REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate

With cookies from the Netherlands, chocolate from Belgium, and ownership by a California-based grocer that sports Hawaiian shirts, these cookies are reserved for only those with an open mind, an appreciation for all nationalities, and a predilection for spontaneous, risky, sometimes foolish, yet always admirable purchasing habits at the supermarket.

That is, they are reserved for you.

Yes, you. The few. The proud. The dashingly madcap buyers of consumer goods. And yet, despite your inherent courage, you will be tempted to stand back, to cling tight to the familiarity found in the Pepperidge Farm “Milano.” There is great safety in familiarity. Do not be ashamed. I, too, have stood where you stand.

But sometimes, gentle readers, we must branch out. Who among us is brave enough to defy the traditional, “Milano”? Who shall cross not one, but three (THREE) international borders to emerge on a new, diversified biscuit horizon? Who will dare to eat the cookies? After consumption, who will remain?

It’s a long journey. Let us begin now.

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate A perfect duet

Actually, I lied. It’s a staggeringly short journey.

Because these are some good sandwich cookies. Straight up. Ripe for dunking in your afternoon coffee, the cookie itself has some solid structural integrity, more crunchy than crispy, just right for a solid dunk in coffee or tea if you’re so inclined.

It’s also sturdy enough that I could see it making good building material if you’re looking for a weekend construction project and are too lazy to go to Home Depot or are a contractor who specializes in building cookie log cabins for grandmas with questionable, Hansel-and-Gretel-inspired intent.*

*A note to contractors: please do not fall prey to innocent-looking, yet maliciously-inclined grandmas. Only contract to happy grandmas who wish to spoil their grandkids with abundant amounts of milk and cookies.

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate insides

In terms of taste, the cookie wafers are faintly sweet and mild. Some may call it dubiously flavorless, but I can think of worse things. For example: 1) having a distressing population of moles infest your backyard, 2) dying from a spontaneous accumulation of nuclear plasma in the Hudson Bay, and 3) being buried in the break room beside the water cooler. These cookies? Nowhere near nuclear waste or water coolers, buried or unburied.

Thankfully for anyone snoozed out by the cookie’s mild taste, that biscuit is but a canvas to better showcase the smothering of Belgian chocolate smooshed between. This inner cocoa mass proves itself smooth, but still creamy, much like a halfway-hardened ganache. The chocolate flavor starts out rich, cane-sugared, and a little woodsy in that semisweet way as it trundles toward a slight coffee-like bitterness to balance out the sweet, bringing the cookie a good dose of ying, yang, and yada yada yada.

When combined, the cookie sandwich, what with its rich chocolate inside, crunchy cookie outside, and absence of hydrogenated oil (all the arteries shout, “Yay!”), not only edges this cookie up in the “Good Stuff” rankings, but, dare I say, sneaks it just above the Milanos. The lower ingredient count really does heighten the chocolate’s flavor. It may not be spectacular or even original in execution, but it’s simple, and, by gum, simple done downright well.

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate lunch time!

I often imagine the cavernous hallways of the U.N. Headquarters echoing, “Can we all get along?” If these American-Netherland-Belgian-inspired cookies imply anything, I’d say definitely. The well-tempered, semisweet chocolate paired with the crunchy, mild cookie makes these simple and balanced. They hearken back to the Milano, yet, with their lower ingredient/preservative count, their taste is stronger and respectably unique. Plus, they are in the shape of a rectangle, so they really look like “sandwiches,” and “sandwiches” are good for lunch, right?

(Yes.)

And now that I have given you an excuse to have cookies for your mid-day meal, my work here is done.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, Less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 7.5 oz package
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sweet, crunchy cookie. Smooth, semisweet chocolate. Taste is stronger than Milanos thanks to lower ingredient count. Cookies for lunch. Encourages positive international relations. Makes good building material.
Cons: Some may think the cookie portion boring/tasteless. Forces me to betray my beloved Milano (I still love you, Milanos!). Backyard rodent infestations. Death by nuclear plasma. Grandmas with malicious intent.

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REVIEW: Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs

As anyone who has ever eaten Cheetos knows, 90 percent of the appeal is licking the disgusting (and by disgusting, I mean awesome) amount of cheese powder residue that clings to your fingers. Cheesy, salty, delicious, and basically deserving to be packaged and sold as a savory rendition of a Pixy Stix, the Cheeto powder would constitute my entire source of calcium should the world ever see the abolition of pizza. Its deliciousness begs the existential question though: is the quintessence of the Cheeto unique to the cheesiness of the powder, or is it just the presence of a lickable flavor powder in and of itself? In other words: if you take away the cheese, can Cheetos still be great?

A question as mysterious and elusive as ”why is there an Easter bunny?”, the springtime arrival of Cheetos Sweetos as a limited edition Easter-themed snack provides ample empirical evidence to finally put to rest this most vexing of questions.

Shaped like Easter Eggs (or, presumably, drops of cheetah poop) each cinnamon sugar puff is light and airy with a dusty brown complexion one might associate with a well-aged gouda. There the similarities with cheese cease, as the hollow crunch of each puff flees from any notion of the salty Cheeto we’re accustomed to. The powder, too, is not quite as intense in its coverage, and while a fair amount of the advertised cinnamon-sugar transferred to my fingers, I didn’t find myself in need of a good Beethoven slobbering to remove it. I considered this most unfortunate.

Now that I think about it, that’s probably because the taste falls below expectations. For something which has adopted one of the most basic adjectives in flavor for its namesake, Cheetos Sweetos don’t initially taste very sweet at all. If anything, the pieces taste like an over-buttered but under-sugared piece of slightly soggy toast, with loads of cinnamon seasoning but nothing particularly salivating about that seasoning. To put it more bluntly; they’re straight-up bland.

Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs Closeup

The buttery coating isn’t bad, and really, the amount of actual cinnamon flavor is quite admirable, but each puff plays it too safe in the sweetness department, like some kind of alternative cereal ever cognizant of a dreaded lecture by the health food police. What I was expecting, and what my and I’m sure most sweet snack food eaters would have preferred, was something like Post’s Mini-Cinnamon Churros cereal. Likewise, the corn base and cinnamon flavor leave my taste buds grasping for a point of reference, one which inevitably turns to the sturdier crunch of sweetened corn-based cereals. In this case, the puffed approach hinders old Chester, who would have been better to market these in the traditional, crunchier texture of a regular (crunchy) Cheeto.

To be fair, Cheetos Sweetos aren’t bad. But they’re far from memorable, and I wouldn’t choose them as a snack over the multitude of very good cinnamon-sugar cereals out there. If nothing else, they’ve established a fundamental and universal truth that we Cheetos lovers have long pondered over. Yes, the greatness of the Cheeto resides not just in the fact that you get miles of flavored powder to lick from your fingers, but in the unique and especially savory cheese flavor of the powder, and no amount of buttered and slightly sweet cinnamon coating can ever come close to replicating that deliciousness.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 ounce/about 13 pieces – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Time Cheetos Sweetos Cinnamon Sugar Puffs
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Weis
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Pretty solid buttered cinnamon-sugar toast flavor. Strong and authentic cinnamon taste. Easter-themed treat which isn’t dark chocolate. Discovering the real essence of Cheeto deliciousness.
Cons: Sweetness is dull and bland. Mild corn aftertaste is distracting. Doesn’t work well in puffed form. Not getting to slobber up Cheeto powder.

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REVIEW: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies

Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies

During June and July of last year, Pepperidge Farm allowed Milano fans to vote for a future flavor. The candidates were mango ginger, green tea, and chocolate chili. As you’ve probably figured out from reading the title of this review, chocolate chili won and it probably did so with promises of chocolate with a spicy kick.

But after tasting it, I’m not sure it should’ve been victorious.

On the back of its package it describes the cookie as, “The perfect contrast of rich luxurious chocolate and spicy chili flavor.”

Yeah…about the “spicy chili flavor.”

If you’re a heat head, let me disappoint you by saying your internal Scoville scale won’t register anything while eating these cookies. Not even eating several of them one after another will build up a satisfying heat. There is a tickle of something that lingers, especially at the back of my throat, but I’m not sure most would consider it spicy.

Looking at the ingredients list helps explain the lack of heat. There’s no mention of any kind of chili pepper. Not even the vague “spices” is listed. But there is the even more vague “natural flavors.”

The cookies smell like chocolate cake with a hint of chili pepper. Each cookie has two thin layers of chocolate. After nibbling the chocolate at the edges, it tastes like both layers have chili pepper flavor, but it’s very faint. It becomes more so when the cookie is eaten whole. The light, crispy cookie dampens the flavor.

Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies Closeup

I’m torn about these cookies.

Even with a hint of chili pepper flavor, these cookies still gave me some delight. They had a spicy cinnamon or Mexican hot chocolate vibe to them. And, they’re frickin’ Milano cookies, for goodness sake!

But, I can’t help but be disappointed with them. Seeing the words “chili” on the front and “spicy” on the back gave me expectations of the cookie reaching a level of heat that gave them a pleasant warmth.

Or, perhaps, I have it wrong about its spiciness.

The Milano is a classy cookie with a European name that’s presented in white paper baking cups. Having a cookie with an almost uncomfortable amount of heat is something the crazy food scientists at Nabisco would probably do with an Oreo cookie.

If the Milano is a reserved white ballgown and the Oreo is a sexy tight black mini dress that’s up for anything, then perhaps a Milano that burns one’s mouth would be unsophisticated.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies
Purchased Price:
Size: 7 oz.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: They had a faint spicy cinnamon or Mexican hot chocolate vibe to them. They’re frickin’ Milano cookies! No worries for those who are afraid of burning their mouths.
Cons: A bit disappointed they aren’t spicy spicy. Chili pepper flavor could’ve been stronger. Target exclusive.

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REVIEW: Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies

Rah Rah Raisin box

First, I decided: these are not “raisin cookies.” They are galletas de pasas.

A “raisin cookie” sounds like something your grandmother forced you to eat because you had already eaten too much chocolate that day. “Galletas de pasas” sound like an exotic biscuit blended found at a market where they sell Art Deco and hand-woven rugs and play Johnny Cash in the background. Something obscure and enigmatic, yet also specific.

Despite all that self-imposed delusion, all I could read was, “raisin,” and my head—my very stubborn head—kept shouting, “Wrinkly, dry nubs! Stay away!”

My head is no longer allowed to make decisions. These cookies? Put it down. As the perfect entry-level raisin cookie, the small, mini-chocolate-chip-sized fruit bits dot their way along the crispy surface, providing a slight chew and grapey tang that’s effective without being intrusive. The yogurty chips are sparse but wonderful: sweet with a hint of tang at the very end, contrasting and complementing the chewy raisin.

And let’s not forget about the cookie foundation. The cookie is sandy and crumbly, far more so than the Trader Joe’s shortbread I enjoyed earlier this month. While this dough lacks any hint of butter, it dissolves into a fizzle of sweet, sugar-cookie-like dough with the barest bit of molasses at the end, which serves to amp up those the raisins and yogurt chips.

Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies are crumbly

Of course, this crumbled texture brings a hazard for the cookies. Without any protective plastic tray, the biscuits have trouble maintaining their shape. In my box of 14, three cookies came fully intact. I also realize this could’ve resulted from a bum sample or a transit flub. New York roads are bumpy.

But let’s be real: Girl Scout Cookies aren’t about the looks. While the cookie’s sturdiness might be a tragedy for its aesthetics, it’s all the better for you as you are left with a big pile of crumblies at the end of your cookie-eating experience.

Instructions for dealing with crumblies include:

  • Tilt head back.
  • Pour contents of cookie bag into mouth.

Rah Rahs just before they crumbled

So, yes, the cookies and their crumblies are good (so good!). But I am filled! With! Hyperbolic! Agony! At $3.50 per 6-cookie box, my hope to also purchase 18 bajillion boxes of Tagalongs and Thin Mints and Samoas dwindles at the edges. I want to buy more cookies, Girl Scouts, but my bank account suggests otherwise. Oh, catch me! I’m fainting in despair…

And yet that $3.50 is going toward instilling kids with self-esteem and business skills and Girl Scout trips involving s’mores, and what kind of miserable, lonely person discourages putting more self-efficacy and s’mores in the world?! I’d dip into my 401k before I deprive anyone of that.

Leadership Skills, Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies, and you

Overall, these are a pretty swell addition to the Girl Scout line-up. While they may not muscle out my Girl Scout favorites, I’ve only had this one box, which is unfair given that I have over 20 years experience with the traditional cookies. If given time, maybe a sturdier cookie base, and more yogurt chips, I could foresee these, too, heaving themselves up the line of Greats. Not only did they convert the wrinkly raisin-hater inside my heart, but I’m looking for a reason to buy them again. “It’s Thursday!” may have to suffice.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 120 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Rah-Rah Raisin Girl Scout Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.50
Size: 6 oz. box
Purchased at: A sidewalk from a small child
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy. Sweet, melty yogurt chips. Small, chewy raisins. Crumblies. Converted raisin-opposed brains. Galletas de Pasas. Johnny Cash.
Cons: Not as good as Tagalongs. Small raisins may not appeal to raisin fanatics. Pricey for 6 oz. box. More yogurt chips would be nice. May induce stressful situations in which you debate your 401k.

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REVIEW: Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapen?o Pepper Jack

Like an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic or an Illuminati symbol, there’s an element of both metaphysical mystery and advanced technology suggested by the pyramidal shape of the new Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack chips.

The obvious triple entendre of jacked certainly plays into the intrigue—Doritos wants you to know these chips aren’t just bold in flavor, they’re also studded with Pepper Jack cheese seasoning and completely “jacked up” from any type of Dorito we’ve seen previously.

As if stepping forth from a new dimension and intent on blowing our taste buds to smithereens, these new Doritos are supposed to be beyond anything we’ve been able to comprehend at this point.

Oh wait. Never mind.

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapen?o Pepper Jack 3

Truth be told these aren’t just a clever rehashing of old Doritos concepts, which is something I’ve noticed Frito-Lay likes to try to sneak in on us every now and again. The chip’s construction really is unique, giving each crunchy corn pyramid an almost unmatched sturdiness in all of snackfooddom.

If you’re anything like me and hate buying an oversized bag of Doritos only to sob uncontrollably in disappointment over roughly one-third of your chips being broken, then you’ll appreciate the almost exclusively intact nature of the pieces.

What you may not appreciate is the taste, which leaves a lot to be desired. The intoxicating aroma and speckled seasoning immediately recalls everyone’s childhood favorite of Cool Ranch. And, yes, Cool Ranch are the *best* of the classic Doritos, but these are no worthy imitator. The seasoning is actually fairly dull.

It lacks the distinct buttermilk tang and lactic sweetness of Cool Ranch, displaying instead a bit of peppery and garlic flavor to compliment a respectable, but decidedly one-note whisper of jalapeño piquancy on the backend. Spicy enough to leave a tickle in your throat, and maybe elicit a cough or two, the taste is annoyingly persistent if only because there’s neither a cooling element associated with it or additional “hot” flavor to show an evolution in heat. For lack of a better adjective, the seasoning lacks that typical Doritos “zestiness” which makes eating an entire family size bag in one sitting such an, unfortunately, all-too-common experience.

Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapen?o Pepper Jack 2

Worse yet, the triangular pieces don’t really have much in the cheese flavor department. Jack cheese and its variants, including the jalapeño pepper jack version, should really have a mild and decidedly milky taste, but none of that comes off in the seasoning.

Each piece is saved somewhat by the strong and salty corn aftertaste, which tastes almost exactly like traditional Fritos, but with more crunch. Because I think Fritos are the most underrated of all chips, this is great news for me. But if you’re not a Fritos fan, and don’t get too crazy over the tickling heat of jalapeño, then you’ll likely find the chips a disappointment.

Unless you factor in the sturdiness of the pieces themselves, there’s nothing particularly mysterious or advanced about the rather bland and distinctively non-cheesy taste of the Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack chips. Still, their solid crunch and salty corn base show potential to really capitalize on the Jacked namesake, but only if Doritos can apply their classic flavors to the new 3D triangular pieces.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz (about 13 pieces) – 150 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 1.5 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Doritos Jacked 3D Jalapeño Pepper Jack
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 11 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Awesome crunch and sturdy construction not seen in previous versions of Doritos. Solid corn chip aftertaste will be popular amongst Fritos fans. Decent amount of jalapeño heat. Not snackable enough to eat a day’s worth of calories in flavored tortilla chips.
Cons: Seasoning is boring and not very cheesy. One-note jalapeño piquancy. Bag artwork seems stolen from Mountain Dew. Potential masonic conspiracy message engraved in a corn chip.

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