REVIEW: Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels

Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels

Be careful, Mentos.

You’re walking on thin ice by bringing your Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels into the Rolo Mafia’s territory. Sure, you may have sold your chewy chocolate and caramel bites in Europe for a while now, but things are different in America.

Rolo rules the chocolatey caramel morsel game here, and Don Rolo has been known to make some pretty unrefusable offers in order to discourage competition. Let’s just say that if you wake up tomorrow with the bleeding, severed head of a cherry gummy bear in your bed, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Apparently you’ve released a Caramel & Mint Dark Chocolate variety, too, but I couldn’t find those. Maybe the Junior Mint Yakuza already got to ’em.

I’m telling you, Mentos: thin ice. Speaking of which, you know why Ice Breakers haven’t broken into the chocolate caramel market? Because they don’t want to be sleeping with the Swedish Fishes, either.

But okay, maybe I’m not giving you enough credit. Maybe you can roll with the best of ’em. The Don says you have one shot, so time to put your honey-colored sugar goo where my mouth is.

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I see your trick now, Mentos. You inverted my expectations by putting the chocolate inside the caramel. This way you can claim originality, just like how my bootleg “Nookie” shoes have a haphazardly inverted -— and totally not copyright infringing -— checkmark.

Sorry if it sounds like I’m being hard on you. That’s just because you’re being hard on my teeth. Despite your sticky, pliable caramel shell, I had to apply so much violent dental force to break through it that several anti-fracking petitioners showed up outside my window.

And speaking of dark brown stuff that lurks beneath the surface, your equally gummy chocolate center sure isn’t as valuable as crude oil. In fact, I could barely taste it. There’s a faint fudginess and an aftertaste of ho-hum, sweetened cocoa, but it doesn’t have the creaminess of a Rolo, the butteriness of a Reese’s, or even the mock carnivorous delight of a cheap chocolate bunny.

All I did taste was caramel: simple, super processed, and not at all salted. There’s a bit of that classic “mouthwatering browned sugar” caramel flavor, but it’s mostly like the generic caramel swirl you’d find in a disappointing, birthday party-ruining store brand ice cream.

Caramel & Chocolate Mentos Caramels 3

Taken together, your Mentos Caramels really are just inside-out Rolos with inferior ingredients. If I may extend my analogy further, it’s like what would happen if Great Value tried to make an Uh-Oh! Oreo. The only people I could recommend these to are those who love Mary Janes, old saltwater taffy, and whatever other rock-hard, filling removing candies the old lady down the street hands out on Halloween.

Sure, Mentos Caramels might not taste that bad, and sure, I could just suck on them until they don’t suck my molars from their sockets, but there’s just no reason to pick them over a Rolo when I’m in the checkout aisle making an Impulsive Buy (See what I did there? Meta reference).

So for your crimes against candy and dental plans, Mentos, I’m sentencing you to “death by overused 2005 YouTube meme.” By which I mean Diet Coke.

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Uhh, crap. I guess you win this round. Apparently Mentos Caramels only make the drink angrily fume for five straight minutes instead of erupting. I promise I’ll find some way to punish you.

Right after I finish chugging this bottle of flat, fudgy caramel cola.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 36 g tube
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Fleeting fudge phantoms. Acceptable for deserted island caramel fixes. The legitimately tasty idea of Chocolate Caramel Coke. Chocolate bunny filets.
Cons: Counterfeit Uh-Oh! Rolos. Budget caramel. So long, dental plan! Having to suck my Mentos instead of chewing them. Organized candy crime.

REVIEW: Project 7 Birthday Cake Gourmet Gummies

Project 7 Birthday Cake Gourmet Gummies

Science!

It is long-winded!

What with its Bunsen burners, vacuum filters, and radioactive delocalized atoms, science can leave even the most educated scratching their heads about what in the world C12H22O11 is. Indeed, the mere mention of the periodic table can transform the average-and-everyday into the daunting, ruthless, and unfamiliar.

But, as I learned the time I used physics to whack open a piñata while bouncing on a trampoline, just because science can be unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s bad. Sometimes one must use science to venture into the unknown. Must harness it to go where no one has gone. Must employ it to take up fly-fishing, win at Ping-Pong, or do the moonwalk in polka-dotted boxer shorts. As humans, we must push, pull, challenge, wring, and wrestle so that we may grow. Science can help us do this.

And sometimes this integration of science involves transforming a fluffy, frosted loaf into blushing ursidae-shaped confectionary. Such is the case with these Project 7 gummies, which dare to take on birthday cake as the inspiration for their squishy bears. But will science follow through? And, if so, will it serve us better? Or will we be consumed by gelatinous radioactive sludge? Fire up the atomizer. We’re diving in.

Project 7 Birthday Cake Gourmet Gummies 2

Well, pull out your shades and put on your blinders ‘cause these bears tumble out with a red-pink hue that’d rival Kirby eating strawberries in a Hello Kitty Store. The gummies smell quite unique, wavering between whiffs of vanilla Jell-O, pound cake, and, oddly enough, that first moment one walks into a Laser Tag room when the fog machine is at full blast. Special effect smells aside, the bears are soft, squishy, and with their massive googly eyes, likely to both inspire and scare the living daylights out of you.

You wanted your birthday cake chocolate? Strawberry? Coffee caramel with marshmallow fluff? This terrain is not for you. Soft and stretchy with a hint of Chuck E. Cheese Birthday Cake, these bears are straight up vanilla. Nothing more. Nothing less. The bears start with a sweet, saccharine sugar spike that mellows out into the mellow vanilla. It’s not too exciting, but definitely pleasant enough in a humble, uncomplicated way. There’s even a certain brightness at the end, probably from the 100 percent vitamin C they’ve crammed into ‘em. That’s right: you can prevent scurvy. Birthday Cake Gummies can help.

Project 7 Birthday Cake Gourmet Gummies 3

Science came. Science saw. Science did a bunch of chemical interactions. Maybe something exploded (because what’s good science without explosions?).

What emerged from the mist are these wacky, vanilla-forward gummies tinted in a pink so deep they could stomp on Barbie’s trademark. While the flavor doesn’t blow my mind, the vanilla is pleasantly simple and the concept of specialty gummies is kind of (definitely) spectacular. Perhaps Project 7 will Jelly-Belly-ify their gummies, expanding into the realms of pancakes and pina coladas. My appreciation of this gummy’s vanilla flavor, coupled with a hope that Project 7 will create a buttered popcorn-flavored gummy, is enough to encourage me to pick these up on occasion. If you like your pink with a shot of vanilla and vitamin C, these are worth a shot.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 pieces – 130 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 0 mg of potassium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2 oz package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Squishy. Sweet. Mellow, non-chemically vanilla flavor. Prevents scurvy. Kirby at the Hello Kitty Store. Using physics to whack a piñata. Polka-dotted underwear. Science!
Cons: Has googly eyes that haunt you. Not inclusive of all Birthday Cake flavors (yet). Questionable smell of fog effects at Laser Tag. May bring back traumatic Chuck E. Cheese Birthday memories. Radioactive sludge.

REVIEW: S’mores Crispy M&M’s

S'mores Crispy M&M's

Crispy M&M’s are one of those snacks you’ll find on many lists on the internet with titles like “20 Foods You’ll Never Eat Again” or “19 90s Snacks Your Taste Buds Will Never Experience Once More.” But those writers didn’t heed the wise words of Justin Bieber, “Never Say Never.”

The creamy and crispy candy came back with the might of a multi-million dollar promotional campaign about two years ago. And now there are flavored varieties. Meet S’mores Crispy M&M’s.

S'mores Crispy M&M's 2

If Skittles is “Taste the Rainbow,” then these would be “Taste the Neutral Color Palette in a Home Depot Paint Department.” The candy pieces come colors that I will describe using names one might find in a Home Depot paint section: Vancouver Snow, Orange Moss, and Ghana Cocoa.

While their colors might not be exciting, the smell that comes out of their bag every time I open it is an aromatic come-hither. I imagine it’s similar to what the original Ghostbusters had to smell for days after getting drenched with Stay Puft Marshmallow Man goo, a toasted eau de mallow, if you will. It’s an artificial exaggerated marshmallow aroma, but it’s still a scent I enjoy. Hey, Glade! Bottle it or turn it into a candle.

The artificial marshmallow flavor is as strong as the artificial marshmallow aroma and it has an equally strong chocolate flavor, but it’s hard to taste the graham. They don’t taste exactly like those messy treats I used to eat sitting around the campfire I had to make and later extinguish in order to earn my Fire Safety Merit Badge, but they’re s’mores-ish enough for me.

S'mores Crispy M&M's 3

All the flavor is in the chocolate. I thought the rice crispy center might have some flavor, but after letting a piece dissolve in my mouth, it turns out it’s blander than Rice Krispies Cereal. However, it does give each candy a graham cracker-like crunch. Oh, that crunch! That wonderful crunch that was one of the reasons why I liked a Facebook page called “Bring Back Crispy M&M’s.”

I really like S’mores Crispy M&M’s. But that’s not surprising since they have the same marshmallow flavor that’s in those great Hot Chocolate M&M’s that came out last year. I do wish the graham was a bit stronger, but I’d still recommend them. So if you see these crispy s’mores-flavored M&M’s on a store shelf, go Taste the Neutral Color Palette in a Home Depot Paint Department.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 ounces – 200 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 8 oz bag
Purchased at: Cub Foods
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: S’mores-ish. Artificial marshmallow aroma and flavor are pleasant. The crunch of Crispy M&M’s. Crispy M&M’s still live!
Cons: Hard to taste the graham. Rice crisp center is flavorless. Using the word “never” in your discontinued foods list.

REVIEW: Bazooka Candy Brands Crunchkins

Crunchkins

Crunchkins are a brand new “dessert flavored popper” from the Bazooka brand, despite the color scheme on the bag reeking of Wonka. Then again, if these were a Wonka product, they’d probably be called “Fling Flang Wazellydoos” or something. Nevertheless, I think we may have officially run out of clever names for candies. Crunch-kins.

And what’s with the usage of “poppers”? Is candy the first thing you think of when you hear the word “popper”? Isn’t that dated slang for pills?

But I digress. Time to di-gest. Ugh.

Crunchkins come in three flavors – Birthday Cake, Fudge Brownie, and Glazed Donut. While tons of companies have played with cake and fudge flavors, glazed donut is definitely an exciting new foray.

The poppers have a thin crispy shell, followed by a flavor appropriate layer of a chocolate-like substance, and a crunchy ball center.

The shell is thinner than an M&M’s shell, and quite frankly, pretty unnecessary. While it does provide distinct flavor, I feel like that could’ve just been infused into the chocolate more.

The crunchy center, which is more like Crispy M&M’s than a malted milk ball, tasted stale and cheap. I had really hoped these would taste like flavored Whoppers or Robin Eggs, but alas, as John Lennon famously said, “I can’t always get what I want.”

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As for the individual flavors:

Birthday Cake was the best. White and speckled – they looked like mini jaw breakers. The flavor was basically vanilla, but tasty and close enough to the standard Birthday Cake flavor. It was essentially vanilla icing candy.

Glazed Donut, like Crunchkins themselves, was a mixed bag. There was some kind of weird spice element to it that made me think of licorice Necco Wafers, and no one wants to think of those. As I chewed, the Glazed Donut flavor came through, which I enjoyed because I’ve never had a candy mimic this flavor. Still, that spice was overpowering. I do think glazed donuts have that flavor to a degree, but Crunchkins cranked it up to ten. I tried all three flavors at once, and the spice was the distinct flavor that ultimately pushed through.

Fudge Brownie was the worst of the three. I was instantly put in mind of Little Debbie Fudge Brownies, but the chocolate just wasn’t top quality. Ever have Palmer brand chocolate? It’s basically the bottom barrel stuff they put out around the holidays. It tasted more like that than premium chocolate. No offense, Palmer.

Crunchkins only seem to exist to remind me how good the snacks they are mimicking really are. While eating them, I wasn’t thinking about the candy in my mouth, but more about actual birthday cake, glazed donuts, Little Debbie’s Fudge Brownies, Nestle Crunch, Crispy M&Ms, Dunkin Donuts Munchkins, and so on. You could probably say that about most artificially flavored snacks, but I especially yearned for the old reliables while eating these.

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The texture was also a problem for me. If there was no shell, and just the chocolate coating with a malted milk ball center, I’d probably love them. That inner chocolaty component was the only texture I enjoyed.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re decent, but not something you’ll want to run back to. I’m not sure it’s fair to say these are “bootleg Crispy M&M’s,” but they are basically bootleg Crispy M&Ms. For a candy that hits the caps lock on “CRUNCH” in their name, the stale crunch may have been the weakest part.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 pieces (40g) – 200 calories from fat, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 8 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.38
Size: 3 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Passable snack. Birthday cake flavor is spot on. Glazed Donut was kinda good. Ambitious effort.
Cons: Confusing spice flavor. Poor quality chocolate. Stale tasting center. Not Whoppers. Bootleg Crispy M&M’s. Uninspired name. No Bazooka comic. Someone even jokingly confusing Mick Jagger and John Lennon.

REVIEW: Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M’s (M&M’s Flavor Vote)

Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M's (M&M's Flavor Vote)

Let’s get one thing straight: Peanut M&M’s are the best.

Well, technically, Peanut Butter M&M’s are the best, but the classic whole-roasted peanut M&M’s, represented by the overly optimistic, decidedly plump yellow guy, are right behind them.

Don’t agree? Sorry, you’re in the minority. Pretty much anyone with a computer and a sweet tooth will rank either Peanut Butter or Peanut M&M’s at the top of the M&M’s kingdom, which if you ask me is a not to be overlooked accomplishment given that Mars has mostly been focusing flavor additions more in the white chocolate and milk chocolate spectrum.

Well, Mr. Yellow Guy is finally getting the last laugh, because M&M’s has introduced three new Peanut flavors that America will get to choose from before the winner gets rushed into the regular M&M’s rotation. And by last laugh, I mean literally last. He is, after all, about to get eaten.

Coffee Nut M&M's 1

First up is the Coffee M&M’s. As anyone from Canada knows, coffee and candy just belong together (Dear Canadians: I live in Texas, please mail Coffee Crisp.) These are really awesome, and get my vote for the next Peanut flavor.

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While I was hoping for an earthy, robust roasted coffee finish that gradually overtakes the sweetness (like you might get in a chocolate-covered expresso bean), I can’t complain about the mocha vibe that resonates as soon as the shell begins to dissolve, even if it is a mocha vibe with seven extra pumps of vanilla syrup and four Splendas. Come to think of it, these taste a lot like coffee Jelly Belly beans, except with a peanut. Frankly, that makes them all the better.  

Honey Nut M&M's

Moving right along, I imagine the idea for Honey Nut M&M’s came into being at the weekly golf outing of yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople. Given the natural friendliness of both the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and the Yellow M&M’s guy, this flavor combination was bound to happen. I was also bound to like the flavor given the fact that Honey Nut Chex is in my Top 10 cereals of ALL TIME, but unfortunately the M&M’s didn’t live up to expectations. The characteristic almond flavor of Honey Nut Cheerios is definitely present as soon as you get at the chocolate, but a weird and distracting artificial sweetness comes with it.

I was hoping, if nothing else, the peanut would have the salty and caramelized texture of a honey roasted peanut, but this wasn’t to be. Not that a whole peanut in a milk chocolate shell is that much of a disappointment, but Honey Nut M&M’s weren’t nearly as good as they should have been.

Chili Nut M&M's

Finally, Chili Nut M&M’s push M&M’s into new territory, namely the somewhat fading food trend of pairing chocolate with spicy food. These are interesting; they’re not fireballs by any mean, but there’s an initial cinnamon red hots flavor that enters your mouth as soon as the shell starts to dissolve. A tingling backheat resonates through the milk chocolate, and then really comes on strong once you crunch through the peanut. The last sensation you get is cayenne burn that lasts for a couple of seconds after you’ve finished. I know its tantamount to declaring the wuss card, but I’ll admit it: I needed to grab a glass of water after eating these. All in all, it’s an interesting combination if you’re a heat seeker, although more of a mild annoyance if you’re just a standard M&M’s eater.

Adding to the Peanut M&M’s lineup was long overdue, but I’d be lying if I said any of the new flavors catapulted to the top of the M&M’s flavor list. While Coffee Nut is a welcome addition, the other two flavors taste more like novelties than anything else. And even though I don’t think any of them take a lot away from the smooth milk chocolate and crunchy roasted peanut taste of our adorable yellow friend, I will say there’s something about the classic that’s just hard to improve on.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pack or 49 grams – 250 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: 88 cents each
Size: 1.75 oz.
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Coffee Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Honey Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Chili Nut)
Pros: Coffee Nut flavor has lasting notes of coffee and vanilla. Familiar crunchy shell roasted peanut, and smooth milk chocolate of Peanut M&M’s. Yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople golf outings.
Cons: None of the flavors beat the classic Peanut M&M’s. Not an overly robust coffee finish. Honey Nut flavor has cloying artificiality. No honey roasted peanut. Chili Nut M&M’s only brings heat, not additional flavor.

REVIEW: Easter Sundae M&M’s

Easter Sundae M&M's

Easter Sundays hold a special place in my heart. So many memories of floofy dresses bought just for that day. Sleeping with my hair in rollers to get those special curls the next morning. Socks with little bows on them, and saddle shoes or Mary Janes.

That was a shoe before it was a term for weed, guys. Just a heads up.

The point being, I loved–oh, wait, no, I hated Easter Sunday. I hated wearing dresses. The curlers pinched my scalp. Bows are for girls who don’t play in the mud and try to catch lizards. Church was boring and too early.

Okay, it wasn’t all bad. After church we got to go to The Original Pancake House, where they put bacon in pancakes before putting bacon in everything was cool. We had an Easter egg hunt at home, and got to open our baskets full of sweet, delicious candy. It was a fantastic reward for my sore head and sleepy morning.

What we didn’t have was Easter Sundaes. That’s probably because they didn’t exist until M&M’s decided to use some easy wordplay for their latest in a line of many flavors. Look at Red up there, acting like bunny ears and sundaes go together like Halloween and candy corn.

I’d also like to address the flavor itself, which is described on the bag as “White center surrounded by Milk Chocolate.” I know it’s a controversial stance, but White Center has been and always will be my favorite flavor. Good ol’ White Center.

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M&M’s idea of Easter Sundae colors is apparently bright blue, bright pink and what some guy in the paint department of Home Depot would describe as ecru. These feel more like “baby shower gifts when the parents are keeping the gender a secret” more than either Easter or sundaes. Also, for some reason my bag had approximately four times as many blues as pinks, so…I guess it’s a boy?

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Of course, White Center is actually white chocolate, the proof of which is that white chocolate is the first ingredient listed on the back of the bag. It’s the predominant chocolate inside the larger-than-usual M&M, surrounded by a thinner later of milk chocolate.

The taste of Easter Sundae M&M’s is both pleasant and almost oppressively boring. That’s a weird sentence, but it’s 100% true. The white chocolate center dominates as a flavor, while the surrounding milk chocolate plays a nice backup role.

But that’s it; that’s all there is to it. White chocolate and milk chocolate, together at last, or for the 100th time. One of those two. If they really were going for the taste of a sundae, they failed to hit the marks of ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, cherries, and…well yeah, that’s entirely what comprises a sundae.

If you like to eat white chocolate and milk chocolate together, then you’ll enjoy Easter Sundae M&M’s. But don’t be fooled by the name; there’s no new flavors, no unique experience. Just chocolate.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 ounces — 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable mixture of white and milk chocolate. Easter egg hunts. The candy shells are cheerily colored.
Cons: A boring combination of flavors. Trying to force Easter and sundaes together. Candies taste absolutely nothing like sundaes. Floofy dresses.