REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink

If you want to hoard Starbucks Pumpkin Spice drinks so you can enjoy them year round, you either have to freeze Pumpkin Spice Lattes and then later warm them up in the microwave or hit the black market for expired Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup pumps. But this year there’s a third way and it’s available at Costco.

The Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink may not be handmade by a Starbucks Barista who wrote PSL on the side of the cup, but because it’s Costco, it’s available in bulk. It’s 12 bottles to be exact. So if you buy a pallet of them, you’ll have enough to last you until next pumpkin spice latte season.

Unlike a pumpkin spice latte you can purchase at a Starbucks location, this version has no pumpkin in it. But it does have an ingredient list short enough that I could type it here to slightly boost the word count of this review: Brewed Starbucks Coffee, Reduced-Fat Milk, Sugar, Skim Milk, Maltodextrin, Cream, Natural Flavors, and Pectin. Mmm…pectin.

At first, I thought the ginger flavor stood out a bit too much for my tastes. I think the coffee makes the spice stand out more. But, since I purchased 12 bottles of the stuff, I’ve had to drink a lot of it. And the more I drink it the more I like it. Perhaps I’m getting Pumpkin Spiceholm Syndrome.

There’s also a little nutmeg, a bit of cinnamon, and a whole lot of sugar in each sip, which makes the beverage really sweet. There’s also a lot of milk too, but it’s not whole milk so it has a thin texture. While I could see it being too sweet for some people, me and my future cavities are fine with it.

The bottle suggests to serve it chilled or over ice, but since I’m a rebel (and have 12 bottles of the stuff), I did some experimenting and warmed up a mug of it in the microwave for 30 seconds. It was wonderful and it reminded me of a pumpkin spice latte. Actually, I think I might prefer it heated over chilled.

A question some of you might be asking is if it’s an adequate replacement for when the Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino is erased from the boards from Starbucks locations for the year. No, of course not. These bottled Frappuccinos are no match flavor-wise for those handmade, wonderful, blended, sweet, and brain freeze-inducing beverages that have a nutritional bio similar to many fast food burgers. But if you’re jonesing for a pumpkin spice coffee drink in February, this’ll do.

(Nutrition Facts – 210 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 32 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, and 25% calcium.)

Item: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink
Purchased Price: ???
Size: 12 pack/9.5 oz bottles
Purchased at: Costco
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes good chilled or warmed up. Hoardable. Better nutritional bio than a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino you can get at Starbucks locations.
Cons: Ginger flavor might be a bit strong for some. Might be too sweet for some. Available in 12 packs, so if you don’t like it, you’ve got 11 more bottles to go through. Not as delicious as a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino you can get at Starbucks locations.

REVIEW: Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper

I know what everyone is going talk about regarding Burger King’s A.1. Halloween Whopper. They’re going to discuss how one particular ingredient perfectly fits the Halloween theme of the burger. Some people will think it looks disgusting. Others will be fine with it.

Yes, as you have probably guessed, I’m talking about Burger King’s iceberg lettuce. That ghostly white lettuce with a green tint is disgusting, scary, and reminds me of the skin color of many Scooby Doo villains. But those make it an appropriate addition to this Halloween-themed Whopper.

Besides that spooky lettuce, this limited time only item has a 1/4 lb flame-grilled beef patty, a slice of American cheese, tomato, mayonnaise, pickles, onions, and A.1. Thick and Hearty Sauce on a black sesame seed bun.

The bun is not only black, it also has A.1. Sauce flavor baked into it. But it doesn’t get its color completely from the sauce. So what gives it its color? It’s not squid ink, Sharpie pens, charcoal, mold, or Hot Topic. Looking through the bun’s ingredient list and pulling out possibilities, it could be a combination of FD&C Red #40, FD&C Blue #1, raisin juice concentrate, Worcerstershire sauce, caramel color, and FD&C Yellow #6. Mmmm…FD&C Yellow #6.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper Top

At times the bun does have a slightly sweet and smokey flavor to it, but it’s faint and it disappears quickly. Maybe my tongue is imagining things or maybe the flavor is a ghost. But while eating the burger, the question I asked myself was, “Why include A.1. Sauce in the bun, if there’s A.1. Sauce in the burger?” Because the bun doesn’t make the burger taste A.1.-ier.

If you’re reading this in the middle of December and want to know what this Whopper tastes like, get into your car, tune your car’s FM radio dial to 101.5 to designate October 2015, and then drive 88 miles per hour…to the nearest Burger King location (or one that’s farther away because you’ll get there quickly if you’re going 88 miles per hour). When you get there, order a Whopper your way with American cheese and A.1. Thick and Hearty Sauce because that’s what this burger tastes like.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper Wrapper

The A.1. Thick and Hearty Sauce wasn’t very thick. If it was, much of it wouldn’t have ended up on my hands and the Whopper’s festive mummy wrapper. It tastes exactly like regular thin and light A.1. Steak Sauce, which I’ve enjoyed on overcooked steaks from chain restaurants. Unfortunately, because it kept plopping out of the burger, I didn’t taste the sauce in every bite. Also, I think the mayonnaise diluted its flavor.

Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper Half

The beef patty has that unique Burger King flavor that’s the chain’s fingerprint. It’s a flavor I enjoy. But the tomato, onions, pickles, and white lettuce did a wonderful job of bringing down the overall temperature of the burger, making it slightly unpleasant to eat. As for the cheese, let’s face it, it really doesn’t do anything flavor-wise on a regular Whopper. But it does something color-wise with this burger by matching nicely with the black bun.

Overall, I enjoyed the look of the A.1. Halloween Whopper more than its flavor. The burger is full of Halloween colors, and I have to admit the black bun was cool to experience with my own eyes. But the burger’s flavor wasn’t anything special since it can easily be recreated after the promotion is over. And, of course, that ghost lettuce freaks me out.

Update: There’s one bit of information I need to add. The dyes in the bun might turn your poop green. I’ve experienced this. Others in my household have experienced this. Commenters have experienced it. I apologize for the grossness of this, but I needed to mention it in case someone out there is on a toilet and freaking out because their poop is green. But you have to admit, green poop does fit with the Halloween theme.

(Nutrition Facts – 710 calories, 390 calories from fat, 43 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1530 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 31 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King A.1. Halloween Whopper
Purchased Price: $6.39*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a Whopper with A.1. Sauce. Black bun is something cool you should see with your own eyes. Very festive; lots of Halloween colors. Mummy wrapper is neat.
Cons: Tastes like a Whopper with A.1. Sauce. Ghost lettuce freaks me out. Black bun baked with A.1. flavor doesn’t have a lot of flavor. A.1. Sauce everywhere. Produce does a great job of bringing down the temperature of the burger. Bun may make your poop turn green.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

REVIEW: Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte

As dawn breaks over the picturesque landscape, a farmer, with cup in hand, approaches the docile, grazing Teddy Graham that he has been raising since it was a wee cub. The Graham eyes him indifferently as he fills his cup with milk from the giant, bear-shaped cracker. He pats it on the back lovingly and carries the cup towards a counter in the distance.

“One Toasted Graham Latte for Dan?”

That’s is how I like to imagine the folks at Starbucks make their new Toasted Graham Latte, and if I hadn’t seen them mixing it together with my own eyes, I would have believed it, too.

This latest concoction from the ‘Bucks blends graham, steamed milk, cream, and espresso with a topping of cinnamon graham crumbles. It’s available in both hot and iced forms, but I chose the former, since the oxymoronic idea of having a drink be “iced and toasted” makes my brain freeze and fry.

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte 2

Prying away the lid of my cup, I marvel at the InstaGraham worthy cinnamon and graham cracker dust that looks like it was gently scattered by some hypocritical, tooth-rotting Tooth Fairy.

After sipping this top layer, I suddenly realize why the Toasted Graham Latte was released so close to Halloween time: it’s just like that infamously NSFW hot tub face-melting scene from Halloween 2, but with Michael Meyers murdering a Cinnamon Teddy Graham in a steamed milk Jacuzzi instead.

The faint spice of cinnamon and the earthier, honey graham sweetness of the crispy crumbles pleasantly balance the hyper sugary vanilla onslaught of the whipped cream.

But once the crumbs are all slurped up, things get a little…crummier. Without the complexity of the graham pieces to counteract the cream, the middle third of my TGL simply became an uncomfortable, cloying mess of melted cream and milk.

Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte 3

After begrudgingly sucking this part down, I realized there was hope in the final third of the drink. Like a caffeinated Atlantis, all the espresso and graham syrup flavor had sunk down into the bottom. After many milliliters of hardship, my submarine tongue was happy to discover it.

When making my drink, the Starbucks barista excitedly exclaimed how it “smelled just like a s’more!” I half expected her to verbally add a *heart eyes emoji* to the end of her sentence.

But now I see that she was right. The bitter darkness of the espresso imparts woodsy notes on the sticky, leftover cream, making it quite like a toasted marshmallow.

This, along with the artificial and rich graham syrup, left me with a tasty, liquid s’more facsimile, albeit one where someone swapped the Hershey’s chocolate with coffee beans (I don’t care what kind of pranks they pulled in the ‘20s, Grandpa: it’s not funny!)

So like the Earth, a well made taco salad, and Shrek, the new Toasted Graham Latte from Starbucks has layers. From the blended cinnamon and sugar top, to the disturbing primordial soup in the middle, all the way to the liquefied campfire classic on the bottom, your enjoyment of this drink will likely hinge on how deep into it you’re willing to go.

Since exactly two-thirds of the latte is good, I should technically give it an infinitely repeating 6.66 out of 10. But since I’m an Internet food reviewer and not a mathematician, I guess I’ll have to round up.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have a box of Teddy Grahams that need a good melting. *bear emoji* *fire emoji* *skull emoji*

(Nutrition Facts – 12 oz with 2% milk – 230 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 31 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Toasted Graham Latte
Purchased Price: $4.51
Size: 12 oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Teddy Graham giblets on top. Caffeinated s’more cocktail on bottom. Imaginary snack cookie dairy farms. Filing a patent for “Milk Jacuzzis.”
Cons: Overly sweet nastiness in the middle. Speaking in emojis. Trying to milk a real bear. Not being able to give Halloween snacks a 666/10.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club

Jack in the Box Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club

I don’t think I cared for Jack in the Box’s premium crispy chicken sandwich, whatever it was called. See. I don’t even remember its name. That’s how much I didn’t care for it. I’ve probably had it a couple of times, but I can’t recall the last time I ordered it.

But then again, maybe I did like it and the reason why I haven’t had it in so long is because Jack in the Box has so much damn stuff on their menu that it’s hard to make up my mind.

Well, whatever that chicken sandwich was called, Jack’s new Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club has replaced it.

It features a new Southern-style breaded chicken fillet, grilled hickory smoked bacon, ranch sauce, lettuce, tomato, and cheese on a gourmet bun. If you’re wondering if this new chicken has buttermilk like McDonald’s new chicken, its ingredient list appears to have a lot of components that could be in buttermilk, but doesn’t specifically say buttermilk. If you’re not satisfied with that non-answer, perhaps the ingredient list will help you figure it out…or, more likely, help you fall asleep. Here it is:

Chicken Breast Fillets with Rib Meat, Water, Seasoning (Yeast Extract, Salt, Natural Flavor and Chicken Fat), Modified Food Starch, Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Seasoning [Whey Powder, Non-fat Dry Milk, Maltodextrin (from Corn) Anhydrous Milkfat, Cultures, Lactic, Soy Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Culture (Milk)], and Seasoning [Water, Sodium Benzoate (preservative)]. Breaded with: Enriched Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Battered with: Water, Have You Fallen Asleep Yet, Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Salt, Sugar, You’re Getting Sleepy, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate), Sleepy, Nonfat Dry Milk, Garlic Powder, Yawn, Spice, Onion Powder, Dextrose, and Spice Extractive. Predusted with: Bleached Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Zzzzz, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Dried Egg Whites, Salt, Wheat Gluten, Leavening (Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Soybean Oil.

Jack in the Box Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club Halves

It was surprising to see how good my sandwich looked. Of course, your results may vary. There’s the bright green lettuce, a layer of bacon to ensure there’s enough in every bite, red tomatoes, the shiny glow of that wonderful slightly sweet gourmet bun, and the golden brown breading on the chicken. Even the melted cheese that congealed makes this sandwich look good. And it has a flavor that matches those looks.

When eaten separately, the chicken reminds me a little bit of KFC. It tastes like it has all those secret herbs and spices, but in lower quantities. The breading is crispy and makes an audible crunch. The chicken under it has a decent thickness, albeit a little dry. The bacon is smoky, salty, and porky, but unfortunately also chewy and not at all crispy. The cheese doesn’t seem to add anything, but it does help prevent the bacon from falling out.

Jack in the Box Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club Split

But what made me enjoy this sandwich was the ranch sauce and how it complemented the chicken. It’s been on numerous menu items that, like the previous crispy chicken sandwich, I can’t name, but it really works on this. While I’m not sure if buttermilk is used to season the chicken, the tanginess of the ranch sauce makes it taste like it was.

Much like the Buttery Jack being a step up from Jack in the Box’s previous premium burgers, the Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club is a step up from…whatever it was called. I like this new chicken sandwich so much that I won’t forget its name.

(Nutrition Facts – 632 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 72 milligrams of cholesterol, 1687 milligrams of sodium, 512 milligrams of potassium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 34 grams of protein..)

Item: Jack in the Box Homestyle Ranch Chicken Club
Purchased Price: $7.99 (small combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Ranch sauce complements the chicken well. Lots of bacon. Green lettuce. Crispy breading. My sandwich looks really good. That gourmet bun; liked it with the Buttery Jack, and I like it with this.
Cons: Bacon not crispy. Chicken a little dry. Long ingredient lists that make you sleepy. Cheese seems to be used more as an adhesive than something that adds flavor.

REVIEW: Harvey’s Nacho Cheese Sticks (Canada)

Harvey's Nacho Cheese Sticks (Canada)

I feel like I should be the target audience for the Nacho Cheese Sticks at Harvey’s.

If you’re going to deep fry something that’s not normally fried, I’m gonna want to eat that. No; I’m going to demand to eat that. I’m going to respectfully request that you take it straight from the fryer and put it directly in my mouth. Will I suffer severe burns? Probably. But I’ll drive to the hospital with a smile on my (horribly burned) face.

There’s even a place in my heart for nacho cheese –- you know, that gloppy, unnaturally smooth, vaguely jalapeno-tinged cheesefood that’s the approximate colour of an orange safety vest? I love that stuff. It tastes like nothing even resembling real cheese, but I love it all the same. I could eat it by the barrel.  
So as a connoisseur of unusual fried foods and neon orange nacho cheese sauce, I was all over these. I went to Harvey’s to buy them like a cartoon character floating towards a pie.

An order comes with five pieces, each about the size of a small mozzarella stick, along with a small container of zesty sauce for dipping.

I’m sure my high expectations didn’t help, but man… what the heck, Harvey’s? Seriously: now I know how Obi-Wan felt in Revenge of the Sith. How could something so awesome in theory be so middling in execution?

The main ingredient here — the cheese — is just not very good. It’s like someone decided to mix nacho cheese sauce with bottom-of-the-barrel supermarket cheddar. It tastes muddled, without the comforting, smooth blandness of real-deal nacho cheese, or the satisfying sharpness of real cheddar. It’s somewhere in between, in some kind of horrifying flavour limbo where deliciousness goes to die. No jalapeno flavour, either, which is unfortunate.

The texture, too, is somewhere between real and fake; more plasticky than smooth. It’s essentially the worst of both worlds: too fake to be real cheddar, and too real to be nacho cheese.

Harvey's Nacho Cheese Sticks (Canada) 2

The breading is okay. It’s crispy and fried, so it fits the bill on that level, but the taste leaves something to be desired. Despite its nacho appearances, it mostly has the same generic flavour that you’ll find on any number of frozen breaded chicken strips or onion rings. The tortilla flavour doesn’t stand out nearly as much as it should.

Harvey's Nacho Cheese Sticks (Canada) 3

They’re not even completely filled with cheese. A couple were stuffed from end to end, but the rest were mostly hollow, with a gooey coating of cheese lining the inside. This might have been a bigger issue, but since the cheese wasn’t even that great to start with, I didn’t really mind.

The dipping sauce could have helped to round out the middling flavour of these sticks, but it’s too zesty for its own good; it clashes rather than compliments. It tastes completely out of place.

I really, really wanted to like these. Instead, I got Fredo’d. Nothing about them was nearly as delicious as it should have been.

You broke my heart, Harvey’s. You broke my heart.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on the Harvey’s website.)

Item: Harvey’s Nacho Cheese Sticks (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 (CAN)
Size: 5 pieces
Purchased at: Harvey’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crispy and fried. Melty cheese.
Cons: Taste and texture of the cheese leaves a lot to be desired. Useless dipping sauce. Betrayal. Anakin Skywalker. Fredo Corleone.