REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Pumpkin spice presents an existential crisis for the creative writer.

There is only so much that can said about it. What there is to say has been said before, said again, and then said in a different way. Chances are the same trite expression about pushing autumn in August, or the long litany of pumpkin spice products now available to us, is currently being wrestled onto the page of another food blog. We, the pumpkin spice addicts of America, have long since typed our love affair with the orange gourd and its seminal flavors into a monotony of clichés.

This is a damn shame, because when done right, pumpkin spice should not be reduced to a cliché.

Take the new Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

This is limited edition cereal to end all limited edition cereals; the kind of product that’s worth stocking up on from the beginning of August and then rationing out through the polar onslaught of December and humid days of July.

To be fair, we should have expected this much. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios were announced back in the spring when Strawberry Cheerios came out, and given the success of the spring flavor, Cheerios let us know they’re not doing this LTO thing half-ass.

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal 2

Case in point, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios don’t taste like cinnamon. The flavor isn’t the cheap heavy note of cassia, nor is it the honey or brown sugar sweetness that often comes along for the pumpkin spice ride. Likewise, this is not the repackaged taste of Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are pumpkin spice Cheerios. There’s the sweet fragrant note of nutmeg, the aromatic warmth of clove, and, yes, the flavors of cinnamon and ginger.

Lest you think this is just a pumpkin spice flavor, there is some serious sweet pumpkin flavor going on in each of those oat rings. The addition of real pumpkin in the ingredients makes a world of difference when eating the cereal in milk, where the sublime essence of pumpkin desserts comes to life.

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal 3

Yes, sublime essence. Think of it as that moment when crust component, pumpkin component, and dairy meet. Here the warming and exotic notes of spices co-mingle with the sweetened taste of pumpkin and the richness of milk. A hearty crunch filled with sweetened dairy and a bit of milkfat greets eats spoonful, and in that moment the eater relives everything that is right about the cool breeze of October and the multicolored leaves that drift to the ground.

I may have chomped down on my first bite on a 95-degree day in west Texas, but if I would have closed my eyes and blasted a fan in my face then I’m pretty sure I could have fooled myself into believing it was autumn. It sure tasted that way.

Based on the rapidly growing list of pumpkin spice cereals entering the market, we’ll soon have the proverbial cornucopia to choose from. I don’t doubt many of these cereals will be good, but few, I’m willing to bet, will be able to match the appeal of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Outstanding representation of the complexity of pumpkin spices that exceeds the dull and heavy cinnamon flavor sometimes assigned to pumpkin spice. Sweet, hearty taste of oat base. Wonderful rich flavor in milk that tastes like the edge of a pumpkin pie or bar.
Cons: Could be a tad sweeter and have a “glaze” like Honey Nut Cheerios. The creative struggle to explain the appeal of pumpkin spice.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal

If you were to put a gun to my head and demand I rank every single Cheerios flavor in history, my first thought would be, why are you willing to kill me over something as trivial as one man’s opinion on a toasted oat cereal?

And then I’d proceed to rattle off the definitive guide to 22 flavors.

Apple Cinnamon Cheerios would be up there. So would Peanut Butter Multigrain Cheerios. And, being the purist that I am, I wouldn’t forget the golden bee of Honey Nut Cheerios.

But at the very top? The discontinued Strawberry Yogurt Burst Cheerios.

Taken off shelves sometime in the past three years, but long adored by adults and kids alike, the sweet strawberry notes of the O’s still haunt me. Yeah, I could get Fruity Cheerios and just eat the red ones, but it’s not the same. If Cheerios can give spelt, quinoa, and other ancient grains their own box, then America’s favorite berry should have its own flavor.

Thankfully, General Mills has finally taken note, albeit in a limited edition role with the new Strawberry Cheerios.

Just writing “limited edition” makes me want to sift through pages of Google search results for a viable answer to “how to freeze time” so I can endlessly replay the moment when my milky spoonful of red-freckled oat rings embraced my taste buds like a cold strawberry shake on a warm spring day.

Yes, Strawberry Cheerios are that good.

Those who fondly recall Berry Burst Cheerios will be filled with poetic memories of the subtly sweet strawberry flavor, oatey crunch, and sophisticated tart aftertaste of the bygone classic. Eaten dry, the new Strawberry Cheerios have an ideal combination of strawberry flavor (emphasis on the straw, as opposed to just vague berry; although, now that I think about it, don’t think about eating straw. That’s freaking disgusting) and wholesome Cheerios taste.

Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal 2

There’s a wonderfully sturdy crunch in each oat ring — more crunch than the standard Cheerio — but unlike past Cheerios flavors, Strawberry Cheerios has no identifiable defect. Gone are styrofoamy freeze-dried fruit; banished are fake palm kernel oil yogurt coatings; and exiled are the annoying original Cheerios that taste like insipid islands of plainness amidst an ocean of strawberry islands.

They also get better in milk.

Limited Edition Strawberry Cheerios Cereal 3

The strong strawberry tartness in the aftertaste dissipates, replaced by mellow yet sweet flavor that, when enjoyed in the presence of whole milk, takes on notes of milkshake or ice cream. The gluten-free oat rings stay crunchy even through a long soak, slowly giving away their sweetness to a light red bowl of pure strawberry milk.

If you’re going to put a gun to my head and demand I give you one slight suggestion of improvement for the new Strawberry Cheerios, I’d admit they could be a little sweeter, since I recently figured out how awesome macerated strawberries taste. But it’s hard to nitpick, especially with how accurate Cheerios nailed the strawberry flavor. Are Strawberry Cheerios the best of the now 23 Cheerios varieties that have been created? It’s tough to say, but if you’re going to demand an answer from me, I’d say they’re up there, and are probably the purest, tastiest strawberry cereal on the market.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.38
Size: 21 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Delicious and bright strawberry flavor combined with solid oat crunch. Tart, sophisticated aftertaste. Serious strawberry milkshake vibes when eaten in milk. No crappy freeze-dried strawberries. Best strawberry cereal on the market.
Cons: Limited freaking edition with no scientifically verifiable way to stop time. Could be a tad bit sweeter. Random people putting guns to your head and asking you to rank cereals.

REVIEW: General Mills Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch Cereal

Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch Cereal

What the heck ever happened to dark chocolate?

One day the internet is inundated with stories touting how amazingly healthy it is, the next day dark chocolate has taken a back seat to quinoa, sustainable fish, and something called freekeh. One day it’s at the peak of its foodie popularity and then the next day it’s just another “Eh, it’s all right” treat, relegated to head scratching and “what ever happened to” questions. Dark chocolate might just be the Barry Foster of pseudo healthy food fads.

I think that’s a pretty pathetic fate and I refuse to acknowledge that the rich, deep sweetness of dark chocolate should languish as a one-and-done star of healthy food. And yes, I’m really forcing this healthy food point, mostly in self-justification of the copious amounts of they-might-have-been dark chocolate cookies I ate throughout the holidays.

Thankfully, Cheerios seems to be in complete accordance and has added to their Multi Grain Cheerios line the new Dark Chocolate Crunch.

Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch, aside from having a title longer than that of most dissertations, contains the usual mix of multi grain Cheerios, as well as chocolate drenched Cheerios and crunchy chocolate oat clusters. Based on a semester’s worth of dummy level college statistics and 3-4 exhaustive readings of various editions of Where’s Waldo?, I’ve inferred that approximately 31.2 percent of the Cheerios pieces are covered in the dark chocolate coating.

Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch Cereal Clusters

Dark is the operative word; these rings have a deeper, more natural cocoa flavor than the rings in Chocolate Cheerios, and are much less sweet. It’s as if the chocolate taste is baked into them, as opposed as just covering the surface. At first I was turned off by the sheer cocoa-ness of the pieces, but as I slowly plucked a few of the Os out to munch on, the dark and bittersweet flavor really grew on me. The problem, as far as I’m concerned, is the other 68.8 percent of the Cheerios. The usual multi grain Cheerios mix normally isn’t bad on its own, but it really conflicts with the dark chocolate rings, which lose their exotic and floral appeal amidst the mingling flavors of corn, wheat, and honey.

Similarly, my hopes for the chocolate clusters fell short of expectations, although not nearly as short as Cade Foster’s disastrous field goal attempt against Auburn. Unlike the excellent, asteroid-like clusters in Honey Bunches of Oats Morning Energy Chocolatey Almond Crunch, the clusters in the Dark Chocolate Crunch occur less frequently in proportion with the other ingredients, and are too small to lack a definitive punch or crunch in a given spoonful.

Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch Cereal Wet

It’s a real shame because the little coal-like clusters have a very enjoyable chocolate flavor when eaten individually, and readily distribute cocoa powder and sugar into a bowl of milk. In that regard Dark Chocolate Crunch pull out a minor win amidst an otherwise disappointing showing, and are my favorite of the now three variations of Multi Grain Cheerios to have in milk.

But seriously, let’s get to the important stuff — mixology. But more specifically with Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter. I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that those hoping for a veritable Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in cereal form will only find the slightest hint of rich chocolate and salty peanut butter and instead will taste mostly (wait for it) the corn bran and wheat aftertaste of Multi Grain Cheerios.

The good news is that there’s nothing stopping you from just chopping up a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup into your morning bowl, although I suppose that would detract a bit from the whole “dark chocolate is healthy” ethos. It’s sort of a Catch 22. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t do well with Catch 22s at the breakfast table.

If there’s one phrase that sums up the new Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch, it’s definitely “what might have been.” There are excellent elements at play between the deep dark chocolate flavor of the chocolate rings and the crunchy burst of sweetness provided by the clusters, but both occur too infrequently to give the cereal that indulgent chocolate taste we’re all looking for. Alas, if dark chocolate is to make its comeback in the world of all-the-rage food, it won’t be through cereal.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 110 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 125 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams potassium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Multi Grain Cheerios Dark Chocolate Crunch Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12.1 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Chocolate Os taste stronger and darker than Chocolate Cheerios. Good sweetness and cocoa depth provided by the crunchy clusters. Healthy, as in not pseudo-healthy but actually good for you. Dissolves well in milk and creates tasty end-milk.
Cons: Not as good as some of the other new chocolate cereals. Aftertaste of the multi grain Os don’t work well with the cocoa taste. Not enough chocolate clusters to make a big impact. Didn’t create epic peanut butter and chocolate combination with Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter.

REVIEW: General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch

Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch

Juggler of Flaming Batons.

Academy Awards Ballot Counter.

Crayon Namer.

These were some of the 18 career paths I pursued in the summer of 2001. In order to meet the social and physical demands of said paths, I needed a good breakfast and, in accordance to my own priorities of nutrition, oats and sugar fit the bill, which is why I consumed a mix of Honey Nut Cheerios and Frosted Flakes for three weeks straight while tossing five batons in the air and thinking up crayon monikers like “Ghostbuster Slime.”

While I may not be a baton flame thrower, I haven’t forgotten that morning cereal blend, and thus, it came to my surprise, nostalgia, and anticipatory glee to discover this new Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch which promises not only a blend of O’s and sugary flakes, but clusters as well.

Let’s talk Honey Nut Cheerios: they’re simple. They don’t toss around marshmallows or throw confetti or swing on a trapeze (although it would be cool if they did. Could the people in product development get on that?). Heck, they don’t even taste of honey in that poofy, floral sense, but I’m cool with that. I don’t really want a greenhouse in my cereal bowl.

Tasting more of sugar, oats, and a hint of almond flavor, Honey Nut Cheerios holds a subtlety which makes them just right for anytime consumption, a phenomenon which has garnered them a fan base that deserves its own display at Comic Con. I’ve no doubt that Buzz, that anthropomorphic, sneaker-wearin’ bee, holds the secret recipe that, if revealed, would induce a political scandal all its own. Just look at his face…

Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch Buzz

It speaks of hidden secrets.

All these qualities make Honey Nut Cheerios versatile, and the greatness of that versatility is only heightened here. The classic O’s form the foundation (about 1/3 of the cereal), and, for all you Honey Nut connoisseurs, I am happy to report that there was no tampering with the formula of the classic O here, holding its trademark sweetness through and through.

Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch in tha' bowl

The highlight came in the clusters, which are filled with whole oats and crispy thingies and smatterings of almonds. While the almonds don’t always come through, the clusters’ taste really shines in the department of roasted oats and brown sugar, which is a recipe for love if I’ve ever heard one. And did I mention they’re the size of small meteorites?

Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch Clusters and flakes and O's [oh my!]

They add a heft that made me feel strong enough to carry a goat up the side of a mountain, then down the mountain, then maybe on a journey across the Oregon Trail. They are hard-terrain crunchy, requiring the most exercise from my teeth. I imagine crunching into one is akin to the satisfying feeling of accomplishment a beaver feels when s/he has gnawed through an especially tasty oak tree.

The downer about this cereal comes in the flakes, which are flimsy and, when immersed in liquid, dissolve into a brown, lumpy continent of soggy despair. However, I’m of two minds on this because the flakes taste pretty dad-gum good, having a deeper roasty almond flavor than the O’s that makes the regular Honey Nut Cheerios taste even better. What’s a human to do with tasty, yet soggy flakes?! Maybe, if I close my eyes and visualize my happy place, I can ignore the fact that I’m spooning brown, baby-food-esque globs of almond-tasting gloop in my mouth…

Or maybe I’ll just stick with this as a straight-from-the-bag cereal. Unless you’re keen on sog, I might suggest you do the same.

I often find myself in the cereal aisle experiencing the “Oh, I want that and that and that,” phenomenon, which results in a self-imposed peer pressure that amounts in purchasing more cereals than my pantry space permits. This Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch relieves that pressure.

Is this a mountain of honey oozing down from a crunchy exterior of fried dough? No. It’s a cereal mixture, and that’s okay with me. It’s not revolutionary and I wouldn’t necessarily choose it over Cinnamon Roll Frosted Mini Wheats, but it’s a balanced blend that tastes good from the bag, has plenty of clusters, and does something dandy for cholesterol. Sweet, soft, and a little edgy, this is a pleasant rendition of what a cereal mix aspires to be.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 105 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of protein.)

Other Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch reviews:
Serious Eats

Item: General Mills Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch
Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: 13.1 ounces
Purchased at: Harris Teeter
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy clusters. Huge clusters. Plenty of clusters. Honey Nut Cheerios is still good. Relieves pressure to buy excessive boxes of cereal. Being a crayon namer. Ghostbuster slime.
Cons: Flimsy flakes. Adding milk results in despair. Political scandals. Cannot be a trapeze artist.

REVIEW: Dulce de Leche Cheerios and Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter

Dulce de Leche Cheerios and Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter

[When my oldest daughter started talking, we transitioned her from Cheerios to Alpha-Bits, and as a side effect wondered if they’d boost her language skills.  They just stopped selling Alpha-Bits at our grocery store, so I guess my youngest will have to make do with just the one letter.]
Ah, Cheerios… dullest of all breakfast cereals.  There’s a measure of respect in that — you don’t become an institution by pandering to the latest fads like “marshmallows” or “sugar,” or by changing your shape or packaging every six months like some hussy — but the fact remains, Cheerios are boring.  Rice Krispies at least crackle and pop (that “snap” stuff is BS), and if nothing else Total and Bran Flakes come in irregular shapes.  (Shredded Wheat doesn’t count, no one under 65 has ever eaten any.)  Honey Nut Cheerios are essentially the “kids” version of Cheerios, and when that wasn’t enough, they started frosting the sumbitches.  But the reinvention bug is hard to shake once it digs into your scalp and lays eggs, and recent years have brought a slew of new Cheerios varieties from General “Bills” Mills.  The latest?  Dulce de Leche Cheerios and Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter.

Dulce de Leche Cheerios Closeup

You have to think it’d be hard to screw up caramel-flavored Cheerios, and you would be right.  Actually, I’m surprised it’s not a more common flavor — offhand I can’t think of any other caramel cereals I’ve ever heard of, though I’m sure there must have been some.  Seems like a pretty obvious taste to partner with milk, but I guess that€™s why I€™m not one of those high-powered cereal fat cats.  Regardless, it€™s been implemented to good effect here.  Wikipedia tells me that “dulce de leche” means “sweet of milk” and is technically caramel-like, but much like a good Romex watch, you won€™t be able to tell the difference.  Akin to its honey nut brethren, the taste is distinct but not overwhelming, so you enjoy each spoonful but don€™t feel like you€™re actually eating candy.  As you can tell, I€™m a big fan, both for the taste and the probably misplaced belief that this qualifies as “eating healthy.”  And not that it really matters, but the O’s come in two different colors: as tan as my parents and sister in the summer, and as white as me in the always.

Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter Closeup

And in column B we have Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter.  If you pay any attention to the news (don’t worry, me neither), you may have heard about all the parents up in arms about this cereal.  In brief, lots of young kids these days have nut allergies because we stopped sacrificing virgins to Mr. Peanut last century, and he is a jealous and angry legume.  Since the peanut butter variety looks pretty much identical in color to regular Multi Grain Cheerios, there’s a fear that oblivious parents might send some to school for their own kid, a child with allergies could grab some, and BAM! — peanutality.  Personally, my kid’s worst experience with peanuts was jamming one up her nose and needing to have it removed by a specialist (to the tune of $900 if we didn’t have insurance, because apparently science has not yet invented the peanut magnet), but I understand the concern.  I’m as disdainful of overprotective parents as anyone, but just a whiff of these things sends a wave of peanut butter flooding into your sinuses.
That carries over to the flavor, too — if the dulce de leche variety flirted with a caramel taste, these grab peanut butter, drive it home, and rip off its shirt.  Not to say that’s a bad thing, though, depending on your feelings about peanut butter.  As I’ve mentioned before, I can take it or leave it if chocolate isn’t part of the equation (mental note: try adding Cocoa Puffs later), but I still thought they were decent; a true peanut butter lover will probably be in heaven.  As you’d expect, the longer you let them sit in milk, the more the taste dilutes, with the compensatory fact that you’re setting yourself up for some tasty milk.  (That goes double for the dulce de leche variety.  Mmmm!)
It’s always nice when you can try two new cereals and come out with two winners, and that’s the case here.  As a caramel fan I’ll be sticking with the Dulce de Leche Cheerios going forward, but those who worship at the altar of the great god C’shewlu are welcome to the peanut butter variety.  They may never topple Buzz and his honey nut version, but they’re way better than making do with boring ol’ regular Cheerios.
(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter – 110 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 65 milligrams of potassium, 23 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugars, 12 grams of other carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.  Dulce de Leche Cheerios – 100 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 75 milligrams of potassium, 22 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugars, 14 grams of other carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.)

Items: Dulce de Leche Cheerios and Multi Grain Cheerios Peanut Butter
Price: $2.39 each
Size: 12 oz (Dulce de Leche)
Size: 11.3 oz (Peanut Butter)
Purchased at: Wegman’s
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Dulce de Leche);
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Peanut Butter)
Pros: Appealing to a new demographic without betraying who you are.  Multicolored Cheerios promote diversity.  Delicious but not overpowering caramel flavor.  Can’t beat a good Romex.  Strong peanut butter scent and flavor, if that’s your thing.  Both varieties give the leftover milk a great taste.  Reasonably healthy breakfast choice.
Cons: Cereals that only teach 1/26th of the alphabet.  Peanut butter taste a little strong for my taste.  Possibly killing some kids.  The continued non-existence of the peanut magnet.  Crazy obscure Lovecraft jokes that like 5 people will get.  Peanut butter variety would probably be better if combined with Chocolate Cheerios.