REVIEW: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

Eat your fruit. It’s good for you, they say. It gives you antioxidants, they say. It turns you into an Animorph and lets you shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs, they say. (They actually only say two of these. I’ll let you choose which.)

But sometimes, you don’t want fruit. Not fresh, dried, packaged or plain. Sometimes you want dye-colored, artificially-enhanced pretend fruit in all its sucrose-filled glory. BUT just because it’s pretend doesn’t mean we lower our standards. We want funky grapes, sweet-tart lemons, and a strawberry so balanced and sweet, it makes umami disappear. Who shall take up the reins and harken to our plea for a strawberry-inspired white chocolate? Who shall deliver it in morsel form??

Well, M&M’s gave it a shot.

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 2

The multi-colored morsels tumble out of the bag, bumbling about in their charming, misshapen way. Indeed, M&M’s could start a Home Depot paint line with as many colors as they shroud their candies in these days. This time around, Mars stuck with a white, light pink, and beige color palette, or, as the paint-namers say, “Minced Onion, Palace Rose, and Vanilla Clay.”

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 3

The bits smell distinctly of the brightness that comes from opening a bag of Skittles, and, indeed, the first bite reminds me of a Strawberry Skittle, with its sweet, floral strawberry flavor and crunchy outer shell. The shell immediately crumbles, leaving the white chocolate center to melt into goo, coating your mouth with a light, Starburst-like strawberry sweetness.

The chocolate’s not nuanced or particularly high quality, but, if my eyes don’t deceive, the ingredients list includes cocoa-butter-filled white chocolate rather than, “White Confection,” which might be better described as, “Nefarious, sweetened Vasoline born to create destruction.”

And using that white chocolate pays off. With a hint of vanilla and sugar-filled creaminess, the elements come together just enough to remind me of the strawberry and whipped topping (think: Cool Whip from the tub) often found in strawberry shortcake. Okay, so it’s missing the whole “Shortbread Biscuit” thing, but I enjoy my strawberry-shortcake-inspired bits nonetheless, reveling in the fact that I didn’t even have to open an oven to achieve such joy. Laziness, for the win.

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 4

Life is fraught with dangers, both real and imagined. Strawberry-shortcake-flavored candy should not be one of them. M&M’s knows this. They made a sweet, strawberry morsel that harkens back to a Strawberry Skittle (my favorite flavor) enmeshed with their fudgy white chocolate.

Sure, it’s a bit sweet, not the best quality chocolate, doesn’t include a shortcake biscuit, and won’t replace your everyday fruits (remember: you need that fruit so you can shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs), but, for 2016, I hear many folks hope to do more of what they love. Hypothesizing that M&M’s likes cranking out a whole bunch of seasonally flavored morsels, it looks like M&M’s plans to do that, too. If this is how doing more of what you love tastes, I have hope.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz – 210 calories, 100 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strawberry Skittles. Crunchy shell. Creamy center. Actual white chocolate. Cool Whip from the tub. Laziness, for the win. Fruit that turns you into an Animorph.
Cons: Where’s the shortcake? Will not appeal to those who are Strawberry Starbursts/Skittles haters. Not the best quality white chocolate. Life is fraught with dangers. Being faced with too many paint colors.

REVIEW: Snickers Crisper

Snickers Crisper

Chocolate. Caramel. Peanuts. Nougat. Perfection.

You can’t improve on perfection, but adding crisp rice pieces to a Snickers bar certainly can’t be a bad thing.

Enter Snickers Crisper – crisp rice, milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and…

Hold on. Let me just flip the bag over and see if it says “nougat” somewhere. Surely they couldn’t have removed the nougat.

I don’t see it. Ha. This must be a typo. I can’t believe they would send out a bag like this with such a mistake, but I’ll let it slide. They were probably rushing them to the shelves for the holidays.

Let me just take a quick bite and confirm that there is indeed the delicious nougat I’ve become accustomed to in a Snickers bar.

Mmmm. Oh yeah. Good crunch, familiar Snickers taste, and…

It’s not there.

It’s not there?!

Remain calm. It’s gotta be in there somewhere. I will find the nougat! Let me just take one more bite.

There’s no nougat. What a tragedy. I assumed this was just a nice Snickers bar with some crispy rice thrown in for additional crunch… but no noug…

Sorry about that, I passed out from shock.

Snickers Crisper 2

Snickers Crisper 3

However, nougat omission aside, it’s delicious. There were about 15 fun-sized pieces in the bag, and I put down ten easy.

Why wouldn’t it be delicious? If the word “Snickers” is in the title, you can pretty much guarantee it’s gonna be good. It’s the same Mars chocolate you grew up with. It’s the same silky caramel you know and love, and it’s the same peanuts. I don’t really have anything fond to say about them because they’re just peanuts.

I was clearly worried that the lack of nougat would screw with the texture of the bar, but there’s still enough chocolate and caramel to keep it from being a “wafery” crisp. The ingredients still mesh well enough that you won’t even miss the nougat all that much.

Snickers Crisper 4

To me it tastes like a Kudos Bar. I actually got hit with a nostalgia wave when I bit in. I used to eat Kudos religiously as a kid, but haven’t had one in years. This is a Kudos Snickers bar covered in chocolate.

Keeping that in mind, Snickers Crisper Bars are a different chew than normal. The crisp isn’t a bad element by any means, but these just taste and feel more like a chewy granola bar than your standard Snickers candy bar. Although these are fun size pieces, I’d recommend biting into a square and not putting the whole thing in your mouth, unless you’d like a jaw workout.

So while this new candy bar isn’t as perfect as regular Snickers, it’s really close.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 square – 100 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 13 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Item: Snickers Crisper
Purchased Price: $3.48
Size: 10.61 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: It’s still basically a Snickers. Addictive. Delicious caramel. Rice crisps add a nice texture. Kudos nostalgia.
Cons: Has a texture and taste that’s more like a granola bar than candy bar. Passing out. Jaw workouts.

REVIEW: Milk Chocolate Cafe Mocha M&M’s

Cafe Mocha Milk Chocolate M&M's

According to the Café Mocha M&M’s packaging, “The Holidays are better with M.”

That’s a fair statement in this reviewer’s opinion. Unless we’re talking plain M&M’s.

Plain M&M’s stink. They stink!

There, I said it. Who needs ’em?

I think they’re the 43rd best candy in the candy aisle. They’re a cookie ingredient. They exist to be customized and given out as expensive party favors. Plain M&M’s are co-stars in a good trail mix at best. They’re raisins. You can keep ’em.

Phew! Sorry folks, but that mini rant felt good. You know Vin always brings those controversial opinions. You can’t spell “controversial” without “Vin”…if you eliminate a bunch of letters and then rearrange them for some reason.

Now that I got that off my chest, I should say I actually do enjoy most other M&M’s variations. Whether it’s the ol’ reliable Peanut or the Greatest of All Time Peanut Butter; from Crispy to Pretzel to Peppermint; and all the way down to Almond and Candy Corn, M&M’s usually brings it with their other flavors. So I was genuinely excited to try the new Café Mocha M&M’s.

First, the sniff test. This was a major bummer. The bag smells like a standard bag of M&M’s. I was hoping it would have a coffee scent because I find few smells better than a freshly opened bag of coffee beans.

Cafe Mocha Milk Chocolate M&M's 2

Next, the eye test. As you can see they come in the classic green and red holiday colors. In terms of size, they’re about the same diameter of a Peanut Butter M&M and they’re bigger than a regular, but smaller than a peanut.

Last but not least, the taste test. At first it tastes like a plain M&M whose recipe went awry. It’s almost like I’m eating semi-sweet mini M&Ms made specifically for baking. The mocha is there, but the “café” takes a few seconds to recognize. Once you get the slightly bitter coffee element, it levels out and becomes a successful enough piece of candy. These are milk chocolate based, but I might have guessed dark.

If you scoop a handful of these at a holiday party, you might not even know what the flavor is. If I didn’t have the bag in front of me, I would have probably taken a couple minutes to figure it out.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty good, but I think they should have had more coffee flavor. If you’ve ever had a chocolate covered espresso bean, the taste is similar. These don’t pack as much flavor intensity as any chocolate espresso bean I’ve had, but they’re definitely in the ballpark.

Café Mocha M&M’s probably aren’t going to become one of your holiday staples, but they’re definitely worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Milk Chocolate Café Mocha M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Better than plain M&M’s. Flavor is similar to chocolate espresso beans. Decent seasonal candy option.
Cons: Coffee/espresso flavor isn’t strong enough. There are better M&M’s choices. Bag doesn’t smell like fresh coffee beans. Raisins.

REVIEW: Hot Chocolate M&M’s made with Dark Chocolate

Hot Chocolate M&M's Made with Dark Chocolate

Whenever I drink hot chocolate and look down into my mug, I think about dirty storm water. And when I see the brown water in flooded streams and rivers, I think about hot chocolate. It’s a shame they look similar.

Of course, Hot Chocolate M&M’s made with Dark Chocolate doesn’t taste like dirty and/or sewage-y like I imagine storm water does, but it also doesn’t taste like hot chocolate.

But then again, my experience with hot cocoa involves dumping a packet of Swiss Miss powdered hot cocoa mix into a mug, pouring hot water into said mug, stirring it until it looks like storm drain water, taking a sip, burning my mouth, waiting a few minutes to let it cool, taking another sip, and then thinking why I made all this effort to make chocolate flavored water. (I know I could use milk, but it would ruin the transition to the next paragraph. But then again, this aside probably ruined the transition.)

But these M&M’s don’t taste like chocolate flavored water. They taste better.

Each bag comes with three colors of candies: black, white, and off-white. I guess the black represents chocolate, white represents milk, and off-white represents marshmallows, even though marshmallows are as white as milk.

Cutting them in half reveals…ACK!

Hot Chocolate M&M's Made with Dark Chocolate 3

They’re like chocolatey evil horizontal cats eyes looking at me! Those eyes are following me around! I promise to do your bidding, chocolate cat eyes! Just stop staring at me!

The iris of the chocolatey evil horizontal cats eyes appears to be the dark chocolate and the pupil looks like milk chocolate. I could be wrong, but I’m too scared to look directly at them again.

When popping the candy into my mouth, the first thing I notice is a coconut flavor, which is strange, but it’s fleeting. Once I took a bite into them, that coconut was replaced by the chocolate and an artificial marshmallow flavor. Yeah, I know artificial marshmallow flavor sounds bad, but it’s surprisingly tasty in this candy and I’d take it over Swiss Miss mixed with water any day. But I could see others not enjoying the artificial flavor.

Hot Chocolate M&M's Made with Dark Chocolate 2

I’m not sure if the marshmallow flavoring comes from the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, both, or if the chocolatey evil horizontal cats eyes have hypnotized me into thinking there’s marshmallow, but the tiny dots in the milk chocolate make me think it’s coming from it. The overall chocolate flavor leans slightly towards the dark, but I think the combination of the two chocolates, plus the artificial marshmallow flavor, does create a flavor that can be recognized as hot cocoa. I’m not talking chocolate flavored water hot cocoa, I’m talking chocolate flavored milk hot cocoa with lots of marshmallows.

As a whole, these Hot Chocolate M&M’s are wonderful. There doesn’t seem to be a difference in flavor between the three colors, but who cares because they’re awesome. But, damn, why did the bag have to be smaller than previous M&M’s flavors. It’s almost 20 percent smaller and around the same price as previous flavors. That makes me want to throw a hot cup of Swiss Miss at the person who decided to sell it in a smaller bag.

So if you’ve got on your ugly holiday sweater and want some hot chocolate, don’t settle for some storm runoff-looking Swiss Miss. Instead, pick up a bag of these Hot Chocolate M&M’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 2% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Hot Chocolate M&M’s made with Dark Chocolate
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than chocolate flavored hot water. Artificial marshmallow flavor is surprisingly nice.
Cons: 20 percent smaller bag than other flavors. When split in half the candy center looks like evil eyes. Artificial marshmallow flavoring might not appeal to some.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe

Hershey's Kisses Deluxe

Does anyone remember Roller Riders? The early 90s As-Seen-On-TV “Scootboard” product with the catchy jingle (“It’s a scootboard!/That’s what it is!/Steers like a racecar/Glides like a skateboard/Roller rider: It’s a scootboard!”)

The thing looked something like this, but was targeted toward teens and tweens. Anybody? Anybody??

Because, presuming YouTube videos encompass all public knowledge, Roller Rider never existed. Indeed, there’s no visual archive, Vimeo documentary, botched soundtrack, or VCR-spliced upload that visually confirms it was a consumer product. Yet there’s a small handful of people who deeply miss it. Who long to scoot, race, and sing the song in the break room at our day job. We may be small, but our love for the product? Is significant.

Hardcore fans of Hershey Kisses are similar. We’re small time, but our devotion is huge. We seek the simple life, although there was that one incident where we had to get a root canal after we ate an entire bag of them at Timothy McDonald’s birthday after he busted open an entire piñata of them in 3rd grade. But other than that, totally simple. I am one such fan. Perhaps you are, too. We are the proud. The few. And we will not whither and die.

Knowing this base of steadfast devotees, Hershey generated a brand new Deluxe Kiss to fancy it up a bit. Filled with ganache, crispities, and a full hazelnut, it strays just enough from the original to be different, and yet remains simple enough to appeal to its pre-existing fans. Its profile sounds much like a Rocher truffle without the fancy name, thus making it both potentially delicious and a solid contender for the stocking-stuffing holidays ahead. But the question is: would Santa approve?

Hershey's Kisses Deluxe 2

Right out of the wrapper, things get off to a swift start with the unwrapped dots looking shiny as a Porsche dried with microfiber terry cloths. The little bell-like chocolate cones smell of nutty fudge and are about 2-3 times as big as the average Kiss, making them certified monsters. Delicious certified monsters.

Indeed, the experience only gets better once you bite in. On the front end, you get a shell covering a more creamy, ganache-like center that tastes distinctly of Hershey chocolate: a little chocolate frosting, a little vanilla, and that special twang of Whatever The Hell’s In There. There’s a whole, if somewhat diminutive, roasted hazelnut tucked in the middle, which adds a solid, nutty crunch to the creamy-crispy experience. Consuming said Kiss can be accomplished in two or three nibbles or one full, melty bite. I support the latter, always opting for the “Go big or miss out” philosophy.

Hershey's Kisses Deluxe 3

I have ridden in a Mercedes once in my life. The seats had air conditioning and sorta hugged you as you turn. It was cool, but I don’t see myself wanting to do it everyday. These Kisses are similar: they’re fun once in a while, but I could see them getting a little too frou-frou for everyday, especially with the high price point ($1.19 for 3 kisses).

But, perhaps money isn’t what’s important. Perhaps what’s important is that the Kiss, at its core, is still delicious. The addition of crispies and hazelnuts only highlight that fact. While I may not be able to afford them all the time, in my dreams, I will eat a bag of them while driving a Roller Rider into the sunset. Note to Santa: that would be a stunning Christmas gift.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 Kisses – 130 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Hershey’s Kisses Deluxe
Purchased Price: $1.19
Size: 3 Kisses
Purchased at: Rite Aid
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Chocolate frosting. Crispy texture. Ganache-like center. Crunchy roasted hazelnut. Eating a bag of Kisses out of a piñata. Roller Riders.
Cons: Pricey. Crispities add only poofy, texturized air. All those questionable ingredients. Where have all the Roller Riders gone? Mercedes seats that hug you are mildly creepy.

REVIEW: Pecan Pie Milk Chocolate M&M’s

Pecan Pie Milk Chocolate M&M's

So let’s talk about realistic images of ourselves.

Mine? Blurry.

For example: I always wanted to be a Girl Scout but hated going to the gatherings. As a consequence, I never learned how to tie/untie a cable knot, so, if, say, I wanted to become the next David Copperfield, was tied to a chair via cable knots, and plunged in the sea, I would promptly be consumed by sharks. All because I never attended my Girl Scout Meetings.

Similarly, M&M’s identity has become blurry as they, with both success and failure, attempt to stake claim on myriad confectionary treats, ranging from Candy Corn to Red Velvet to Birthday Cake, and, if one can make a morselized version of a fluffy, frosting-slathered baked good, why not give a shot at the illustrious goo of Thanksgiving’s iconic slab of caramelized sugar?

Pecan Pie M&M’s, here I come.

Pecan Pie Milk Chocolate M&M's 2

Out of the bag, nothing looks nefarious. We’ve got some charmingly lumpy M-stamped morsels that smell of sugar and vanilla and a curious bitter twinge…is it caramel? Perhaps burnt high fructose corn syrup? No matter as the yellow, brown, and white colors make a pleasant little arrangement, but, in terms of flavor, color is but an empty promise, silent as the sound of a mime directing traffic.

Biting in gives way to a crunchy shell and melty chocolate and…oh dear. Where are the pecans? The caramelized sugar goo? Perhaps there is crust filling that was somehow innovatively injected inside??

No.

Not a pecan in sight. In fact, they feel and taste just like a Milk Chocolate M&M. A Milk Chocolate M&M that was combined with a cheap-o-matic caramel flavor and…is that low-grade bourbon? I can’t tell, but perhaps it’s because I’m having a mild panic attack: why, M&M’s, why have you betrayed me? Why does your delicious chocolate now taste of sugar and mildly burnt wood? What have I done that has resulted in this karmic-induce vengeance on my taste buds??***

**Unfortunately, during my inquiry, the M’s remained inorganic and, unable to respond, left me to conclude that, while sugary and melty, these are not about to change their flavor to mimic the Pecan Pie I desired.

Pecan Pie Milk Chocolate M&M's 3

If I were to tell my mother I’ve given up chocolate, I’m liable to get the same reaction as if I’d told her I was devoting the rest of my life to engineering an industrial tanning lotion for yetis. The kind of thing that elicits that Special Mom Smile that says I love you, but why do that to yourself?

And yet these M&M’s are encouraging me otherwise. They’re hyper sweet, bitter in aftertaste, and lack the qualities I look for in pecan pie (caramelized sugar, pecans, etc.). What emulsion of natural flavoring has shaken the identity of the cacao bean so that it tastes so obscure? How, dear confectionary world, did Pecan Pie become this? Where is the goo? The crust? The pecans?

I do not have these answers.

But I do have hope. Hope M&M’s will set this aside, tossing it up as R&D learning experience as they quietly retire these for better horizons. Till next time, dear M’s, I’ll be over here, waiting hopefully and shoveling my pecan pie by the spoonful.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/4 cup – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 gram of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Pecan Pie Milk Chocolate M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy shell. Melting chocolate. Milk chocolate is involved. Tanning lotion for yetis. Mimes directing traffic.
Cons: Where are the pecans? Where is the caramel? Why is the green M&M standing beside a hay bale on the cover? Unanswered inquiries. I will never be the next Houdini.