REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Ever since buying this tub, I’ve woken up to a THWUMB, THWUMB, THWUMB outside my window. Upon investigating, I find nothing at the window. I am convinced it is a) a very stupid pigeon, b) the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, or c) a telepathic message from Professor X that states, “Margaret…you’re a Mutant. You must join the X-Men!” No matter which, it’s clear this thing eats cookie butter cups and wants them bad, but can’t quite figure out the whole “opening the window” thing (hence why it is not a breed of hyper-intelligent monkey or particularly creepy human).

But it makes perfect sense for this creature to try to get in every morning to obtain this little tub of aluminum-studded cups. Let me tell you why.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups TJ Cookie Butter cup escapes from foil

Sparing us from frippery of fluted cups, Trader Joe’s delivers a simple, complete concept right out of the golden foil. The size of a mini Reese’s Cup but with a firmer, darker outer shell, these start off with a striking visual impression, a sensation that swiftly carries over to the taste.

This is not a hyper-sugared confection that coats your tongue, no glucose-ridden lozenge that burns as it courses down as if the Almighty were ripping out your trachea. No, this is just quality semisweet chocolate, dark, bitter, and smooth like a 1965 Clint Eastwood riding out into the vengeance-ridden dusk.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup insides!!

Stuffed into each nub is a generous helping of cookie butter paste. Smooth, but slightly crumbly, that inner spread tastes of the named pulverized Speculoos cookies, highlighting the oat-cinnamon streusel notes. This filling, coupled with the woodsy, coffee-wisped chocolate, pushes this candy to the top, the cream of the crop, the Chrome Viking Refrigerators of confectionary-dom.

Just one problemo: there are only 28. Sure, it’s a pretty good number, but for $4.99, I do wish there were a few more. Desperate to hold on for as long as possible, I tried to ration them out. Like today: I’ll only have 2 cups…or maybe 3…or 4…

(2 hours later, upon emptying tub)

Sugar is GOOD!!! I feel I could pick up a lawnmower and fling it across a baseball field! I am invincible! I am unstoppable! I AM a Mutant!

(1 hour later, upon going to Home Depot and looking at lawnmowers)

I overestimated myself. I am not a Mutant. I am not even an Animorph. I am more like the lanky, awkward teenager hired to stand outside the store dressed in a paper mache koala suit. Nothing near a Mutant. Just a mortal, attempting to down a bag of sugar, chocolate, and crumbled cookies.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup sculpture

But maybe that’s okay. It certainly doesn’t make these cookie butter cups any less delicious. With such quality semisweet chocolate and a good ratio of cookie butter stuffed in each, who needs to be a mutated superhero? Maybe I could become one if I were to share these with that creature that rattles at my window, but me? Share these? I think I would rather be trampled by a fleet of rabid pigeons.*

*Not sure if pigeons can contract rabies.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 180 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 11 oz. tub
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smooth chocolate. Crumbly insides. Streusel-like filling. Nice balance of sugary insides to bittersweet outsides. Provides you with enough energy to throw a lawnmower. Messages from Professor X.
Cons: Those sensitive to dark chocolate may be sad. Runs out quickly. I am not a Mutant. Rabid pigeons.

REVIEW: Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies

Like Salted Caramel, Maple Bacon, and Sriracha, Red Velvet is a food trend which will not go away until it’s been flavorized into every edible object this side of gluten-free dog treats. While I’m quite positive this has driven some of you mad, I’m more than willing to accept and embrace this necessary step in flavor evolution.

Sneer all you want about how diet yogurts and Pop-Tarts can never match the mellow cocoa flavoring and rich cream cheese frosting of an actual slice of homemade Red Velvet Cake, but unless you possess a time machine allowing you to conveniently travel back to the 1930s or 1940s, I’m going to call you out as just another fan of the latest bastardization of the classic southern cake.

And you know what? I’m totally cool with that, just like I’m totally cool with the idea of the Keebler Elves adapting their classic Fudge Stripe cookies to Red Velvet. These are magical elves, after all, and there are far worse food trends they could be adapting for cookie construction.*

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies 2

At first glance, the fudge stripe template seems a curious choice to adapt Red Velvet to. Fudge is supposed to be dense, super chocolaty, and for lack of a better word, fudgy.

Meanwhile, even bastardized conceptions of Red Velvet carry a certain connotation of a light cake crumb and more restrained cocoa flavor. But when you think about it, good old Ernest J. Keebler’s reasoning checks out. Not nearly as iconic at E.L. Fudge yet distinct enough from your garden-variety Chips Deluxe, the Fudge Stripe begs for a makeover, or at the very least a new twist on the contrast of artificial chocolate glaze and crisp shortbread.

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies 3

If nothing else, the little men slaving away in those treehouse factories certainly craft an aesthetically pleasing product. Lined in a perfect row of red and white, as if drizzled with a cream cheese and buttercream fondant by skillful elfish hands, the cookies look appetizing enough to devour in one fell swoop. It’s a thought not completely unrealistic, if only for the obsolescent non-resealable packaging. Really, Ernest J.? You’ve created a magical factory in a tree capable of mass producing cookies yet you can’t prevent my cookies from going stale? Priorities man, priorities!

Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies 4

The white coating is predictably waxy—the kind of artificial, “look that’s going to be your arteries!” stuff that we’ve been told to avoid, but still secretly love. At first, it’s slow to yield a distinct flavor, but after several licks and precise, tiny bites, the faux-glaze takes on a unique flavor. I’m reminded quite a bit of the yogurt coating of the raisins in one of my favorite cereals (Basic 4—completely underrated) but also pick up a hypersweet note of white chocolate and an element of cream cheese.

Beneath the glaze is the shortbread cocoa cookie. Crunchy with a superfine crumb, there’s both a distinct mellow cocoa element but also a deeper and richer chocolate flavor. You won’t mistake it for dark chocolate, but sure enough, the semisweet chocolate listed on the ingredient list makes itself known, giving each cookie an over-the-top chocolate flavor which pairs wonderfully with cream cheese glaze.

I have to admit though, there’s an odd acidity in these cookies which tempers the chocolate; a sensation which makes me almost pucker. Sharp to a point but still very sweet, there really is a distinct Red Velvet flavor that goes well beyond just mellow cocoa and red food coloring. Truth be told it’s sort of unexpected (who ever heard of a crunchy Red Velvet cake, for one thing!), yet somehow satisfyingly addictive. One might, when considering the hands which built it, even call it magical.

I wasn’t expecting to like the Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies as much as I did. I know, I know. Who am I to doubt whatever source of supernatural craftsmanship guides the Keebler elves. Yet lulled to sleep by countless Red Velvet flavor imposters, my expectations were dimmed, so much so that when one of the most accurate representations of the flavor in mass produced form graced my lips, I was blown away. Red Velvet Oreos, you ask? I’m not holding my breath just yet, because as far as I’m concerned Ernest J. and the magical elves have crafted a near-perfect Red Velvet cookie.

*Kale, for instance.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Red Velvet Fudge Stripes Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 oz.
Purchased at: Mars Grocery Stores
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: ACTUALLY TASTES LIKE RED VELVET. Mellow cocoa crumb. Unexpected chocolate depth. Addictively complex cream cheese/buttercream/white chocolate glaze. Needed makeover for a classic cookie.
Cons: Possibility of Red Velvet flavored gluten-free dog treats. Seventeenth century cookie packaging. Will turn your arteries into waxy faux cream cheese filling.

REVIEW: Market Pantry Birthday Cake Creme Sandwich Cookies

Market Pantry Birthday Cake Creme Sandwich Cookies

Do you want to know how to ruin my birthday party?

Do any of the following.

Get me a pony instead of the mini unicorn I requested. Give me a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf gift card instead of a Starbucks gift card. Put trick candles on my birthday cake. Make me hit a piñata with a blindfold. Not sing “Happy Birthday” in a language other than English. And pass out these Market Pantry Birthday Cake Sandwich Cookies instead of Nabisco’s Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies.

You may think I’m pooh-poohing the store brand because I’m a brand elitist or I’ve got cash to burn so I can spend it on big brands, but I think Target’s Market Pantry puts out some really good stuff, like their Snickerdoodle Milk.

I’d be insulted if someone brought these store brand birthday cake-flavored sandwich cookies to my party because there are several things off about them.

Let’s start with the packaging.

If Target’s Market Basket wants to copy Nabisco’s ideas, might I suggest copying the resealable package. Sure, Nabisco probably has a patent or two for their resealable cookie packaging, but I wish Target would come up with their own because once this package is open, you’ve either got to close it with tape, clothespins, or eat the whole damn thing in one sitting. Also, the graphics on the packaging confuse me. The cookies are chocolate wafers with creme, but the cake on the packaging is yellow cake with frosting. Yeah, that doesn’t match.

Market Pantry Birthday Cake Creme Sandwich Cookies Stcak

Now let’s move on to the creme.

First, it looks like it was either placed on the chocolate wafer by an uncalibrated or emo creme squirting machine (I believe creme squirting machine is the technical name for it) or it looks like my lazy ass put these cookies together. The pat of creme isn’t in a uniform shape and it’s not centered in the middle of the cookie like the creme is with an Oreo cookie. Also, the colorful “sprinkles,” which make the creme appear birthday cake frosting-ish, seem to be nothing more than spots of food dye. It looks like the Nyan Cat sneezed on it.

As for the flavor, I don’t think it tastes birthday cake frosting-ish. It’s more like regular chocolate sandwich cookie creme-ish. I licked my way through several cookies as if I was a dog with a jar of peanut butter, but didn’t think there was anything resembling birthday cake.

While the packaging and creme are off, they don’t make the cookie’s flavor weird. But that happens with the chocolate wafers. They have a crunch similar to Oreo cookies and they start off with a mild cocoa flavor, but they end with a weird, bitter artificialness that brings down the entire cookie and guarantees it ends up on my birthday party shitlist.

So if your arm reaches for these Market Pantry Birthday Cake Sandwich Cookies, shift it to the far right or far left, which is where the Nabisco cookies are probably stocked at your local Target, and grab the Nabisco Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies instead before you come to my birthday party.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat*, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 35 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

*made with partially hydrogenated oils

Item: Market Pantry Birthday Cake Creme Sandwich Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.09
Size: 15.25 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Cheaper than Birthday Cake Oreo. Getting Starbucks gift cards. Unicorns. Nabisco products being to the left or right of these cookies.
Cons: Tastes cheaper than Birthday Cake Oreo. Chocolate wafers have weird bitterness. Creme doesn’t taste birthday cake-ish. Sprinkles aren’t sprinkles. Packaging shows yellow cake with white frosting, but the cookies are chocolate. It looks like I put the cookies together.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Candy Corn Creme Bars

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar

If we’re going to continue to be friends, I feel there are a few things you should know about me. One is that I have learned most of my morals from a VHS copy of The Muppet Show and my bearded Uncle Bumsford who told me stories while flinging an ax into a stump in the backyard. Another is that I don’t mind, even downright enjoy, preservative-laden stuff. So long as the preservatives are working in the product’s favor, I see no flim or flaw. Bring me thy Jell-o pudding, thy toaster pastries, thy individually wrapped Little Debbies!

And that’s where these come in.

With enough Vegetable Oil Compounds to create an artistic rendering of the Icelandic glaciers, this new Hershey’s Candy Corn Bar is not one to illicit positive reviews from the authors of the USDA food pyramid, but neither does candy corn. Candy corn celebrates the odd, the waxy, the culinarily questionable ingredients, and if there’s anyone who’s familiar with handling questionable confectionary ingredients, it’s Hershey’s. Sure, sometimes things go awry in the Hershey lab, but I continue to put my Halloween faith in their corporate clutches. Am I foolish? Open-minded? Just outright idiotic? Let’s find out.

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar Candy Corn as a sugary little block

There is a distinct sweetness of candy corn that, when mulled with preservatives, creates a hyper-sweet sensation that is appealing to the sugar-inclined individual. It tastes of wax and corn syrup solids, maybe a hint of plastic and, guess what? That’s what these bars are made of: waxy stuff and corn syrup. Sugary and quick to melt, the bars are pleasant in that dairy milk confection way, making them easy to nibble as they get goopy all over your hands in 82-degree weather. It’s terrifying and awesome.

However, unlike candy corn, Hershey’s seems to have skipped the whole “honey” ingredient, which, in some respects, is a good thing. For example, you won’t have to worry about being attacked by a hungry honey bear or a swarm of vengeful bees. On the not-as-positive end, the bars don’t have the strong distinguishing taste that honey provides. In fact, they don’t have any particular taste. No vanilla. No rum. Just sugar.

If I close my eyes and use my imagination, there’s something slightly fruity at the end as if someone spliced Cadbury Egg Crème with dehydrated strawberry nubs, but it’s more about the abundance of sugar and texture: melty, melty, melty. While not a stunner on its own, I imagine all that Melting Sugar Goo would making an excellent fall s’more smashed between two Pumpkin Pop-Tarts and a chocolate marshmallow. As Uncle Bumsford always said: a s’more always solves your “What the hell do I do with all this mediocre candy?” problems.

Hershey's Candy Corn Bar interior

These little bars are pretty good. Are they made of lavender honey harvested from a flowery meadow by the Andrena hattorfiana bumblebees? No, but neither is candy corn. To expect otherwise would be unfair. By the abundance of sugar alone, these did a modest job at reimagining the experience of chomping on fistfuls of candy corn. While the dull, vegetable-oiled flavor leaves room for growth, at $3.69, I really can’t grumble too much.

If you’re a fan of corn syrup or drinking Cadbury Crème straight from the shell, you shall enjoy this. It will give you a good dose of sugar and Carnauba Wax, and sometimes that’s all you need to get to the next house for All Hallow’s Eve.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 bars – 200 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hershey’s Candy Corn Creme Bars
Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 9.45 oz bag
Purchased at: Kmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Melty. Perfect for Cadbury Crème lovers. Supports the cause of Trick-or-Treaters. Uncle Bumsford. VHS series of The Muppet Show.
Cons: No defining flavor aside from sugar. Carbauna wax. Grumpy USDA Food Pyramid authors. Vengeful bumblebees.

REVIEW: Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo

I used to think the world didn’t need more pumpkin spice products. The number of pumpkin spice-ified products has grown to comical levels. I think there are enough of them that they would outweigh the world’s largest pumpkin, which is over 2,000 pounds.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Pringles, Pumpkin Spice Country Crock Spread, Pumpkin Spice M&M’s, Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese, and a dozen or so pumpkin spice beers are just a small taste of all the pumpkin spice products out there.

But after learning about these Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies several weeks ago, something in my mind snapped and now I want to see MORE pumpkin spice products. Actually, I take that back. I want complete pumpkin spice shelf domination.

That means I want see Rockstar Pure Zero Pumpkin Spice Ice Energy Drink, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios, Sprite Pumpkin Spice Soda, Pepperoni and Pumpkin Spice Hot Pockets, Pumpkin Spice Tide Laundry Detergent, Pumpkin Spice Egg Beaters, Pumpkin Spice Spicy Doritos, Pumpkin Spice Scope Mouthwash, Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Goldfish, Pumpkin Spice Spam, and so much more. Hell yeah!

I think pumpkin spice and Oreo were meant to come together, because Oreo is also something that folks say there are too many of. So it’s funny the flavor that has too many products and the product that has too many flavors ended up coming together.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Package

The Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookie’s smell reminds me of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes I purchase about this time every year. Out of all the Oreo varieties I’ve tried this year, this cookie’s aroma is the most inviting, slightly ahead of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Oreo. It doesn’t smell like an artificial version of what it’s trying to emulate, which is the case with other flavors, like Fruit Punch, Root Beer Float, and Caramel Apple.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Closeup

The orange-red creme has that familiar pumpkin spice flavor. I could taste ginger, cinnamon, and a bit of nutmeg. However, the ingredients list doesn’t contain any of those spices. Well, technically, the creme contains something that sounds like a spice, paprika oleoresin, but it’s just there for coloring.

When licking just the creme, the flavor doesn’t excite my taste buds. The pumpkin spice flavor is good, but it’s surprisingly not that strong despite direct taste bud-to-creme contact. However, just like I experienced with the Caramel Apple Oreo, the creme’s flavor is enhanced when the cookie is eaten whole. I don’t know what it is about the Golden Oreo that makes that happen, but I’m glad it happens. Damn food science!

If you’re a fan of pumpkin spice, the Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies will make you happy. If you’re one of those people who think there are too many pumpkin spice products, then this will further support your beliefs. And if you’re bored and happen to have regular Oreo cookies and Pumpkin Spice Oreo cookies around, I’d suggest doing a creme swap. The pumpkin spice creme with the chocolate cookie is also quite tasty.

Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies Surgery

(Disclosure: I received a free sample of these cookies from the folks at Oreo. I gave my honest opinion of them. Receiving a free sample did not influence me to write something positive. To satisfy possible doubters, I will say something bad about Oreo. Mega Stuf Oreo was a dumb idea.)

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 150 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 15 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Nabisco Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Oreo Cookies
Purchased Price: FREE
Size: 12.2 oz.
Purchased at: Received from Oreo
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: If you love pumpkin spice, you’ll like this cookie. Pumpkin spice stands out more when the cookie is eaten whole. Aroma reminds me of Starbucks PSL. Also goes well with chocolate Oreo wafers.
Cons: If you think there are too many pumpkin spice products, you’ll continue to feel that way. Licking creme isn’t satisfying. Pumpkin Spice Spam.