REVIEW: Van Leeuwen Limited Edition Champagne Ice Cream

Like most television shows, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and Krave Cereal, “Dry January” was started in the UK before being adopted a few years later in the United States. The temporary alcohol abstention movement — fueled partially, no doubt, by the unyielding power of social media — has become so trendy in the US that 19% of respondents to a 2022 Morning Consult poll said they planned on participating. (By, you know, not participating in drinking.)

Not wanting you to be forced into a joyless, totally booze-bereft existence, though, artisanal ice cream maker Van Leeuwen is here to tempt you with its newest novelty offering, Champagne. Unlike many of their other “limited edition” offerings, however, there are no peculiar mix-ins or “swirls,” no chunks of macaroni or pockets of pizza seasoning. Instead, you are presented with a very straightforward offering: champagne-flavored ice cream.

But so, here’s the thing — I got almost NO champagne flavor from this at all. As delightfully creamy as usual (they use lots and lots of egg yolks, which is how French ice cream becomes French, apparently), this tastes like an almost straightforward vanilla, but then, at the very, very back end, there’s a slightly sour punch that I associate with champagne. But honestly, it’s almost imperceptible. And actually, as someone who never cared for champagne before I quit drinking half a decade ago, I didn’t mind that this was largely a champagne-free affair. The real stuff used to give me heartburn and a headache; in ice cream form, it mostly made me feel bloated.

If you’re a big champagne consumer, though, or you’re desperately white-knuckling through Dry January and looking for some sort of respite, I don’t know that this will do it. And on that same note, if you’re looking for some wacky tasting dessert meant to illicit a fun reaction from unsuspecting eaters, again, better luck next time. If, however, you want a high quality vanilla ice cream with the very tiniest hint of something else at the end, knock yourself out. The added benefit, of course, is that you won’t actually end up knocking yourself out, which is, you know, always a possibility when real booze is involved. Or it was for me, at least. Hooray for sobriety!

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 14 fl oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 270 calories, 19 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 21 grams of total sugars (15 grams of added sugar), and 5 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Cap’n Crunch’s Birthday Crunch Cereal

What is it?

Despite looking older than his age for several decades now, Cap’n Crunch is turning 60 this year, and as such, he has made himself a celebratory birthday cake-flavored cereal. What, you don’t make your own birthday dessert? Well, LOOK AT YOU, Mr. I-Actually-Have-Friends-and-Family-Who-Love-Me.

How are they?

Distinctly birthday cake-y. What is “birthday cake” flavor, anyway? Generic vanilla sugar cake? Anyway, the Cap’n manages to capture the flavor admirably with his multi-colored misshaped balls. If I had one complaint, it would be that the flavor is a bit muted; if a full-on grade school birthday party cake is a 10, these were about a 5. Depending on your love for birthday cake flavor, this is either a good or bad thing.

Anything else you need to know?

As mentioned above, this cereal is entirely composed of multi-colored, oddly shaped balls. There are no yellow pillows (barrels?) or brightly and solidly colored “berries.” File this under “mildly interesting.”

Also, it appears from the picture on the box that the irregularly shaped pieces are supposed to be singularly colored; maybe the dye wasn’t set when my box was packed because what I ended up with looks like a hippie’s shirt closet.

Conclusion:

If you like birthday cake-flavored things and Cap’n Crunch, you will likely enjoy this version of the Quaker classic. Just try not to get hung up on the fact that the 60-year-old Cap’n has no one who cares enough to make him a cake.

Purchased Price: $4.78
Size: 14.8 oz
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (38 g) 150 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 14 grams of sugar (including 14 grams of added sugar), and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Krave Double Chocolate Brownie Batter Cereal

What is it?

Kellogg’s Krave Double Chocolate Brownie Batter Cereal (KKDCBBC) is a new version of the crunchy pillow-shaped cereal that is like the regular Krave cereal, only way more chocolatey. One might even say double chocolatey. Oh, and brownie-battered. Or brownie-batter flavored. Double chocolate brownie batter, I guess.

How is it?

Krave has been in “The States” now for a decade, and I’ve never had it. A Krave virgin! A Kragin? Anyway, I think I thought, just by looking at them, they were in the Shredded Mini Wheat family, and therefore, I refused to eat them on principle. I mean, who wants to screw up breakfast with something healthy like shredded wheat? No thanks! Imagine my surprise when I bought these and learned that they’re nothing like Shredded Wheat.

The outside shell is crispy and much more Corn Pop-py. The inside is hard to describe. It’s not quite frosting, but it’s not soft and syrupy, either. I couldn’t distinguish which part gave off the brownie flavor, but it was there, a nuanced taste a little deeper than regular chocolate. Dry from the box, I enjoyed these. In milk, however, they got mushy fast, and the chocolate flavor was quickly muted.

Anything else you need to know?

A year before their US release, Krave was launched in the UK where, according to Wikipedia, they were marketed under the slogans “Here Choccy Choccy” and “It’s Time To Melt.” It sounds like I’m making this up, but I swear I am not.

Conclusion:

KKDCBBC was fine, but with so many different ways to consume globs of sugar for breakfast, I want to make it count, you know? And I don’t know that KKDCBBC hooked me enough to try it — or any other Krave cereal — again. At least not at the regular price. Give me a decent sale and we’ll talk.

Purchased Price: $4.29
Size: 10.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Hy-Vee
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 170 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Burger King Italian Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Burger King Italian Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich Whole

Despite its godawful name, I liked the Ch’King. While it wasn’t Popeyes-level delicious (I mean, what is), it was better than many other fast food chicken sandwiches. But, as with my appreciation for McDonald’s short-lived Arch Deluxe, I was in the minority and the Burger King fat cats 86’d it. So it goes. In its place is the Royal Crispy Chicken line, which, I guess is “Royal” because of the whole “King” thing.

Between us, it just seems to be a pretty standard chicken sandwich patty.

First, I’ll tell you some things I liked about Burger King’s new Italian Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich.

The chicken patty was quite large. Two of its edges hung off the side of the bun, which, as we all know, is a generally agreeable quality in a chicken sandwich. (Well, okay, provided you want to actually EAT said chicken patty.)

Burger King Italian Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich Split

Further, this large chicken patty was not dry. I’d stop short of calling it juicy, but I’ve had much drier chicken patties from the King and his many competitors.

And finally, the “marinara sauce” that lightly adorned the sandwich was definitely recognizable as an Italian red sauce, and not just like ketchup with some oregano.

That’s it. Those were the three things I liked: the big piece of chicken wasn’t bone dry and it had a little Prego on it.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement, I know. But then again, if I didn’t like it, I guess I shouldn’t give it a ringing endorsement, right?

Burger King Italian Royal Crispy Chicken Sandwich top

Here’s my main complaint with this chicken sandwich: it was completely uninspired. Yes, it was problematic that the execution and ingredients were lackluster; the big-and-not-dry patty was bland and void of any real flavor; the marinara was indistinguishable from a jarred supermarket spaghetti sauce; and the long slice of mozzarella was, for lack of a better word, floppy and tasted like white American cheese.

But aside from the poor ingredients, were we as consumers really clamoring for another burger baron’s take on an Italian chicken sandwich? It feels like everyone trots theirs out every couple of years and none of them are ever very well received, and they eventually fade into the lost land of LTOs, where they silently remain for a handful of years before bursting back onto the scene with an un-triumphant flourish.

I mean, if you’re gonna do it, maybe try something interesting like Wendy’s with its Deep Fried Mozzarella Disc. Or what about doing something with Alfredo sauce instead? But also, do I really want to eat Alfredo sauce from Burger King? And why am I asking so many questions?!

In the end, this sandwich will fade from memory, just as the universe intended. If you liked it, I’m sorry. Take solace in the fact that it will be back again in a year or two, just the way you remembered it.

Purchased Price: $5.49
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 533 calories, 21 grams of fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 5.4 grams of saturated fat, 78 mg of cholesterol, 1641 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of total carbohydrates, 8 grams of sugars, 9 grams of fiber, and 33 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Sonic Steak Butter Bacon Cheeseburger

Sonic Steak Butter Bacon Cheeseburger

Taco Bell catches a lot of flak for taking the same three ingredients and turning them into any number of new product offerings. And this is a fair criticism, but it isn’t all that different from what most other fast food purveyors do with their LTOs. I mean, unless you’re Arby’s giving me strange and exotic meats, you’re probably just rearranging the stuff you already had in the kitchen.

And if you’re Sonic, one of your go-to schticks is taking your standard bacon cheeseburger and imbuing it with some sort of butter. In October 2019, we reviewed the Garlic Butter Bacon Burger. In March of 2021, we did their Mesquite Butter Bacon Cheeseburger. And now the fast food chain is back at it with the Steak Butter Bacon Cheeseburger. Aside from the key ingredient — “a rich and creamy butter made with steakhouse seasoning” — this thing has two slices of American cheese, bacon, grilled onions, and mayo.

Sonic Steak Butter Bacon Cheeseburger Whole

Here’s where this burger excels — it proudly and unashamedly assaults your arteries with each bite and forgoes all unnecessarily healthy pleasantries like “lettuce” and “tomato,” aka The Devil’s Burger Toppings. From the greasy, crispy, salty bacon, to the salty, creamy steakhouse butter, from the salty, creamy mayo, to the melty, salty American cheese, this burger is… well, in a word, salty.

Here’s where this burger fails — did you see how many times I used the word salty in the previous paragraph? And honestly, I may’ve been selling it short. This thing was a salt lick. And this is coming from a guy who has an incredibly unhealthy love for all things sodium. But the butter coupled with the bacon and the beef and the cheese is a lot. To be honest, doing away with one of the cheese slices might’ve been a good move; as it stands, the cheese essentially overwhelms everything else.

Additionally, I’m not sure what makes this butter “steakhouse” butter. All the butter does is melt, and you’re left with a shiny, greasy, delicious meat patty. But I didn’t notice anything distinctly “steakhouse” about it.

Sonic Steak Butter Bacon Cheeseburger Split

So, in the end, this is a fine burger. It’s cheesy and greasy and EXTREMELY salty, but sometimes that’s just what you want. It is not, however, groundbreaking or innovative. So if you’re expecting “steakhouse butter” to be something revelatory, disabuse yourself of that notion. Oh, and by the way — ask for extra napkins. The attire-decorative properties of this thing are pretty groundbreaking.

Purchased Price: $5.89
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 980 calories, 39 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 120 milligrams of cholesterol, 1910 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 39 grams of protein.