REVIEW: Limited Edition Nissin Everything Bagel Cup Noodles

Everything bagels are my second favorite bagel flavor, so of course, I fell in love with Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning and still use it almost daily. Since 2017, Everything seasoning has been a popular food trend and, as with most food trends, companies have tried to find ways to work it into their products. For 2024, Nissin Cup Noodles released a limited edition Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese flavored ramen as a follow-up to last year’s Breakfast ramen.

Announced as a limited edition flavor, it incorporates the spices (onion, garlic, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds) plus cream cheese flavor. Including caraway seeds gave me pause as they’re not commonly found in most Everything-seasoned items. I associate them more with rye bread, but I was curious to see how they would impact the overall flavor of the item.

After opening it, I went to fill it and encountered a unique issue: the noodles and powder had become a brick that the water couldn’t penetrate. A few (gentle) stabs to the noodles broke them up enough to let me fill the cup to the proper water level. After four minutes of cooking and one minute of standing, it was ready to be eaten.

Mixing it, the smell of “everything seasoning” was present but not overwhelming, and the sauce was smooth. It was still rather hot, but I didn’t want to wait too much longer, as I worried the seasoning would become soggy. My first few bites were surprisingly good. The seasoning still had a bit of crunch, the sauce was creamy, and the overall flavor was balanced.

The caraway was the strongest and the first ingredient I noticed. The mild anise (licorice) flavor stood out initially, but then the other Everything elements came through (garlic, onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds) to mellow the initial taste. The sauce had no familiar cream cheese flavor, but that didn’t negatively impact the overall taste. The sauce’s creaminess sold the idea of “cream cheese” enough for me.

Everything seasoning has been the darling of the food trend world for a while now. Unfortunately, it has sort of gone the path of bacon and been more gimmick than gourmet. Thankfully, this item actually delivers a delicious interpretation of an Everything seasoned bagel. It won’t replace my usual morning breakfast, but I’ll keep a few cups around when I want to shake it up.

Purchased Price: $1.18
Size: 2.96 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 container) 390 calories, 15 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, <5 milligrams of cholesterol, 1150 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Iced Lavender Oatmilk Latte

Floral flavoring in beverages is one of my weaknesses. When done correctly, floral drinks strike a perfect balance between the sweet and perfumey. That balance can be hard to find, and if you aren’t careful, you can end up with something that tastes like cheap body spray. My first floral-flavored beverage was a rose bubble milk tea, and it was an indescribably delicious experience. I’ve been hooked on just about any kind of botanically infused drink since, but coffee/espresso flavored with lavender is my absolute favorite. I’ve had a wide range of lavender lattes and was excited to see how Starbucks’ Iced Lavender Oatmilk Latte would measure up.

It’s the chain’s first time ever using lavender as a flavor. I was surprised it’s taken Starbucks this long, as it’s been a fairly popular option in smaller coffee shops for a few years. My worry was that Starbucks would go with the overly sweet, flavored syrup option when crafting the drinks. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Instead, lavender powder is used, which gives the beverage a bright, floral taste without much added sweetness. The standard version of the drink comes with Blonde Espresso Roast and oatmilk. The former is a great drink base, as its lighter flavor works with the lavender, not against it. The creamy oatmilk is like the rug that brings the whole room together: without it, the drink would be okay but not have the same balance. Overall, this was easily one of the (if not the best) lavender lattes I’ve had in a long time.

The drink’s simplicity (lavender powder, espresso, oatmilk) seems like a departure from Starbucks’ last few seasonal drops. Multi-ingredient menu items with longer preps have become more commonplace at the coffee chain. The Starbucks Iced Lavender Oatmilk Latte reminds us that a basic coffee beverage can have complex flavors. It excels in its goal of being a light Spring drink to transition customers away from the heavier winter beverages. I know it’s a limited time offering, but I’m crossing my fingers this might be a more permanent addition or at least return annually.

Purchased Price: $6.05
Size: Grande
Rating: 10 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 210 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, and 170 milligrams of caffeine.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Special K Limited Edition Iced Vanilla Latte Cereal

Special K was one of the first cereals I remember being huge in the diet/resolution sphere in the early 00s. The commercials would start after Christmas and last until the beginning of February, telling us how the “Special K Diet” could help us lose weight. Even though the diet isn’t pushed anymore, Special K introduces a new flavor every January to entice resolutioners. This year, Special K’s Limited Edition Iced Vanilla Latte is on the shelves.

The cereal is “crunchy wheat and rice latte-flavored flakes made with vanilla-flavored clusters.” I’m generally a big fan of coffee/espresso flavors in various forms, but after opening the bag, I was immediately worried by the overwhelming instant coffee aroma that greeted me. I won’t bore you with my journey to being a coffee drinker, but I will say I’m not a coffee snob unless it comes to instant coffee.

To me, there is a bitterness in instant coffee that I just can’t get past. Smelling it after opening the cereal made me worried about how the flavor was going to be. Before adding it to a bowl, I tried a handful. The combination of the dry cereal and pungent flavor (though not as strong as the smell) was truly unpleasant. It was not a great texture or flavor experience.

I went on the hunt for the “vanilla-flavored clusters” to try and see if they would balance things a little better. They had almost all settled towards the bottom of the bag, but I managed to fish one out. The vanilla flavor was almost non-existent with the cluster. It just had that vague, sweet flavor that those familiar with diet-centric cereals would recognize.

After trying it dry, I hoped that milk could somehow improve the experience. It did help to mellow out the harsh coffee flavor some, and when I got a bite with all three components (flakes, clusters, and milk), it offered a more pleasant flavor profile. However, about halfway through my bowl, I had to throw in the towel. While it wasn’t so bad that I had to spit it out, it just wasn’t good enough to keep eating.

This was a rare L for Special K cereals. I have loved the different varieties I have tried over the years and hoped this one would be no different. Kellogg’s Special K Limited Edition Iced Vanilla Latte just didn’t work for me. The overwhelmingly bitter coffee flavor that isn’t balanced with a sweet, vanilla flavor makes it overall unpleasant. Since I have a family-size box amount left, I might try to use it in a recipe or even eat it with chocolate milk to see if it can be redeemed.

Purchased Price: $4.98
Size: 18.2 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup without milk) 150 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Pretzel Baconator

Over ten years ago, I was driving back to Tallahassee with my boyfriend, and we decided to stop and grab a bite. Wendy’s had just introduced a new burger with a pretzel bun, and I wanted to try it. I remember it being fine. The bun was a little tough, making biting through it hard. A decade later, that boyfriend is now my husband, and we, once again, shared a pretzel bun burger from Wendy’s.

Wendy’s has released various burgers and chicken sandwiches with the pretzel bun, but this is the first time pulling its wildly popular monster menu item, the Baconator, into the mix. Since its introduction in 2007, the Baconator has remained an in-demand item. For me, it shines in its simplicity. With so few ingredients (beef, cheese, bacon, mayo, and ketchup), the burger has to stand on its own and not hide behind special sauces or wild toppings.

In fact, there has only been one official variation of the Baconator (Spicy Baconator) in its 16 years of being on the menu. Before you grill me in the comments, I personally do not consider the Son of Baconator or Breakfast Baconator variations of THE Baconator. I consider them to be more in the “spin-offs of TV shows you know are spin-offs, but stand on their own,” like Frasier and Mork & Mindy. Also, some people list the Big Bacon Cheddar Cheeseburger as part of the Baconator Universe, but it doesn’t seem to be canonically accepted by Wendy’s.

The Pretzel Baconator simply swaps the standard bun for a pretzel one. As mentioned before, the bun was extremely tough when I tried it a decade ago. I would bite into it, and it was like bread taffy. Initially, I hesitated about trying the Pretzel Baconator, but it’s been a decade, and a lot can change.

The bun was soft but held firm. I was able to get a whole bite of burger without issue. The intense flavors of the savory beef and salty bacon, followed by the sweetness of the ketchup and tangy mayo, dominated the bite. I took a sip of Sprite to cleanse the palate and dove in for my second try. Again, the bun offered a great textural addition, but the pretzel flavor was non-existent. The familiar yeasty flavor was there when trying just the bun, but it was extremely subtle. What it lacked in taste, it made up for it with its structural integrity, as it did hold up to the sloppy fillings better than the standard bun.

If you want a strong pretzel flavor to accompany your Baconator, you will be disappointed. It’s still a solid menu item, and dare I say, the firmer bun serves the burger better than its standard bun. I enjoyed it, but it just doesn’t deliver the pretzel taste in the way I expected.

Purchased Price: $9.29
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 1050 calories, 71 grams of fat, 27 grams of saturated fat, 155 milligrams of cholesterol, 1630 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 61 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Arby’s Big Cheesy Bacon Burger

My post-race routine is fairly simple: shower, stretch, and stuff a burger in my face. I recently completed a half marathon and, due to a series of events after that race, I had to postpone the burger part of my routine. Two weeks later, I was craving the thing I never got. Right on cue, Arby’s sent an email advertising its new Big Cheesy Bacon Burger.

It’s one of the two limited edition burgers currently being offered at Arby’s. The Deluxe Wagyu Steakhouse Burger is the base version (a wagyu blended beef patty, burger sauce, American cheese, tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, and garlic & dill pickles on a toasted brioche bun) with the Big Cheesy Bacon Burger having all the same ingredients but with the addition of Swiss cheese and bacon.

It had some heft when I pulled it out of the bag, but didn’t seem very big. Like a mattress in a box, after I took it out of its wrapper, it seemed to expand. Size-wise, it was reasonably comparable to what I’ve gotten from Red Robin. Taking a peek under the bun, I was surprised at the produce’s freshness. I wasn’t expecting rotten tomatoes or anything, but the two vibrant red tomato slices took me off guard. I’m used to fast food tomatoes looking half the time like someone took a red Sharpie to styrofoam.

Even though it looked good, I was ready to find out if it tasted good. In my first bite, I got a bit of every component. All I could think as I took my time taking it all in was, “Wow, this is a really balanced burger.”

Too often, when fast food sandwiches have a laundry list of toppings, they become a mess of competing flavors. In this case, everything was working together to create something extremely delicious. The balance of the sweet burger sauce, hickory bacon, juicy tomatoes, crisp pickles, salty cheeses, and savory meat created a flavor that I could only describe as the most perfect “burger” flavor.

The meat on its own was a bit dry, but the dryness wasn’t noticeable when eaten with the other components. Multiple times (I assume for legal reasons), Arby’s reminds us that the patty is 51% American Wagyu and 49% ground beef. I can’t speak on the American Wagyu being anything special, but the meat quality was above any other fast food offering I’ve had.

Overall, I was extremely satisfied with Arby’s Big Cheesy Bacon Burger. It was delicious and filling and exceeded my expectations from a fast food restaurant. The high quality of the ingredients is what made it stand out. It’s only around for a limited time, so if you’re thinking about trying it, I’d go sooner rather than later.

Purchased Price: $7.99
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 824 calories, 51 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 118 milligrams of cholesterol, 2085 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 48 grams of protein.