REVIEW: Kellogg’s Smorz Cereal (2016)

Kellogg’s Smorz Cereal (2016)

If the early 2000s taught us nothing else as a society, it was that transposing the letter S with the letter Z in a word made you instantly credible and cool. LOL, once trite and overused, took on new life thanks to LOLZ, while I would argue that Anheuser-Busch owes its entire advertising success of the decade to the phonetic pronunciation of WAZZUP.

Thankfully, we as a civilization have largely moved past this momentary lapse in linguistics. Well, everyone except a dedicated group of cereal lovers who’ve helped bring back Smorz Cereal.

It’s been four years since Smorz left our shelves, and to be honest, I have yet to circle the five steps of grief; mostly because I thought the original Smorz had some room for improvement. Now I’m not saying I disliked Smorz — as far as chocolate and graham cereals go, it was good as a snacking cereal — but the marshmallows had a funky artificiality and lighter-than-Lucky Charms ‘mallow give that made them taste stale after a few days.

Nevertheless, as interweb excitement grew for the return of an extinct specimen of chocolate and graham, I was hopeful this newest version of Smorz would combine everything I loved about the original Smorz, as well as everything that I hoped a mainstream s’mores cereal should have.

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When it comes to the chocolate and graham squares, the rebirth of Smorz lived up to its predecessor and to that campfire taste. Ok, so it’s not exactly a “rich chocolate” cereal coating, but this is Kellogg’s, not Ghirardelli. The squares have a pleasant malty milk chocolate flavor that’s highly addictive when you snack on them, like a graham-flavored version of Chex Muddy Buddies.

The first few times I crunched on the squares I was disappointing in the graham flavor. It’s definitely muted in milk, and not honey glazed like Golden Grahams. But when eaten out of hand the flavor is mellow and slightly whole-wheaty, like that moment you bite into an actual s’more.

But then something happened: my mouth met the marshmallows.

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If I wasn’t sold on the marshmallows in the old Smorz, then I’m selling off like a oil stockbroker with these marshmallows. Eaten dry, they have a dusty stiffness and chalky, sugary flavor. Not a sweet flavor, a sugary flavor. It’s a flavor I remember well from candy cigarettes I once bought from the ice cream man when I was 10 years old. It is not a yummy flavor, especially in milk, where the saccharine sweetness and candy cigarette aftertaste does a disservice to the synergy of chocolate and graham. What’s more, they don’t taste toasted. What is the lesson to take from this? Smoking is not a yummy flavor.

For the most part, I consider myself a cereal populist. Even though I was a bit ambivalent toward the original Smorz, past cereal resurrections like French Toast Crunch had me excited to step back into the world of bowls we thought were extinct.

But in the case of the 2016 version of Smorz cereal, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t just let bygones be bygones. The chocolate and graham squares are definitely good — probably better than I remember — especially as a snack. But the marshmallows bring the cereal down, and, like transposing “Z” for “S,” are unnecessary and potentially maddening.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 grams – 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 135 mg of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 1 grams of protein..)

Item: Kellogg’s Smorz Cereal (2016)
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 10.2 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Muddy Buddy-type chocolate and graham coating is really good. Awesome level of crunch. No more partially hydrogenated oils. Enjoyable snacking cereal when not eaten with marshmallows.
Cons: Lackluster toasted s’mores flavor. Notrichness. A slightly distracting corn aftertaste in milk that overpowers the graham flavor. Marshmallows taste like candy cigarettes. Early 2000s linguistic fads.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal

Kellogg's Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal

Frankly, I blame adults.

They are, after all, the ones leading cereal companies. They’re the ones trying to come up with ways to stop sliding cereal sales, but when they’re not too busy putting quinoa and Sprouted Grains into my breakfast bowl, they’re forgetting what it’s like to be a kid.

How else can we explain the fact that no one has made peanut butter and jelly cereal before? If they would have only asked us kids (ok, slightly balding upper twenty-somethings, too) then we could have told them the next great cereal flavor was right under their noses the whole time.

Any kid with a crowded cereal pantry, taste buds, and a bit of imagination probably already knew it was a good combination. I’m probably not the only person to combine Cap’n Crunch’s Peanut Butter Crunch and Whoops All Berries in the same bowl, so I’m guessing many of you expected as much. But in case any anxious food company executives still needed convincing, Jif’s PB&J Strawberry Cereal should put fears to rest.

I was a bit skeptical, too. A year and a half ago I wrote that Jif’s cereal was good, but it wasn’t as peanut buttery as other peanut butter cereals. To a certain extent this is still true; the brown sugar and molasses flavor gives each square an almost kettle corn quality, while the squares aren’t quite as roasted or developed in flavor as Peanut Butter Crunch. But the peanut butter flavor is better than it used to be, and works especially well when mixed with the small spheres of strawberry cereal.

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I’m glad Jif lived up to its slogan and was choosy with their choice of jelly for the cereal: whether you like strawberry or grape jelly doesn’t matter so much, because you’re going to like the fact that the red corn spheres taste more than just vaguely fruity. They’re much better than Crunch Berries in that they have a distinct strawberry flavor that is both ultra-sweet but also slightly tart; in other words, the perfect foil to the salty, molasses and brown sugar flavor of the peanut butter squares.

It’s when these two flavors come together that the unmistakable synergy that is PB&J takes over. As you crunch down on a spoonful (or, as I prefer, a dry handful) the two flavors mix and mingle with the utmost of equality. Just like in a real PB&J sandwich, the jelly flavor takes center stage first, but it quickly gives way to a salty peanut flavor.

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There’s a kettle corn type aftertaste in milk that’s a bit unconventional, and the tartness of the strawberry pieces takes a little getting used to, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the cereal just works. It is, in so many ways, absolutely everything you’ve ever wanted from a PB&J sandwich, right on down to the sticky mush that sticks to the room of your mouth and the absence of those stupid bitter crusts that always end up getting thrown away.

When you think about it, a PB&J cereal sounds weird. I mean, you probably wouldn’t stick a PB&J sandwich in milk, unless, of course, you are weird. What I’m trying to say is I forgive all those adults out there for not wanting us to eat weird things. But in the case of Jif PB&J Strawberry cereal, it works, and is something both kids and big kids are sure to enjoy.

(Nutrition Facts – 26 grams – 100 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 150 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, and 1 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Jif PB&J Strawberry Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great sweet and salty balance captures the taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Strawberry pieces actually have a distinct sweet-tart strawberry flavor. Sticks to the roof of your mouth in milk. No crusts. Just straight up works.
Cons: A slightly distracting corn aftertaste. No unctuous and fatty peanut butter depth. The unfortunate state of the cereal industry.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal

This autumn, tens of thousands of students will head back to school with great expectations for their upcoming social and academic year. By the end of their first week, though, they’ll have those expectations checked; or as I like to say, completely and miserably crushed.

Such is also the case for millions of Americans, who’ll be reminded that eating something labeled “pumpkin spice” in August or September does not always equate with being served a rich and indulgent slice of pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table. But that doesn’t mean all pumpkin spice products are the equivalent of your 11th hour essay for which you received (and deserved) a D-minus. As a matter of fact, some of these pumpkin spice products are actually pretty good, even good enough to disguise the fact that there’s no actual pumpkin in the product.

Take the new Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal. When I first heard a mainstream cereal company was doing a pumpkin spice (and not pepita) flavored cereal, I pretty much decided my life was complete. I mean, we’re talking about my two great loves here, and combining them had the potential to answer the “what do you want for breakfast” question for the rest of my life.

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But when I finally bought the Mini Wheats and realized there was no pumpkin in their eight layers of whole grains and fiber, I realized I may have fallen into the yearly trap of getting my pumpkin hopes set too high. Sure, there’s cinnamon, allspice, and ginger, but the lack of pumpkin puree gave me second thoughts. Experience tells us the pumpkin spice spectrum ranges are pretty wide with just as many misses as hits. Would this be the pumpkin spice of the excellent Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies? Or, as I suddenly feared, a repeat of the Pumpkin Spice M&M’s?

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Much to my taste buds’ delight but my guts’ chagrin, those eight layers of fiber coated in pumpkin spice tasted much more like the former. The pumpkin spice is sweet, loud, floral, nutty, and hardly resigned to being the proverbial afterthought of vague cinnamon flavor and orange hue that some products hide behind. I thought the spices complemented each other nicely and tasted extremely fresh when eaten as a dry snack. When I sampled them against an industrial-sized bag of pumpkin spice (eh, like I said, pumpkin is one of my great loves), it compared favorably.

The downside of the cereal is that, like so many other cereals, it just has no way to convey a sense of richness. This is definitely a must for any product trying to capture some of the seasonal synergy of pumpkin, and it would have distracted my taste buds from the much-too-healthy wheat-y underside of each biscuit.

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This wheat-y taste was actually more apparent when I ate the cereal in, go figure, whole milk. Unfortunately, the “frosting” of the biscuits is very one-note in sweetness. Unfortunately, the “frosting” of the biscuits is very one-note in sweetness, and it’s not the kind of brown sugar and cream sweetness which, for lack of a better explanation, transforms a squash into the most iconic of fall sweets. Knowing that Frosted Mini Wheats has nailed Cinnamon Roll and Maple flavors before makes accepting the sweetness’ lack of depth all the more disappointing.

Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal is a reminder that it’s easy to get caught up in unrealistic expectations during pumpkin season, and in hindsight, expecting a pumpkin spice cereal to taste like pumpkin pie is like expecting to graduate summa cum laude while also being an All-American on the football team and Homecoming King.

Possible? Yeah, but no worse for wear if you only nail one of the three honors. Because in capturing the multifaceted spices that make up “pumpkin spice,” Frosted Mini Wheats breaks new ground in a seasonal cereal realm usually reserved for Apple Cinnamon, and kicks off pumpkin spice season with a worthy addition in a saturated market.

(Nutrition Facts – 25 Biscuits – 190 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Mini Wheats Pumpkin Spice Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 15.5 oz box
Purchased at: Giant Food
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very good representation of pumpkin spice flavor. Doesn’t taste too heavily of cloves, which everyone knows is the most heavy and distracting of fall spices. Crunchy, sweet biscuits with mock icing. Eight layers of fiber and whole grains.
Cons: Getting a B when you’re expecting an A+. Doesn’t taste like pumpkin pie. Lacks richness of cream and maple flavors in milk. Binging on cereal. Back to school.

60 SECOND REVIEW: Chex Clusters Fruit & Oats Cereal

Item: Chex Clusters Fruit & Oats Cereal
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 13.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Target

(Nutrition Facts – (without milk) 200 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 100 milligrams of potassium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, 27 grams of other carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, and a bunch of vitamin and minerals.)

60 SECOND REVIEW: General Mills Star Wars Cereal (2015)

Item: General Mills Star Wars Cereal (2015)
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Target

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of 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, 45 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 14 grams of other carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.)

REVIEW: Post Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream Pebbles Cereal

Post Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream Pebbles Cereal

Indeed, we live in a fortunate time.

A time in which the break room has been transformed into The Break Room. A time in which said Break Rooms include laundry rooms and nap pods and secret libraries stashed behind Narnia corridors.

And yet despite such innovation, the daydream of having a pint of ice cream ready and available for my 3:00 snack break eludes me. Not seeing, “We provide a freezer stashed with multiple flavors of Ben & Jerry’s at all times,” in my current contract, I move forward, looking to Post Pebbles Ice Cream in hopes to fulfill the small pocket that wants just a taste of ice cream at the 3:00 snack slump.

Post Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream Pebbles Cereal Spoon

The colors of the cereal spill out in a blinding parade, bursting with the luminescence of a Lite-Brite powered by nuclear fusion. The speckles trip my brain up just enough, so that, upon my first bite, they heighten the sensation of the taste, which brings forth memories of a 2-scoop sugar cone of sherbet.

Vaguely fruity and tangy with a burst of sugared citrus, the cereal hits the grainy, cereal crunch of a sugar cone while balancing that with the hyper sweetened, delightfully vague “froot” flavor. Indeed, it’s a little like Froot Loops, but it stands out with a few more drops of orange and tangy lime flavoring.

There’s just one thing: the cereal’s corn base. It muddles with the frootiness and dulls out the sherbet effect, leaving an aftertaste that tastes like… well, a little corny. Corn enhanced with artificial flavors. Oh dear. This is not what I hoped for.

Fortunately, there is a way to avoid this peril.

Now, I’m not a big fan of milk in my cereal, but, when glugged straight from the glass, an ice cold cup of the white cream bounces, shakes, and rattles with the fruity crunch of the cereal, drowning out the corny taste to form an admirable mimicry of rainbow sherbet Dreamsicle, and, while it may not be the granola-crunchin’, fiber-snappin’, whey-protein-enhanced cereal of Richard Simmons’ dreams, it has a modest amount of sugar and a pop of vitamins and minerals, making it a moderately balanced way to start the day. Or end the day. Or start the snack break. Or unleash that suppressed dream to be a bobsledder you’ve always wanted to be. So go! Unleash your inner bobsledder!

Post Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream Pebbles Cereal Breakfast

It must be noted with a proper degree of gravity that no amount of these Post Pebbles will bring you the same fulfillment as a fresh hot waffle cone filled with your grandmama’s homemade frozen custard, but it pairs moderately well with that last quarter pint of Gelato Fiasco’s Madagascar Vanilla Bean.

While the raspberry flavor is hard to pin down, the cereal as a whole has a pop of orange and lime citrus that, while somewhat muddled in the taste of the corn cereal alone, finds itself heightened in the presence of milk or, well, just about any vanilla frozen deliciousness in your freezer. Indeed, it may be just enough sugar that you won’t even need that nap pod.

(Pause.)

Nah. Everyone needs a nap pod.

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup – 110 calories, 0 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Post Rainbow Sherbet Ice Cream Pebbles Cereal
Purchased Price: $2.32
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Box-o-carbs. Tangy. Crunchy. Slightly “frooty.” Great with milk. Better with vanilla ice cream. Nap pods. Nuclear-powered Lite Brites. Unleash your inner bobsledder!
Cons: Box-o-carbs. Tough to decipher raspberry flavor. Corny-cereal qualities dull “frootiness.” Consequences that result in absence of nap pods.