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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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: Hostess Limited Edition Cherry Chocodile Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Cherry Flavored Chocodile Twinkies

Dear Hostess,

I would like to commend your recent decision to revive Chocodiles, those chocolate-coated, cream-filled sponge cakes. Their reappearance was honestly the most surprising comeback of something dead since Hologram Tupac did a little dance at Coachella. Kids these days, am I right?

But alas, all is not right with the world. Though our precious chocolate-covered Twinkies have returned, the beloved mascot of Chocodile snack cakes, Chauncey Chocodile, remains missing. Many years ago, you chose to remove his image from both Chocodiles boxes and the Hostess website, and he hasn’t been seen since. Without a goofy, spectacles-wearing, anthropomorphic crocodile encouraging the American youth to consume sugary treats, we are lost.

Where is Chauncey? Is he locked away in some Hostess factory basement, surviving on a diet of Zingers and stale fruit pies? Is his disappearance a result of witness protection, having seen countless victims fall to the gun-slinging Twinkie the Kid? Rumors have spread that Chauncey’s been spotted smuggling Ho Hos into North Korea alongside Captain Cupcake and King Ding Dong, but I have my doubts — everybody knows Kim Jong Un prefers Little Debbie products.

Hoping to discover a clue related to his disappearance, I recently purchased a package of Limited Edition Cherry Chocodile Twinkies. To my disappointment, I found no hostage letters inside. The box only held nine chocolate-covered sponge cakes filled with cherry-flavored cream.

Though my quest for answers will not be smothered by snack foods made with hydrogenated oil and xanthan gum, I decided to eat the cakes anyway.

Chauncey’s catchphrase was “it takes a while to eat a Chocodile,” but I’m afraid I have to disagree. Each cake is a meager 1.45 ounces, whereas the original Chocodiles were 2 ounces. Even so, I can’t decry the portion size. The snack cakes are so sugary sweet that 1.45 ounces is plenty.

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I expected the cherry flavor to be exaggerated, with a cough syrup-like sharpness, but it was surprisingly subtle. Each bite contained an ample amount of the cherry filling, which offers a creaminess reminding me of cherry-flavored buttercream. The fruity filling feels natural alongside the chocolate and sponge cake flavors of a traditional Chocodile.

Cherry and chocolate is one flavor pairing that just works, and Cherry Chocodiles are no exception to the rule. Chauncey would be impressed.

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My only complaint is that the chocolate feels low quality. As a previous review mentioned, the Chocodile chocolate glaze is somewhat waxy. After consuming just a single Chocodile, I felt the chocolate clinging to the back of my throat in a disagreeable fashion. Hostess, once you take care of this Chauncey Chocodile issue, you should probably get to work on improving your chocolate.

Ah, crap. I’ve digressed a bit. Anyway, back to my main point.

I beseech you, Hostess. Prove to the public you have nothing to hide and disclose the whereabouts of Chauncey Chocodile. It’s time for his visage to once again adorn the boxes of Chocodiles lining the aisles of my local gas station convenience store.

Sincerely,

A concerned citizen

PS – I expect to see a hologram Chauncey take the stage with Dre and Snoop at the next Coachella. Just sayin’.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 160 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Cherry Chocodile Twinkies
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Ample filling in each bite. Subtle, creamy cherry flavor. Cherry and chocolate pairing works. Hologram Tupac.
Cons: Waxy chocolate clings to back of throat. The unexplained disappearance of a Hostess mascot.

REVIEW: French Toast Crunch Cereal (2014)

French Toast Crunch 2015 Return

Let me take you back to 1999 for a few precious moments.

My mother’s silver Ford Windstar was bumping Smashmouth’s “All Star” as she dropped me off at elementary school, where for the next seven hours I’d gloss over lessons in long division and conjunctions in order to run an illicit Pokémon “distribution” center based out of my Star Wars Episode 1 pencil box. Afternoons were spent in the basement with my Sega Genesis (I always was a few years late with the systems) seemingly set in perpetual pause mode as I tried to pass the eighth level of Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

In the evening, I’d cover my ears when the news came on and Tom Brokaw would tell my parents how the world would end with Y2K approaching. But I still managed to get a very solid nine hours of sleep each night with nothing but sweet, sweet dreams.

Why, you ask? Could it have been the innocence of youth? Or the absence of a soul-sucking job for which I’d have to wake up at 4 a.m. each morning?

Well, yes. But more importantly, it was because of French Toast Crunch.

Sweet, maple syrupy, and crunchy, it was for millions of us the gold standard in breakfast cereals. It might have been the single most dominant reason for relative world peace during the 1990s, and its delicious power to render slurp worthy end-milk allowed countless young Americans to partake in the bone-strengthening but otherwise insipid taste of skim milk.

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But sometime between our blissful ignorance of munching on a bowl box during marathons of ABC’s “One Saturday Morning”, a funny thing happened. The French Toast Crunch we all knew and loved changed. It wasn’t French Toast Crunch anymore. Instead it was a variation of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. As the box artwork and shape of the cereal pieces changed, so did the flavor, and before we knew it, the cereal faded into obscurity.

Until now.

Spurred on by a passionate social media campaign years in the making, General Mills has brought back French Toast Crunch in its original form from the 1990s, returning it to American store shelves after a lengthy exile in Canada.

As some of you may know, I’ve been fortunate enough to have, uh, procured Canadian French Toast Crunch in the not so distant past. I’m indebted to those Canadians who have offered to indulge my inner ten-year-old every now and again, although I’m obligated to point out it’s only fair considering we gave them the greatest cereal of all time and they gave us Nickelback. In any event, the Canadian version of French Toast Crunch is beyond delicious. The question, then, was whether or not the resurrected American version would be equally enjoyable.

Well, I have good news and bad news after tasting the returned version of French Toast Crunch. The bad news is I still don’t think we can turn back time and return Nickelback to Canada and get “One Saturday Morning” back on ABC. The good news? French Toast Crunch is even better than I remember it as a kid with all the crunchy glazed maple syrup goodness you or I could ask for.

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On the off chance you’re either A) An old fart who wouldn’t understand B) Too young to have eaten the original or C) Just have something wrong with you and have never tasted French Toast Crunch, here’s what you’re in for. Little squares of glazed “toast” with an authentic but not overpowering maple flavor, graced with a crunchy corn base with a wonderfully smooth glaze which gives each piece a lickable quality in milk.

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There are undertones of Cap’n Crunch and Quisp in the brown sugar and corn notes, while a Waffle Crisp flavor and crunch persists right down to the finish. Equally enjoyable when eaten as a snack or in a bowl of milk, it is, in two words, quite ideal. Beyond that, I’d likely exhaust the vocabulary of overused descriptive food terms before capturing the quintessence of why this cereal tastes so great.

French Toast Crunch is back, and it’s just as good as it’s ever been. It might not be able to take you physically back to 1999 (only a Flux Capacitor can do that) but set against the backdrop of a YouTube video of your favorite childhood cartoon and a lazy Saturday morning, it’s the next best thing.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup or 28 grams –110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.).)

Item: French Toast Crunch Cereal (2014)
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11.6 oz. box
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 10 out of 10
Pros: Even better than I remember it. All the authentic maple qualities of Waffle Crisp with a smooth, glazed surface on each piece which is without equal in cerealdom. Wonderful Quisp-like crispness and slight corn aftertaste. Leaves delicious end-milk even in skim milk. Instantly my new favorite cereal…again.
Cons: Anxiety over sales performance in an already oversatured market. Sleepless night left wondering if this means Oreo O’s will come back too? Not being able to export Nickelback back to Canada.

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: Limited Time Only Cinnamon Sugar Pringles Tortillas

Limited Time Only Cinnamon Sugar Pringles Tortillas

Like a mannequin in New Era Caps or the former major league outfielder Matt Stairs, Julius Pringle might well be called a man of many hats. Between bacon and sriracha, reduced fat and diarrhea-inducing “Fat Free” crisps, he lays claim to a snack food empire with more flavor variations than a Coke Freestyle machine. And while he’s re-released his seasonal Pecan Pie Pringles in time for the holidays, he’s also donned a sombrero just in time to wish you and I a Feliz Navidad.

I speak, of course, of the new Cinnamon Sugar Pringles Tortillas. The flavor coincides with the annual need to turn savory into sweet this time each year, joining fellow new limited edition Pringles flavor, milk chocolate, on grocery store shelves.

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Also consistent with the season: the shoddy packaging, which, much like the millions of gifts shipped in oversized containers and without proper padding, tends to leaves the Pringles battered and broken. It’s mitigated somewhat by the more sturdy nature of the tortilla base compared to regular Pringles, but it’s still annoying. Although not as annoying as waking up Christmas morning to a cracked HDTV.

If you’ve ever had the Tortilla Pringles before you know the crisps enjoy a mild corn flavor with an enjoyable but none-too-bold toasted flavor. There’s an earthy note of black beans and a moderate crunch and saltiness, but overall, it’s a crisp that’s not going to offend anyone.

To pick back up on the holiday theme, it’s the kind of crisp that talks about the weather at parties, perhaps munching on a sugar cookie in the corner while smiling pleasantly and staying as far away from the eggnog as possible. God forbid it might sing along to a Bing Crosby song, it instead hums an ambiguous classical note in the background.

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The addition of cinnamon sugar really doesn’t deviate too much from this philosophy. Coating only the “underside” of each crisp, the cinnamon sugar is pretty tame. With no notes of toasted, caramelized sweetness it’s as one-note as cinnamon sugar comes, and feels detached from the corn crisp beneath. It’s kind of a shame, really, because for a brief moment there’s a nice salty-sweet combination that feels natural amongst the tortilla base.

The excitement dissipates quickly though, and like a kid at Christmas who’s just opened up a buttload of wrapped gifts only to find clothes, the anticipation is replaced by a functional reality. In other words? Prepared to have some kind of salsa on hand.

For some reason I thought the Pringles Tortillas Cinnamon Sugar would taste like churros, or at the very least open a new front in the ever chic line of salty-sweet combinations. It manages to hint at the latter, but completely falls short of the former. If nothing else it just provides an adequate and mildly enjoyable corn chip for your holiday get-togethers filled with weather conversations and reduced fat sugar cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz./about 14 crisps – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, less than 3 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Limited Time Only Cinnamon Sugar Pringles Tortillas
Purchased Price: $1.50
Size: 6.42 oz. can
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable lightly toasted corn flavor with earthy aftertaste. Lickable cinnamon-sugar coating. Functional tortilla chip not the least bit off-putting.
Cons: Cinnamon sugar coating is only surface deep. Not as salty or bold a corn flavor as Fritos. Chips shatter easily. Aftertaste is kind boring. Christmas morning with twelve new turtlenecks.