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.”

Crunchkins 2

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.

Crunchkins 3

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.

Coffee Nut M&M's 2

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.

Easter Sundae M&M's 2

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?

Easter Sundae M&M's 3

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.

REVIEW: Airheads Birthday Cake

Airheads Birthday Cake

Airheads is celebrating its 30th birthday in 2016.

M&M’s is celebrating its 75th birthday in 2016.

Look, I know that M&M’s flavored like Airheads and Airheads stuffed with M&M’s Minis is probably too much to ask for, but at least give me an HD video of that cute Brown M&M sensually eating a Watermelon Airhead while singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. Candy President.”

Now before you finish typing “how to file a restraining order” into your search bar, hear me out. It took M&M’s — a chocolate candy — all the way until its 73rd birthday to jump the artificially flavored shark and try a birthday cake flavor.

Typically fruity Airheads made this bizarre leap in less than half the time, making me think someone at Airheads HQ Googled “what flavors does Buzzfeed write about please help us we’re out of ideas.”

Airheads Birthday Cake 2

So here I sit with a Birthday Cake Airhead. It looks like someone cut the tongue right out of Yoshi from Super Mario Bros.’ mouth and dunked it in a bowl of Funfetti batter. The slimy gloss on the taffy further supports my grim hypothesis.

I always knew the Pillsbury Doughboy wasn’t right in the head.

Even though feeling the gritty, sticky texture of this Airhead is like sharing Play-Doh with the dopey, drooling kid from pre-school, I bit off a hunk anyway. I chewed, I chewed, the fish in my aquarium evolved a pair of legs, and I continued chewing.

It really does take a long time to chew through this Airhead. I timed it at about 40 seconds for each sizable bite. By the time I finished, my fish were Cro-Magnon men. My journey through time covered several distinct taste eras, so allow me to break this down, National Geographic style.

0-10 seconds: The Buttercream Era

During this period of early development, indigenous Airhead eaters were stunned by just how much it tasted like cake frosting. A palatable butteriness and a lip-smacking whipped cream sweetness allowed them to survive in an otherwise challenging time plagued by a gross mouthfeel.

11-20 seconds: The Vanilla Era.

Our humble, chewing natives experienced a brief period of splendor, as a storm of intense vanilla flavor graced them with its pleasant taste. Faint notes of eggy yellow cake began to grow from the half-chewed Airhead soil, and all were pleased by this harvest.

21-30 seconds: The Powdered Sugar Era

This good fortune could not last. As the mealy mush of chewed Airhead began degrading into a sopping pile of grit within the chewers’ mouths, volcanoes of confectioner’s sugar erupted cloying, glazed lava. Tasters everywhere were sickened by its tooth-rotting sweetness.

31-40 seconds: The “I Don’t Even Know Anymore, Dude” Era

Ruin befell the Airhead eaters. All that remained after their earlier tragedy were puddles of sugar granules and saliva, as well as an off-putting waxy aftertaste that radiated from the backs of their throats. They say, “those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it,” and these chewers were idiots. So they took another bite.

Airheads Birthday Cake 3

That’s the Cliffs Notes version. For a while, this taffy actually did taste uncannily like a heavily frosted birthday cake. The problem is that cake flavor and taffy texture together is about as appealing as nuts and gum. It’s an odd experience that might be worth the novelty, but Airheads would have been better off choosing a safer flavor. Pineapple upside-down cake? Banana crème pie? Anyone? Bueller?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to study the next chapter on 7-10pm: The “Stuffs his Face with Crispy M&M’s and Cries” Period.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 60 calories, 5 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of sodium, 142 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: 6 bar variety pack
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Brief buttercream blasts. Fleeting vanilla resplendence. Chewing for long enough to kill time at the DMV. The Brown M&M.
Cons: Sarcastically exclaiming, “cake and taffy: together at last!” Slimy, saliva-soaked sugar paste. Birthday candle aftertaste. The Pillsbury Dahmer-boy.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Carrot Cake Kisses

Hershey's Carrot Cake Kisses

Carrot Cake is always a cause for celebration.

History proves it: when the Red Coats turn and ran from the Lower East Side in 1783, George Washington celebrated with a big old slice of carrot tea cake. Why? Because nothing says BOOM, ‘MURICA like sneaking vegetables into dessert. It is just our way. You can call it the best of both worlds, or having your cake and eating it too, or just a pretext to improve your night vision while not giving up the sensual pleasure of cake.

But whatever you call it, call it what it is: America’s most beloved combination of vegetables and cream cheese this side of pumpkin spice season.

Carrot Cake is also the newest seasonal Hershey’s Kisses. Non-chocolate Kisses (which are not to be confused with French kisses, which are equally as delightful as Hershey’s Kisses) are a rarity in the candy world, and in my experience, a mixed bag. Sometimes good, sometimes meh, you never know what to make of the seasonally-themed flavors until you try them. This of course is possible thanks to the miracle of capitalism, and the tireless efforts of the overnight employees stocking the Walmart candy shelves the day after the last holiday ended.

Hershey's Carrot Cake Kisses 2

I have a theory about carrot cake: aside from being an “Easter” flavor, its appeal derives from the fact that it has a little something of everyone’s other favorite cakes and flavors.

But if your idea of carrot cake is the kind of cake you eat when you really just want fruitcake, then these Kisses are not from you. There are no raisins, pineapple, or nuts of any kind in the filling, and as far as I know, they don’t have any booze in them.

Hershey's Carrot Cake Kisses 4

Likewise, if carrot cake is the kind is cake you turn to for the moist, super-carroty experience, then these Kisses don’t quite do the job, because the carrot flavor isn’t very distinct. And, finally, if carrot cake is what you’re looking for when you really just want an excuse to lick cream cheese frosting, the white center of each Kiss — which tastes like a combination of fondant and buttercream and a little bit of sour cream — leaves much to be desired.

Who are these Kisses for? They’re for people who like super sweet carrot cake with a little, but not a lot of, tang; those who enjoy the saccharine smell of fondant; people who are looking for a less assertive flavor still reminiscent of pumpkin spice during the spring; and, finally, folks who enjoy sucking on candy whose shape recalls infant memories of breastfeeding.

In all honesty the Kisses aren’t bad. While they are hyper-sweet, there’s a milky appeal to the orange layer, with an artificial spice flavor that lingers. It’s not a bad flavor though. A slightly tangy finish with the fondant and buttercream-like center leaves the tongue with the impression that you’ve eaten more than just sugar and vegetable oil.

Hershey's Carrot Cake Kisses 3

It’s not a moist and decadent carrot cake, but it’s a respectable, albeit too sweet and artificial, celebration of familiar spices and buttercream flavors in the convenient nipple-looking package of a Hershey’s Kiss. And at just under 25 calories a Kiss, it’s a bit easier on the waistline than a carrot cake. The Kisses might not be kicking the British out of Manhattan in the Revolutionary War, but my celebration standards are not quite so lofty, so I’ll go ahead and have another.

(Nutrition Facts – 9 Kisses – 220 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 55 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable melt-in-your mouth Kisses quality. Sweet warming spices. Pretty good combination of buttercream, white-chocolate, and fondant frosting. The American way.
Cons: Lacks really deep carrot cake flavor. Cream cheese tang and richness is missing. Cloying. Doesn’t contain any of the usual carrot cake mix-ins. Awesome source of saturated fat and Yellow Lake #5.