 70 percent Coke and 30 percent orange, which makes it taste 100 percent awesome, or as the Japanese would say, sugoi. That’s your Japanese lesson for the day and there will be a pop quiz at the end of this review.

I’ve had Coke with Lime and Coke with Lemon before, and the thing with those flavors was that they had a floor cleaner-ish vibe to them. But there’s none of that with Coca-Cola Orange. According to the label, there’s no fruit juice, so it’s not a natural orange flavor. The orange is artificial, but it definitely enhances the Coke with a pleasant sweet citrus flavor.

Now that I think about it, the flavor combination would make a great Coke Float. Imagine a Creamsicle Coke Float. That would be…what’s the Japanese word for awesome?

I told you there would be a pop quiz.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 47 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 11.7 grams of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Coca-Cola Orange (Japan)
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 500 ml
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than Coke with Lime and Coke with Lemon. Orange doesn’t taste floor cleaner-ish. I think it would be great in Coke Float form. Doing things the easy way.
Cons: Not made with fruit juice. Pop quizzes. Spending over $10 per bottle when purchased from eBay. Kind of boring compared with the flavors Pepsi Japan comes out with. Doing things the hard way.

REVIEW: Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies

Like Salted Caramel, Maple Bacon, and Sriracha, Red Velvet is a food trend which will not go away until it’s been flavorized into every edible object this side of gluten-free dog treats. While I’m quite positive this has driven some of you mad, I’m more than willing to accept and embrace this necessary step in flavor evolution.

Sneer all you want about how diet yogurts and Pop-Tarts can never match the mellow cocoa flavoring and rich cream cheese frosting of an actual slice of homemade Red Velvet Cake, but unless you possess a time machine allowing you to conveniently travel back to the 1930s or 1940s, I’m going to call you out as just another fan of the latest bastardization of the classic southern cake.

And you know what? I’m totally cool with that, just like I’m totally cool with the idea of the Keebler Elves adapting their classic Fudge Stripe cookies to Red Velvet. These are magical elves, after all, and there are far worse food trends they could be adapting for cookie construction.*

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies 2

At first glance, the fudge stripe template seems a curious choice to adapt Red Velvet to. Fudge is supposed to be dense, super chocolaty, and for lack of a better word, fudgy.

Meanwhile, even bastardized conceptions of Red Velvet carry a certain connotation of a light cake crumb and more restrained cocoa flavor. But when you think about it, good old Ernest J. Keebler’s reasoning checks out. Not nearly as iconic at E.L. Fudge yet distinct enough from your garden-variety Chips Deluxe, the Fudge Stripe begs for a makeover, or at the very least a new twist on the contrast of artificial chocolate glaze and crisp shortbread.

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies 3

If nothing else, the little men slaving away in those treehouse factories certainly craft an aesthetically pleasing product. Lined in a perfect row of red and white, as if drizzled with a cream cheese and buttercream fondant by skillful elfish hands, the cookies look appetizing enough to devour in one fell swoop. It’s a thought not completely unrealistic, if only for the obsolescent non-resealable packaging. Really, Ernest J.? You’ve created a magical factory in a tree capable of mass producing cookies yet you can’t prevent my cookies from going stale? Priorities man, priorities!

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies 4

The white coating is predictably waxy—the kind of artificial, “look that’s going to be your arteries!” stuff that we’ve been told to avoid, but still secretly love. At first, it’s slow to yield a distinct flavor, but after several licks and precise, tiny bites, the faux-glaze takes on a unique flavor. I’m reminded quite a bit of the yogurt coating of the raisins in one of my favorite cereals (Basic 4—completely underrated) but also pick up a hypersweet note of white chocolate and an element of cream cheese.

Beneath the glaze is the shortbread cocoa cookie. Crunchy with a superfine crumb, there’s both a distinct mellow cocoa element but also a deeper and richer chocolate flavor. You won’t mistake it for dark chocolate, but sure enough, the semisweet chocolate listed on the ingredient list makes itself known, giving each cookie an over-the-top chocolate flavor which pairs wonderfully with cream cheese glaze.

I have to admit though, there’s an odd acidity in these cookies which tempers the chocolate; a sensation which makes me almost pucker. Sharp to a point but still very sweet, there really is a distinct Red Velvet flavor that goes well beyond just mellow cocoa and red food coloring. Truth be told it’s sort of unexpected (who ever heard of a crunchy Red Velvet cake, for one thing!), yet somehow satisfyingly addictive. One might, when considering the hands which built it, even call it magical.

I wasn’t expecting to like the Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies as much as I did. I know, I know. Who am I to doubt whatever source of supernatural craftsmanship guides the Keebler elves. Yet lulled to sleep by countless Red Velvet flavor imposters, my expectations were dimmed, so much so that when one of the most accurate representations of the flavor in mass produced form graced my lips, I was blown away. Red Velvet Oreos, you ask? I’m not holding my breath just yet, because as far as I’m concerned Ernest J. and the magical elves have crafted a near-perfect Red Velvet cookie.

*Kale, for instance.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 oz.
Purchased at: Mars Grocery Stores
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: ACTUALLY TASTES LIKE RED VELVET. Mellow cocoa crumb. Unexpected chocolate depth. Addictively complex cream cheese/buttercream/white chocolate glaze. Needed makeover for a classic cookie.
Cons: Possibility of Red Velvet flavored gluten-free dog treats. Seventeenth century cookie packaging. Will turn your arteries into waxy faux cream cheese filling.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Jif Whips Pumpkin Pie Spice

Jif Whips Limited Edition Pumpkin Pie Spice

Plunging pretzels, crackers, and yes, even fingers into the peanut butter jar have always been saved only for the dead of night while shooting paranoid, cautionary looks over each shoulder.

That is, of course, until Jif Whips came along.

Jif knew our secret all along, and last year they finally acknowledged that PB&Js aren’t the only things that the good people of the world have been gracing with the spreadable goodness of everyone’s favorite legume. Now, the inviting wide-mouthed tub of Jif’s Whips welcomes those same activities that once made us feel so dirty inside. George Washington Carver would have been proud.

With the warmest days of summer behind us and the flashing lights of the Christmas season already looming in the back room of every Target, Walmart, and dollar store, the brief(ish) window we call the “Fall Season” is finally, and thankfully, upon us. To celebrate, Jif Whips has whipped up something special for us (and it’s way better than my puns): A limited edition Pumpkin Pie Spice flavor of their crowd-pleasing whipped peanut butter.

To get myself in the mood, I grabbed a warm chai and put on my most autumnal sweater. I would have carved a ceremonial pumpkin too, but I didn’t really feel like moving. Also, I was itchy from the sweater.

Fixed in my chair, I decided that the best vehicle to deliver the peanut butter concoction into my mouth, without overshadowing the Pumpkin Pie Spice, would be graham crackers, a snack so boring on its own that they were actually invented to make everyone masturbate less. The outcome was definitely spectacular.

Jif Whips Limited Edition Pumpkin Pie Spice Closeup

The texture of Jif Whips Pumpkin Pie Spice is much creamier and palpably sweeter than traditional ol’ PB. It’s also much lighter, making dipping with even the most flimsy cracker possible. While maintaining that base peanut butter flavor of brown-bagged happiness Jif is known for, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice work cohesively to bring back cozy memories of last fall.

Unlike many seasonal products that feel like someone at corporate just checking off the typical flavors, the pumpkin pie spice (despite being the king of obligatory seasonal flavors) complements the robustness of Jif’s whipped peanut butter. From all angles, Jif Whips Pumpkin Pie Spice is a great combination of two beloved flavors. And while you’re welcomed to follow my graham cracker example, scooping with your fingers work just as well.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 Tbsp – 140 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Jif Whips Pumpkin Pie Spice
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 15 oz. tub
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Combining pumpkin pie and peanut butter. Very spreadable. Not having to feel bad about using your fingers to eat peanut butter.
Cons: Probably shouldn’t be used to replace all peanut butter. Getting caught dipping your fingers in the peanut butter jar.