REVIEW: Dunkin’ Brown Butter Toffee Latte

If there was an intersection where coffee and toffee met, you’d find me in the middle, impatiently waiting for waves of espresso and the butter/sugar confection to crash into me. Before Ben & Jerry’s ruined it, its Coffee Heath Bar Crunch was my go-to ice cream, and I make batches of my own coffee toffee several times a year. Coffee and toffee play well together beyond just rhyming, and Dunkin’ is here to take advantage of that with its new Brown Butter Toffee Latte. The winter menu drink features your milk of choice plus “bold espresso and subtle brown butter and toffee flavor notes.”

When I removed the lid on the hot version, I was briefly thrown off by a bizarre orange hue around the edges until I realized this was the result of sprinkles that had melted into the drink. It definitely captures the aroma of toffee, and the flavor is rich and buttery with the latter being almost a little startling at times. Browned butter is delicious, but here and there, I got a sip that almost seemed like I was just drinking browned butter. It isn’t necessarily off-putting, but if anyone asked, you’d certainly have no trouble identifying what that flavor is. Apparently, Dunkin’ and I don’t have the same definition of “subtle.”

We also differ on the word “bold” because I wish the coffee was more present here. While packing a fair amount of sugar, the sweetness isn’t totally overwhelming for me. But I think it could be better balanced with a stronger coffee element or maybe a bit more molasses flavor for depth and bitterness. Overall though, these are minor quibbles because the toffee flavor is well executed, and the drink has a toasty, wintery vibe that’ll help comfort you in this post-holiday time when you’re forced to throw out your Christmas tree.

The iced latte is creamier and more mild tasting which can be good or bad depending on how much you enjoy the two main flavors here. It doesn’t smack me in the face with browned butter the way the hot version sometimes did; here, it is more subtle. The toffee smell is still strong, but the taste is toned down a bit. Not sure if you love toffee, but can get on board with caramel things? I’d go the iced route.

Both hot and iced drink like dessert beverages and less like your morning coffee. Neither achieves the highest levels that a coffee/toffee pairing can, but if you’re looking for a sweet way to usher in January, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in these cozy lattes.

Purchased Price: $4.29 (hot), $4.69 (iced)
Size: Medium
Rating: 8 out of 10 (hot), 7 out of 10 (iced)
Nutrition Facts: (Medium hot with whole milk) 280 calories, 9 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbs, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 37 grams of total sugar (24 grams of added sugar), and 9 grams of protein. (Medium iced with whole milk) 280 calories, 9 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbs, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 37 grams of total sugar (24 grams of added sugar), and 9 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Twists

What are they?

Dot’s Homestyle Pretzels, the once regional savory snack that’s recently been expanding into stores nationwide, has come out with a limited-time Cinnamon Sugar seasoned version for the holiday season.

How are they?

If you’re familiar with the original Dot’s, you know these pretzel twists are seriously hard to stop eating, and this new variety is no different. The buttery, sweet scent smells just like an Auntie Anne’s cinnamon sugar pretzel or a freshly made piece of cinnamon toast. It’s a nostalgic flavor that Dot’s has taken a little deeper with notes of vanilla, maple, and molasses.

Anything else you need to know?

These pretzels don’t come cheap. A one-pound bag regularly runs somewhere in the 5-8 dollar range where I’m at. You can fairly regularly find them on sale, especially while they’re making a push to get into new markets, so if you see them for less, don’t hesitate to scoop them up.

Conclusion:

I think you get what you pay for here; these are so delicious. If you took them to a holiday party, they would disappear in a flash, and everyone would love you for bringing them. A warning, though. You should only do that if you bought several bags because you’ll want to hoard these for yourself.

Purchased Price: $7.49 (not on sale)
Size: 16 oz bag
Purchased at: Jewel-Osco
Rating: 10 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (16 pretzels) 130 calories, 5 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 260 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 grams of total sugars including 5 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Doritos Minis, Cheetos Minis, and Sun Chips Minis

Doritos Minis Cheetos Minis and Sun Chips Minis Cans

Pringles, beware! The tennis ball manufacturer that cut a deal with you years ago is opening up its doors and Frito-Lay is coming in hot. Flamin’ Hot. It has shrunk several of its popular snacks to bite-size form, encased them in tubes, and the results are…mixed.

Nacho Cheese Doritos

Doritos Minis Nacho Cheese

I started with the classic Nacho Cheese Doritos and had high hopes because it’s hard to go wrong with this chip. I think some of the impetus behind this mini concept is the serving size and cuteness factor. People love Goldfish crackers and you can have 55 of them per serving. Wouldn’t it also be nice to have 55 tiny Doritos? It might be, if you could eat them that way. The serving here is 39 little chips, and this tube was a disaster. The contents looked like I’d just dumped out the remnants from a larger bag. There were some intact chips, but the majority had been broken to crumbs. Instead of being a new or adorable way to consume chips, I was left eating handfuls of shards or pouring them into my mouth from the tube.

Doritos Minis Nacho Cheese Can

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (39 chips) 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of total sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Cool Ranch Doritos

Doritos Minis Cool Ranch

My Cool Ranch canister fared better. They weren’t all shattered from the start. After tasting some individually and also by the handful, I still found these underwhelming. It didn’t seem like they had enough of the seasoning applied to them. The label claims they have the “same BOLD flavor,” but I found them blander than a standard bag. I had this problem with the Nacho Cheese variety too, but it was overshadowed by the other flaws. So far, I’m not sure I understand this product line.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (39 chips) 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of total sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips

Sun Chips Minis

Here to confuse things more, are Sun Chips! These come in Harvest Cheddar or Garden Salsa. I like Sun Chips; they’re a welcome addition to the variety packs of lunch-size bags but will never be my first choice for a full-size option. I chose Harvest Cheddar and wondered how Garden Salsa also managed to sneak into the lineup. These mini chips have held their square shape better than the Doritos, although there are quite a few broken ones. They also seem appropriately seasoned and have come the closest so far to true miniatures of their inspiration chip. I think they’re a success, but do we need stamp-sized versions of two chips we only occasionally reach for to begin with?

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (29 chips) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of total sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Cheddar and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos

Things start to make more (or less?) sense when it comes to the Cheetos. Both Cheddar and Flamin’ Hot are cheese balls and aren’t masquerading as tiny regular Cheetos. On the one hand, a bunch of teeny Cheetos would have been cool, and I imagine they would have looked like a tube of Long John Silver’s crumblies. These two are the best tasting of the bunch though, so they’ve gotten something right there.

Cheetos Flamin Hot Minis

They have a thicker and very satisfying outside crunch that yields to a Cheeto-like interior. More regular Cheeto than puff, they get the texture right without being too airy or weird. There are 63 balls per serving and they fall somewhere between a normal cheese ball and a cocoa puff cereal size-wise. Looking at a bowl of these Flamin’ Hot ones, I can’t help but wonder if they should have put them in a box instead of a cylinder and called them cereal, à la Cinnafuego Toast Crunch. I won’t be surprised if this happens in three months.

Rating: 9 out of 10 (Cheddar), 9 out of 10 (Flamin’ Hot)
Nutrition Facts: (63 pieces) Flamin’ Hot – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 0 grams of total sugars, and 1 gram of protein. Cheddar – 160 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 330 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 gram of total sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Doritos Minis Cheetos Minis and Sun Chips Minis Sizes

Overall this mini lineup is a mixed bag, or should I say can. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with them, but there isn’t anything that makes me want to buy them again either.

Purchased Price: $2.79 each
Size: 1 can
Purchased at: Mariano’s

REVIEW: Ruffles Ridge Twists

Ruffles Ridge Twists Bags

Everyone’s favorite ridged chip, Ruffles, is going out on a ridge – er – limb and bringing us a new take on the ribbed potato snack. Debuting in Double Cheddar and Smoky BBQ flavors, Ruffles Ridge Twists attempt to put a spin on the corrugated classic.

From their appearance on the package, these looked to me like braided pretzels, but in reality, they’re more like fusilli pasta or Fritos Twists. This seems like a silly point to make because the shapes are very similar, and I don’t think Frito-Lay was out to trick me. I just didn’t anticipate that these were going to be more of an extruded puff than a potato chip. Please don’t ask me how I expected them to braid potatoes.

Double Cheddar

Ruffles Ridge Twists Double Cheddar

Opening the bag of Double Cheddar Twists sends up a powerful aroma of cheddar popcorn which is very enticing even if it does look like someone has poured a batch of Cheetos Mac ‘N Cheese into my chip bag. The spirals are generously coated in bright orange powder that really delivers a buttery, cheesy taste.

What doesn’t deliver is the twist itself. It’s crunchy, but not in the same satisfying way that a chip is, and it doesn’t have the right potato flavor. Something is off, and a glance at the ingredients shows the first one to be dried potatoes. This makes sense when you consider the product is more of a puff, but because they’re advertised as “featuring the same iconic Ruffles ridges that fans know and love,” I was hoping for the base to be closer to what I know and love. I wouldn’t be mad if I went to some gathering and grabbed a handful of these to put on my plate next to a sandwich, but they aren’t a snack I would buy for myself and eat straight out of the bag. The cheddar part is on point, but after only a couple of them, I find myself not wanting to eat any more, and this very rarely happens to me with salty snacks.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (29 pieces) 140 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 1 gram of total sugars, and 1 gram of protein.

Smoky BBQ

Ruffles Ridge Twists Smoky BBQ

The scent from the Smoky BBQ bag doesn’t draw me in quite as much. I found it slightly off-putting at first, but after tasting, it’s a pretty solid barbecue chip flavor. As advertised, it’s smoky and a little sweet with some tomato and vinegar notes. Some of the twists have a lot of seasoning, but others have only a dusting which leaves too much room for the dried potato taste and texture to take center stage. These remind me of the bags of TGI Fridays snacks with flavors and shapes that mimic items on an appetizer menu. They’re novel, and it’s my duty to try every form of processed potato available, but at the end of the day, I wish I’d also bought a bag of actual chips.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (28 pieces) 140 calories, 8 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of total sugar including 1 gram of added sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.

Ruffles Ridge Twists Both

Even though these have grooves good for collecting flavor powder, they lack the same ridges that really define Ruffles and might’ve fared better with me if I never associated them with Ruffles to begin with. I can see where some people might enjoy them more than I did, but if you have four dollars and want to take a chance on something new in the chip aisle, I’d go with Lay’s Kettle Cooked Fritos Chili Cheese Chips.

Purchased Price: $3.99 each
Size: 5.5 oz bags
Purchased at: Mariano’s

REVIEW: Burger King Frozen What The Fanta Mystery Flavor

Burger King Frozen What The Fanta Mystery Flavor Slush Cup

Fanta recently unveiled a new line of mystery flavored beverages that are designed to “fool senses and challenge tastebuds with opposite flavor notes.” Read: Fanta is trying to screw with you. Some flavors are appearing in 20-ounce bottles and others are in Coke Freestyle machines or in frozen form at various restaurants. I like to confuse my mouth as much as the next person so I picked up a Burger King Frozen What The Fanta Drink and proceeded to, as the ads put it, “Taste the Unknown.”

Yup, I’m definitely tasting the unknown. It’s a familiar sort of unknown that makes me think I can place it but at the same time, I can’t make a guess with any real confidence. When I ordered, the manager told me it was great and showed me his almost empty cup of the green stuff as proof he drinks it himself. I asked if he had a guess as to the flavor and he offered up “maybe lime something?”

Burger King Frozen What The Fanta Mystery Flavor Slush Top

Mine started out perfectly frozen and a light green reminiscent of the daytime color of objects that glow in the dark. It didn’t smell like much at first and tasted fruity but also kind of creamy. These melt fast and the flavor seems to change as they do. After an initial several sips where I thought I should know the flavor but couldn’t put a name to it I began to think it might be strawberry banana. That’s a combination I only know from eating it in the form of Trix yogurt approximately twice as a child because I hate bananas and would never seek out anything flavored like them. That being said, the banana here (if it’s here at all?) isn’t overwhelming or enough to make me dislike it.

Sticking my nose in the cup after about half had turned to liquid gave me a totally different smell, it was heavier on the vanilla and creamy, maybe even sort of caramely notes. Maybe it’s a strawberry banana cream pie? With a little lime and I don’t know…kiwi? Do I even know what a kiwi tastes like? I feel like maybe when they reveal what this mystery flavor is it could be a fruit I’ve never tasted. Jackfruit! Wasn’t that having a moment a while ago? Jackfruit Shortcake is my official guess based on absolutely nothing.

Burger King Frozen What The Fanta Mystery Flavor Slush Sign

To sum up, this tastes like something that would happen when you mix four flavors at the Slurpee machine but have strategically chosen the flavors in the hopes they won’t clash with one another. It’s a good but not amazing drink and one that I don’t think most people would find objectionable even if they aren’t into the whole “mystery” concept and would rather know what they’re tasting. If you think mystery flavors are fun this one should keep you guessing because I’ve seen people say it tasted like everything from caramel apple to key lime pie and at the price of only $1 it makes for some refreshing summer entertainment.

Purchased Price: $1.11
Size: Medium
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 44 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.