REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Banana Split Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Banana Split Twinkies

As the great poetic lyricist Gwen Stefani once soulfully crooned: “This s*** is bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S.”

And if any one song lyric best encapsulates the essence of these new Hostess Banana Split Twinkies, it’s that one. Because even though their appearance is remarkably fecal, beneath that waxy brown exterior is a surprisingly delightful banana treat. In fact, perhaps “Bananaphone” by the legendary symphonist Raffi is a more fitting track, because once you try these, you’ll want to get on the phone and tell your friends.

Sporting a blinding yellow box, a product photo that hypnotically radiates a white aura, and a guest appearance by those seemingly omnipresent Minions (we get it: they like bananas), Hostess is firing on all sensory cylinders in order to make you buy this product.

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The box describes the Twinkies as “frosted cake with artificially flavored strawberry topping and banana creme filling.” The idea of Banana Creme Twinkies and Chocodiles having a sugary love-child is enough to draw me in, but the unique strawberry kicker makes these even more interesting. To paraphrase DiCaprio: “Hostess, you had my curiosity. But now you have my attention.”

Since these are Banana Split Twinkies, there was no better way for me to eat one than to cleave it in twain vertically and observe its many layers like a spongy version of one of those Star Wars cross-section books.

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Beneath the chocolate crust of Planet Twinkie lies a thin jam layer with a few sporadically spaced, strangely square strawberry land mines. After these is a sponge cake mantle which guards the tempting pale yellow creme core. Ready your best Brendan Fraser impression, kids; we’re journeying to the center of the Twinkie.

The fragile chocolate coating’s flavor is far from distinct: heavy on the generic, cloying sugar taste and light on any real cocoa richness. Yet, I find myself okay with this because the chocolate simply isn’t meant to be the star of the show. The same goes for the rare strawberry clusters, which provide little more than a slight fruity burst and an interesting textural contrast. The golden cake section is doughy and dense, yet tame; like the vanilla ice cream it is meant to imitate, it exists only to provide a springboard for the creme center to perform its tasty alley-oop.

Because, as with many of Hostess’ new products, the creme makes the cake. Despite the artificial flavorings, it’s impressive how authentic the banana taste was. If I were to score the realism of the creme on my patented “Bananometer” (try spelling that, Gwen), which ranges from “Banana Laffy Taffy” to “uhh, that’s an actual banana,” it would land closer to the latter.

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Eaten all together, I can earnestly say this cake does taste like a banana split. Like a good glass of wine with cheese or an Exodia deck in Yu-Gi-Oh, the parts work together to unlock each other’s true potential. With the banana flavor rightfully dominating, the strawberry nodules explode and support it with an appreciated bit of tartness, while the chocolate and sponge cake compliment the fruity sweetness with a buttery one. If you’re in the mood for a banana split, but not the work that comes with it, just pop one of these in the freezer, and you won’t be disappointed.

Somewhere, deep within a Hostess laboratory, is a team of flavor scientists who labored endlessly to perfect this flavor balance, and I give them praise. Bravo to you, certified “Bananologists.”

(My apologies again to Ms. Stefani.)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 170 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Banana Split Twinkies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 9 cakes
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a banana split. Balanced hierarchy of flavors. Satisfactory Bananometer results. Illegitimate snack cake children. Raffi.
Cons: Sporadic strawberry usage. Probably won’t win over banana haters. “Crappy” first impressions. Market over-saturation of Minions. Banana Laffy Taffy.

REVIEW: Keebler Jif Cookies

Keebler Jif Cookies

If it’s really true that “Choosy Moms Choose Jif,” then that raises some interesting questions about these new Keebler Jif Cookies. Namely: with so many cookies to choose from, what do Keebler Elf mothers pack for their kids’ lunches?

All lingering questions regarding Keebler biology aside (if E.L. Fudge cookies are anatomically correct, then how can the Elves reproduce with fudge for guts?), my guess is that it’s these peanut buttery delights.

Why? Because eating them is like taking a nostalgic trip back to elementary school lunchtime. Allow me to guide you through the simulation:

As Mrs. Hartwell continues to drone on about the importance of “the cursive capital I,” all you can think about is how the letter kinda looks like an octopus holding a cup of tea. So you stare at her bizarre facial mole until the third period bell rings, heralding in the best part of the day: lunch. As everyone clamors to the haphazardly cleaned tables, you explore the depths of your Tiny Toon Adventures lunchbox. Tossing aside a Grape Capri Sun (Pacific Cooler is a way better flavor) and egg salad sandwich (shudder), you strike brown gold: a Ziploc full of Keebler Jif Cookies!

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With a scent like the oily innards of a Reese’s Cup wafting out of the baggy, you catch the hopeful stare of Benny Thompson. No way are you trading your cookies for his Fruit Roll-Up this time. You bite into one of the bumpy, fudge-coated rings (but not before wearing it like a mock pinky ring, as it’s perfectly sized for your young hands) and release an exaggerated “Mmmm!” Benny hides his jealousy with a Fruit Roll-Up.

They certainly aren’t attractive cookies, with the glossy fudge and protruding nuts making them look like something that Scooter, your family Basset Hound, would leave behind for the neighbor kids to put in a flaming paper bag. The fudge melts fast, too, so you hope no one misinterprets the brown smudges on your hands.

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Analyzing every layer reveals the treat as deceptively complicated. The cookie center is crispy and airy with a pleasant taste of cocoa. This is surrounded by a layer of diced peanuts that add a contrasting crunch texture and a bit of earthy saltiness to balance the resounding sweetness of the fudge, which is a bit overbearingly rich in that “you’ll be tasting this on your tongue for hours” kind of way. It’s strong enough to override the unique creaminess provided by the thin layer of Jif peanut butter inside, which is a shame, because the rare instances when the Jif’s nutty gooeyness shines through are the cookie’s most memorable parts.

After school, you immediately raid the cupboards before mom gets home. As any child would, you experiment and craft a sinful PB&J hors d’oeuvre that looks vaguely like Jabba the Hutt.

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Cookies like these naturally evoke such childlike creativity. Yes, it’s ridiculous, fattening, and a bit unnecessary, but it’s also the kind of experience you’ll remember fondly in 10 years.

At the end of the day, that’s just what these cookies are: an enjoyable escapade, but a forgettable flavor. As good as it is, it’s been done before: when absentmindedly stuffed into your mouth, the many flavors amalgamate and ultimately remind you of two very familiar ones: it’s just like a Keebler Fudge Stripe and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar made sweet, sweet love and had salty-sweet children.

Not that your elementary school self understood how that works, right?

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 170 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Keebler Jif Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.78
Size: 8 oz./15 cookies
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Jif peanut butter MVP. Fun contrasting textures. Evoking childlike whimsy. “Jabba the Peanutt.”
Cons: Not enough Jif. Loses complexity when crammed in mouth. Fudge fingers. Distracting moles. Egg salad.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Twisted Grilled Cheese Goldfish Puffs

Pepperidge Farm Twisted Grilled Cheese Goldfish Puffs

I won a goldfish from the fair when I was ten. I was so excited holding him in his bag on the drive home. Oh the fun we were gonna have… Then, I realized all he did was swim in circles. About a month later I had to flush him down the toilet. That was basically the same experience as buying and eating Twisted Grilled Cheese Goldfish Puffs.

The instant you tear open the bag, you’re met with no smell. Seriously, there is barely a hint of a scent from these things. I’ve never had a cheese based snack that didn’t have a distinct aroma. These smell like cardboard.

The lack of smell didn’t bother me at first because artificially flavored cheese isn’t exactly my favorite cologne, but then I tasted them and, yeah, we’re just dealing with a bland product here.

The flavor itself reminded me of Wise Cheez Doodles, only with much less flavor. These are the cheese puff equivalent of Fruit Stripe gum. The instant you get hit with the cheese flavor, you lose it. The only other sensation I got was a “corny” aftertaste. Not “corny” like my writing, but “corny” like “I just ate corn.”   

I’ll tell you one flavor I never thought of once while eating these – grilled cheese.   There’s really nothing “grilled cheese” about them. I kinda figured you’d get a nice buttery element with the cheese, but nope. Nada. 

They could have tagged this with any description they wanted and it would have been on par with “Twisted Grilled Cheese.” That name is strictly a marketing ploy. I was really hoping they would have been more in line with the Flavor Blasted Cheddar Goldfish crackers, but alas, they were just weak cheese doodles.

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You’re probably wondering where the “twist” comes in. So am I. Each puff has little green sprinkles on them, which I assume are pepper flakes, because there is a small heat element. Very small. This of course is backed up by the fact that neither “pepper” nor anything really relating to “pepper” is listed in the ingredients. So…either way, the heat lingers on your tongue longer than the actual cheese flavor.

It’s not all bad though. The texture is the saving grace – on a scale from “fresh puffed Cheeto” to “stale Cap’n Crunch cereal piece,” it definitely lands closer to the former.  There is a nice light crisp to each bite, but in time, I could feel them shredding the roof of my mouth.

And ya know why? Because I’m still eating them as I type. Here I am, talking about how boring these Goldfish are, yet they’re going down like water…which is ironic because I think Pepperidge Farm’s main reason for shaping their crackers like fish was due to the fact they pair so well with water. I’ve never eaten any variety of Goldfish without chugging a bottle of H2O due to excessive salt dehydration. These are certainly no different. Salt city.

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Twisted Grilled Cheese Goldfish Puffs are probably the worst Goldfish product I’ve ever had. Not to go all superficial on you guys, but they aren’t even as cute as regular goldfish. They’re fatter and more squished in appearance. There’s a certain sadness hidden behind each of those smiles. Although to be fair to Twisted Grilled Cheese, the original Cheddar sets an unrealistic standard for Goldfish alike. Real Goldfish have curves.

So, in conclusion, are these better than most puffed cheese snacks? No. Are they better than regular cheddar Goldfish crackers? Not even close.

There are so many cheesy alternatives in the supermarket, there’s almost no reason to buy these unless you are a Goldfish completist. Still, I can’t give them a super low score because of their inherent eatability – which I’m being told is not a word. Tomato, tuh-ma-toe.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.1 oz – 140 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, .5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Twisted Grilled Cheese Goldfish Puffs
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Light and crisp. Addicting. Snack smiles back. Catchy advertising jingles of yore.
Cons: Bland. Salty. Mouth roof rippers. False grilled cheese advertising. Weakest twist since M. Night’s most recent flick.

REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish Crackers

Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish

Look, I know.

I know I shouldn’t have tried to pogo through Times Square. Or put the Tootsie Roll in the Easy Bake Oven. Or tried to build a tent in gale force winds in the middle of the Mexico desert. I do ridiculous things sometimes because I’m curious if they can be done. Somebody should stop me.

But nobody did. Not when I was walking to the grocery. Not at the back of aisle 3. Not the guy hacking up sirloin at the meat counter. So, unhindered by human or meat cleaver, I dive in to Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish Crackers, one-by-one.

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Starting simple, the cheddar is familiar and orange as the hunk of cheese from whence it came. It’s wonderful in that nutty, salty, and savory way. It’s perhaps a bit too safe, but it’s also nice to be reminded that there’s a reason these have been bobbing about since 1962.

I’m surprised and disappointed to find the ketchup tastes much similar to the cheddar cracker, but with a very, very, very, very minuscule hint of canned tomato paste. Some may say the tomato isn’t there at all, but, if you close your eyes and use your imagination, you can taste a tomato-y afterthought at the end. Those looking for the sweet tang of ketchup shall be sad in this tomato effort, but the sprinklies of salt coating each fish help things along. It’s not a bad fishy, but not noticeably different enough from the cheddar to declare its taste as unique.

Now, on to the most curious beast: the burger cracker.

No skipping around the tulips: it’s pretty good. No hints of metal, artificial smoke, or burnt-charcoal. There’s a salty, savory, roasted-portabella edge with a hint of caramelized onion bits found at the bottom of the pan. Sure, it may not be the medium-rare hunk of cow I look for, but it holds its own, and, in that capacity, it goes excellently with the cheddar. The two eaten together may encourage you to shovel up every last crumb of the bag as if you were raised by wolves. Do not be ashamed of being raised by wolves: scoop those crackers down, you wolf-human.

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Maybe it’s the smell of charcoal in the air, but I think I like these. I really do. They’re not spectacular, even a little too safe, but they’re also not putrid.

They’re savory, nutty, cheesy and easy to chomp. It would be exciting to see Pepperidge Farm go further with the idea of the burger: give me some jalapeño, Colby, and mustard-coated Goldfish. Bacon and bleu. Give me all the pickle-flavored fishies you can muster. I shall eat them. Eat them all. If I’m going off the deep end, so be it.

But maybe you will join me? Here? In the deep end? It’s nice. And way fun. And has lots of crackers.

(Nutrition Facts – 56 pieces – 140 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Cheeseburger Goldfish Crackers
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 6.3 oz. bag
Purchased at: Morton Williams
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Nutty. Savory. Burger cracker not gross. Cheddar remains unchanged. Brown bits of caramelized onions. Salt sprinklies. Benefits of being raised by wolves. Pogo sticks.
Cons: Ketchup tastes like cheddar. Absence of tang. Can’t order medium rare. No pickles? Trying to set up a tent in gale force winds.