REVIEW: Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups

It was snowing. I didn’t have salt. I didn’t have a shovel. I didn’t have bread or milk or flashlights. I had no viable source of human sustenance.

Thumping down to the nearest grocery with skin drier than the Mona Lisa, I ignored the frantic grabs for batteries and Solo cups and reached for the pile of Reese’s when it appeared. There. In the distance: Butterfinger. In square form.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups The Duel of Geometric Candy

Two geometric patterns. Two philosophies. I knew what I had to do.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Reese's v Butterfinger

Right out of the wrapper, the visual difference is immediate with the Reese’s holding its signature round, flat frame, while Butterfinger goes square and sans-fluted cup, its chocolate daring to look a darker brown. Despite geometric differences, both specimens glisten in fresh, chocolate-y glaze and clock in at a little more than 1.5 ounces, which is perfect for making scale models of UFO invasions should you have an upcoming project in World Domination.

Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups Innards

There are about 4,180 recorded species of frogs. On a good day, the flavor of a Butterfinger is just as diverse: peanut butter, chocolate, salt, toffee, molasses, and…is that cornflakes? Yes. Yes, it is. And it all comes together in those crispety, crunchety, peanut buttery chunks that get stuck in your teeth. You either like that stuff ripping away at your molars or you don’t.

I love the Butterfinger taste, but can’t handle the teeth-stickage. For those of you who are similarly hoping to fill the Butterfinger rumble in your stomach while also looking to save on Butterfinger-related dentistry work, these cups hold promise: the smooth-ish peanut-butter/Butterfinger filling is strong in Butterfinger flavor, but better avoids the plaque-building pitfalls of the bar. The peanut-butter-ish filling puts all the trademark toffee, molassas, corn flakey flavors in a smoother medium. Similar to the Reese’s filling, it’s a dense concoction with a crumbly and dry quality that contrasts the fudgy exterior.

That outer chocolate shell is slightly thicker than Reese’s, but holds a fudgy texture that matches up toe-to-toe with its competitor. This is a super sweet, milky chocolate and incredibly smooth. Unfortunately, while the sweetness and smooth-ivity is high, the actual chocolate flavor is a bit dim on its own.

Despite minor chocolate pitfalls, it looks like we’ve got a solid new confection in the ring. While it doesn’t surpass my Reese’s, it does offer up that molasses, corn syrup, peanut-buttery love in a tasty, affordable format. If you have the slightest a pocket of fondness for Bart Simpson’s favorite candy, I’d say pick one up. It may be sweet enough to distract you into spontaneously jaywalking across a side street, but just be sure to look both ways before you start eating and you should have a good candy/jaywalking experience.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package/2 cups – 230 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 22 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Nestle Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups
Purchased Price: 50 cents (on sale)
Size: 2 cups
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crumbly Butterfinger filling. Contrasts in texture. Low teeth-stickage ratio. No fluted cups. Makes good eating during an ice storm. Pondering the diversity of frog species.
Cons: May be too sweet for some. Encourages Butterfinger-induced dentistry work. Jaywalking. World domination. Walking in a winter vortex.

REVIEW: Milk Chocolate Red Velvet M&M’s

Milk Chocolate Red Velvet M&M's

A little piece of me dies inside every time I hear someone say that their favorite flavor of cake is red velvet.

Instantly, I can’t help but think that this person has fallen victim to the trendy trap. There’s a very good chance that they’re also into Mason jars crafts, beers with at least four adjectives, and occasional juice cleanses. Mainstream chocolate and vanilla are for the plebeians. Other favorite flavors include maple-bacon, pumpkin spice, and Biscoff.

While red velvet can be a perfectly decent cake, it has done nothing to earn its hype. Flavor wise, it’s the homelier sister of a deep chocolate cake. Weaker, less fudgy and appealing, but trying to overcompensate with a crap ton of red food coloring. You think a red Chrysler convertible is actually better than a black Porsche? Take the dye out of a red velvet cupcake and offer it to someone who claims to be obsessed. I’m betting they start eyeing the flashy Funfetti instead.

That being said, I was pretty confused as to what to expect from seasonal Milk Chocolate Red Velvet M&M’s. I was hoping for possibly a cream cheese taste, since that’s the typical frosting pair, and the flavor that usually comes across the most. Plus, given beautiful love affair I had with last year’s White Chocolate Carrot Cake M&M’s, I was hoping to rekindle some kind of sweet creamy magic. But no, these are just straight chocolate.

Milk Chocolate Red Velvet M&M's Closeup

They come in a standard Valentine’s Day palate of red, white, and maroon. Your coworkers will probably think they’re a nice festive gift. Your needy girlfriend who casually leaves the Tiffany’s catalogue in the bathroom will probably not.

They’re a little bit larger than plain M&M’s and more in line with the denser, puffier model that’s been common in recent seasonal varieties.

At first bite, they’re almost indiscernible from regular Milk Chocolate M&M’s. However, it then develops into a weird, chemically aftertaste that doesn’t make me think red velvet at all. If anything, in a blind taste test, I would assume these were the plain stale M&M’s I left sitting in the bowl on my desk for three months and occasionally take a stress-induced handful of. While it’s a noticeable enough taste to make me wish I were eating the original, it’s not offensive enough to make me stop eating them. They may have their faults, but they’re probably not going to get thrown out.

Disappointingly, the inside of these are not red. Since that’s real redeeming quality of red velvet cake, I think M&M’s dropped the ball on this one. Nothing says “Happy Valentine’s Day!” like a blood red smile.

While these are a novelty to try once, some Cupid magic would be needed to make me buy these again. But since I do still have two bags lying around, you’ll probably find me face deep in them on Valentine’s Day, searching desperately for a man to give me a Tiffany’s box.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. (about 1/4 cup) – 210 calories, 9 grams 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 fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Milk Chocolate Red Velvet M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 9.90 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Thicker than plain M&Ms. Festively colored. Easily satisfied coworkers. Comforting nighttime binge eating. Cheaper than jewelry.
Cons: Chemically aftertaste. Annoying, high maintenance cake eaters. Annoying, high maintenance girlfriends. Binge eating alone on Valentine’s Day. Not getting a Tiffany box. WILL ANYONE EVER LOVE ME? Not red inside.

REVIEW: J&D’s Foods Sriracha Candy Canes

J&D's Foods Sriracha Candy Canes

Sriracha mania is sweeping the nation.

Though the famous hot sauce has been adored for ages, sriracha has recently enjoyed a surge in popularity. We’ve seen sriracha beef jerky, sriracha lollipops, and sriracha vodka. Even Subway and 7-Eleven have jumped on the rooster sauce bandwagon. What’s next? Sriracha candy canes?

J&D's Foods Sriracha Candy Canes Side Box

Oh.

Umm, apparently sriracha candy canes are a thing now.

It’s true. Sriracha Candy Canes are manufactured by J&D’s Foods, the company that brought you such classics as Bacon Salt, Baconnaise, and bacon-flavored sexual lubricant. Because there’s no scent more arousing while doing the nasty than the stench of cured meat.

I never noticed it before, but sriracha is pretty much the perfect Christmas hot sauce. It practically screams Santa Claus and ho-ho-hos. Just look at it: a vibrant red sauce inside a bottle topped with a green cap? Those are Christmas colors, dammit. So next time you bring me some figgy pudding, pour some sriracha on that shiiiiiit.

Grossly overpriced at $7.99, each box of candy canes includes twelve hot sauce-flavored Christmas treats. It’s no surprise that J&D’s Sriracha Candy Canes aren’t actually licensed by Huy Fong Foods, the California company responsible for those beloved red bottles decorated with a rooster. So is the flavor of these sriracha candy canes actually based upon the generic sriracha named after the Thai city of Si Racha?

J&D's Foods Sriracha Candy Canes Closeup 2

Just like every other box of candy canes I’ve ever purchased, several of the candy canes arrived broken. Clearly, these things need to be redesigned. There are so many superior, less fragile Christmas shapes: snowflakes, Christmas trees, ostracized caribou with luminescent noses.

The candy canes are white with red and green stripes, a possible allusion to the red color of sriracha and the trademark green cap of Huy Fong Foods’ bottles. The unenlightened candy-lover could easily be fooled into believing these are normal candy canes. The back of the box even recommends using the sriracha candy canes for “tricking your unsuspecting friends and children.”

The sriracha candy canes start off tasting very similar to normal candy canes, possessing the all-too-familiar sugar flavor of hard candy, yet lacking any trace of peppermint. Soon, the heat begins, slowly growing into a moderate burn and proceeding to increase as more of the candy cane is consumed. For me, the heat never reached the point of unbearably spicy, but did unpleasantly coat the back of my throat on occasion. Be sure to have a bottle of water nearby!

J&D's Foods Sriracha Candy Canes Closeup 1

To be honest, these sriracha candy canes were better than I expected. Though they’re little more than spicy candy canes, the hard candy flavor and added heat blend nicely. Nevertheless, they definitely do not taste like the hot sauce. All of the pepper and garlic notes for which sriracha is well-known for were completely absent.

J&D’s Sriracha Candy Canes could be the perfect novelty gift for your sriracha-obsessed family and friends this holiday season. However, their high price tag and lack of authentic sriracha flavor leaves them strictly in the realm of gag gifts. Yes, the heat combined well with the sugary flavor of the candy canes, but I’m confident I could purchase a generic spiced holiday candy for much cheaper.

Happy holidays, everyone! (Is Srirachanukah already over? Dang. What am I going to do with all this sriracha-flavored gelt?)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cane (14 grams) – 60 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: J&D’s Foods Sriracha Candy Canes
Purchased Price: $7.99
Size: 12 candy canes
Purchased at: ThinkGeek
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Hard candy flavor. Burn grows slowly. Srirachanukah.
Cons: Overpriced. Doesn’t actually taste like Sriracha. Gag gift. Ostracized caribou.

REVIEW: Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M’s

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's

Hansel and Gretel is your favorite book. You have plans to visit, construct, and/or consume the entire gingerbread village in Bergen, Norway. You are still upset that Conrad Vernon did not win an Oscar for his work as Gingy in Shrek.

If any of the above describes you, you may be a connoisseur of zingiber officinale, or, in lazier, un-Latin terms, a Gingerbread Fiend. As a fanatic of this spicy rhizome, you’ve likely fallen prey to gingerbread’s warm spice, it’s slight zing, it’s common appearance as a tasty anthropomorphized cookie. Fortunately for Fiends, winter is primetime for gingerbread fury, and as a tribute to all gingery goods, M&M’s seem to have gotten their holiday jingle on and smooshed up some gingerbread into a bulbous, lentil-y speckle.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Spilling out into the wild

Right off the bat, these little chocolate bites exude character. Mars traditionally forms their beady, M-stamped confections in one of three sizes: the smaller milk chocolate M, the medium “Filled with something” M, or the increasingly popular “We have a holiday and/or special occasion, so we’ll make them HUGE” M. All forms have their benefits and downfalls, so it was much to my delight/surprise/befuddlement to uncover that this bag seemed to house in all three sizes.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Gingerbread Death Star

Some M’s are small and thin, some medium, some completely overstuffed, the size of a miniature Death Star. All of this variation in spherical shape promises great texture, but there is still one question left unanswered: are they filled? Are cookies involved?! Could they perhaps hold the crunchity limb of a former gingerbread man inside?!?!

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's Where are the gingerbread cookies?!

No.

It came without cookies. It came without cakey innards. It came without crispity fillings or baked goodies in any form.

Somewhere, the Pillsbury doughboy weeps.

But all is not lost for gingerbread lovers of the world. While the whole “bread” portion is notably absent, the shadow of ginger spice remains. The chocolate starts off with the familiar sweet, sugary grit that accompanies the common M&M experience, then leans into a slight zing of ginger, and ends with a cinnamon/nutmeg warmth that could sooth an angry South Appalachian Grizzly.

But where these M’s really shine is when paired with other goods. Spicy, crunchy, chocolatey bits get even better when coupled with crispity and/or creamy bits. Put ‘em on ice cream, sprinkle them on your cereal, leave a trail of them outside your door and watch as small children gather. If you encounter an unnecessarily angry suburban shopper during a Black Friday Sale, dump these in with some Muddy Buddies and give them to him/her. Your recipient will be happy. Sugar-crazed and happy.

Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M's At the end of the Gingerbread journey

At the end of the journey, I am of two minds on these little nibbles of confection. They are munchable, sweet, and spiced just enough to add some dimension to the regular M&M experience. They come in all sorts of sizes and make a mean trail mix that could knock the wig off my grandmother faster than an Arizona dust storm. However, they have no gingerbread cake, biscuit, or cookie of any sort inside, and, really, what’s gingerbread without the “bread”?

Some may call it, “Gingerbread spice.” Others may call it, “Gingerbread Identity Crisis.” I call it lying, and I certainly wouldn’t risk lying this time of the year, Mars. Santa’s watching…

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz or 1/4 cup – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Milk Chocolate Gingerbread M&M’s
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 9.9 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Variations in size. Some M’s are the size of miniature Death Stars. Sugary zing. Spices add some depth. Reasons to consume limbs of anthropomorphized cookies. Could sooth an angry South Appalachian Grizzly.
Cons: Cookies not included. Absence of filling of any sort. Gingerbread identity crisis. Unnecessarily angry suburban mothers. Conrad Vernon did not win an Oscar for his work as Gingy.

REVIEW: Gingerbread Twix Cookie Bars

Gingerbread Twix

I have mixed feelings when it comes to holiday food items. On one hand, I detest peppermint with the kind of passion Buffalo Bills fans usually reserve for anything New York Jets related. By the same token, I can’t get behind this trend of covering everything in chocolate and somehow proclaiming it to have something to do with Plymouth Rock, Santa Claus, the Baby Jesus, a dreidel, or even some damn Festivus pole. Yes, Santa is fat, and eating everything covered in chocolate will probably make you fat, but if that’s the only connection you’re making, then you’ve lost me.

On the other hand, the months of November and December mean gingerbread. Warm and slightly spicy, with a distinctive honey-molasses flavor and usually a smiling face that gets bitten off first, gingerbread people make peppermint and fruitcake and all that other trite holiday crap I usually feed to my uncle’s dog completely worth it.

But what happens when simple, traditional, and thank-God-it-never-changes gingerbread is suddenly subjected to one of my biggest pet peeves of holiday food merchandising and covered in milk chocolate? That was the question at stake when I beheld the Limited Edition Gingerbread Twix on the shelves of Walmart.

At first, I was offended. How could I not be? It struck me as a bastardization of a candy I had only fond memories of as a child. Vague and clouded as those memories are from what surely was a sugar-induced Halloween experience, Twix always made it into my “keeper” pile. Dare I say, I think an 11-year-old Adam, dressed up in a horribly oversized Admiral Ackbar mask, may have actually proclaimed Twix to be the most underrated candy of all time.

However, recent samplings of leftover Halloween candy from the office candy bowl do not corroborate these memories. Don’t get me wrong, Twix is far from offensive, but as one of the 74.3%* of candy bars that combine caramel, chocolate, and something crunchy, it hardly stands out. So you might say I passed from offended to intrigued, and having no self-discipline whatsoever, bought a bag of Gingerbread Twix.

*Completely unscientific number based on RFG (Random Fucking Guess) sampling. Should you actually try to confirm this number, I believe you’d come remarkably close.

Gingerbread Twix 2

An initial crunch of the fun size wafer reveals everything good about the classic Twix and more. With a sturdy cookie base and some really excellent Stretch Armstrong action from the above caramel, it’s crunchy in a way that doesn’t fragment into a zillion tiny candy pieces. The initial flavor is milk chocolate—-and not, mind you, Hershey’s cheap kind of milk chocolate—-with sweet caramel, and a hint of buttery sugar cookie.

After the initial taste of chocolate and caramel, there emerges a certain je ne sais quoi flavor element. Like a symphony, it increases gradually in its volume and intensity. A slightly spicy-sweet note that tastes just like a gingerbread cookie serves as this candy’s crescendo. There’s also a s’mores element, and, as odd as it sounds, it makes sense given the notes of cinnamon and honey that both graham crackers and gingerbread share (at least, any of the graham crackers worth eating if you ask me.)

After carefully extracting the chocolate, cookie, and caramel elements and sampling them independently, it tastes as if the gingerbread flavor rests within the chocolate coating, and not, as the package indicates, in the caramel. Not overpowering, the gingerbread flavor nevertheless is the defining taste of the singular bite, and for some strange reason it just works wonderfully with the chocolate.

Gingerbread Twix 3

What I like about the use of gingerbread in Twix as opposed to other candy bars is that there’s a default contrast in textures offered from the crunchy and moist interplay of the cookie and caramel elements, respectively. Seeing as though gingerbread is sometimes served as a moist cake or cookie and other times served as a harder biscuit-like cookie, this appeal to both kinds of textures is optimal. As for why gingerbread suddenly seems to work with the combination of chocolate and caramel, you’ve got me. Perhaps it’s that Christmas magic that powers Santa’s sleigh and allows reindeer to fly, or maybe it’s just that Twix was always very good and just needed a little extra oomph, but this candy bar is what I like to call sneaky awesome.

Frankly, it’s good enough to make me admit I might need to rethink this chocolate-covered everything holiday boycott I’ve had going on. Just don’t make me try anything peppermint flavored, because that’s one holiday food aversion I’m never going to give up.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 80 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Gingerbread Twix Cookie Bars
Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Actually tastes like a gingerbread cookie. Covered in real milk chocolate. And it works! Textural contrast. Gives the usual Twix flavor the kind of oomph that also makes reindeer fly and Santa fit down chimneys. No remorse or guilt for decapitating gingerbread people with one swift bite. Portion control.
Cons: Rethinking holiday food aversions. Buying Christmas candy before Halloween. No royal icing. Not getting to decapitate a gingerbread person in some misguided Godzilla-type fantasy.