REVIEW: Wendy’s Pumpkin Spice Frosty

As someone who loves ice cream and novelty flavors but can’t eat chocolate, Wendy’s has really had my back this past year. Its classic vanilla Frosty has been on vacation and in its place we’ve been blessed with a different topical (but always still vanilla-based) flavor for each season, starting with strawberry last summer and peppermint in the winter and now leading us to the champion of fall, pumpkin spice.

New flavors like these often have one of two problems: they either taste too much like plain vanilla with just a sprinkle of the specialty flavor or go the opposite direction and overdo it with a flavor that’s too intense to enjoy. But pumpkin spice squad, rejoice — both of those pitfalls are avoided here!

I do have to start by mentioning that the color initially gave me a Halloween-level fright. I would typically associate pumpkin spice with a deep, bright orange or perhaps even a rusty brown. This light orange Frosty, on the other hand, is a hue that only reminded me of spicy mayo. Fortunately, if you can abstain from judging this book by its cover, you’ll soon notice that the flavor is just what it’s supposed to be.

Right off the bat, the aroma was pumpkin spice-y but not overpowering, which set the tone for the sophisticated subtlety that this flavor would bring. It was a wonderful blend of sweet and spiced, combining the simple creaminess of vanilla with a lively pumpkin spice flavor whose notes of cinnamon never felt syrupy or artificial. On the scale of autumnal sweets, its mild, balanced flavor reminded me more of pumpkin puree than of the sugar bombs that often occur with pumpkin spice desserts. I was afraid it’d be indulgent to the point of queasiness, but I didn’t feel that way at all.

I also need to shout out the consistency, which, in typical Frosty fashion, was soft enough to melt in your mouth but also held its form well enough to avoid dripping everywhere. This velvety, not-quite-liquid, not-quite-solid state was so intriguing to me that I dared to forego my spoon and try slurping it through a straw instead. Even as someone who loves thick shakes, I admit it was unfeasible right off the bat, but after five or so minutes, when my Frosty had softened a bit, I was able to sip it with ease and really enjoyed the experience.

Perhaps the thing that excited me most about this Frosty, though, is the seasonal potential it made me dream up. What if you dolloped some on top of a slice of pumpkin pie or whipped it into an apple cider float? Of course, it’s absolutely delicious on its own, but the flavor is so clean and well done that I imagine it’d be a perfect complement for any number of creative combos.

If you like pumpkin spice even a little, I’d strongly advise catching this flavor before it falls away like the leaves. Though if you do happen to miss it, you can always join me in making bets for the likely-inevitable spring Frosty… Peeps, anyone?

Purchased Price: $4.24
Size: Large
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 550 calories, 13 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 94 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 83 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein

REVIEW: Starbucks Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte

Starbucks Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte Cup

As we all know, only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and pumpkin spice season. I wasn’t feeling particularly autumnal as I exited my local Starbucks into the 90-degree heat, but at least with its orangey-brown hue and dense pumpkin spice topping the color of fallen leaves, my Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte looked the part. This is a new offering for Starbucks’ fall menu, but I don’t foresee it becoming a mainstay…

Maybe this is supposed to be obvious from the drink’s name, but I certainly didn’t realize before looking it up, so let me warn you that the base of this beverage is just Starbucks’ regular chai tea latte. The unique “pumpkin cream” factor specifically refers to the cold foam on top; the drink itself doesn’t have anything in it that’s different than the usual. That felt a little unsatisfying to me at first, but hey, pumpkin spice mix is generally a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, and with the exception of nutmeg, all of these ingredients are already present in Starbuck’s chai tea concentrate. (Others include water, black tea, cardamom, black pepper, star anise, sugar, honey, vanilla, and citric acid, if you were wondering). So, it might not be an immediate member of the pumpkin spice nuclear family, but at the very least, Starbucks’ chai tea latte is probably a not-too-distant cousin.

Starbucks Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte pumpkin topping

In any case, the pumpkin cream cold foam and its smattering of seasoning on top was as tasty as I’ve come to expect from Starbucks. It was sweet, rich, and creamy, with an appealing melt-in-your-mouth fluffiness, and the pumpkin spice topping added some nice zest (though mine had a bit too much for my liking, with one particularly saturated mouthful calling to mind that old viral challenge where people would eat a straight spoonful of cinnamon with disastrous results).

The foam topping was substantial enough that it took a few sips for me to even get to the chai, but when I did… well, do you know that feeling when you’re sipping a drink that’s so cold that you can’t actually tell what it tastes like beneath the sensation of coolness? That was the case here; of course, I knew from the velvety texture that I was drinking something meant to be indulgent, but the only immediate way I could describe the taste would just be “cold.” That blandness didn’t ever change, leading to a general feeling that I was just drinking some nicely chilled, very mildly sweet, and quite over-expensive milk. There were occasional flashes of the complex spiciness of chai, but they were more of an aftertaste than the main event they should have been, and ultimately, I would say this drink’s creamy texture was more noticeable than its taste.

So sure, the pumpkin cream cold foam is good, but it’s not a big enough part of this drink’s experience for me to really recommend; once it’s gone, the Iced Pumpkin Cream Chai Tea Latte effectively just becomes a plain chai tea latte, so if that doesn’t entice you, you’re better off getting your fall fix elsewhere.

Purchased Price: $7.35
Size: Grande (medium)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 460 calories, 17 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 68 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 66 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Domino’s Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread

Domino's Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread Top with cheese and a single pepperoni slice

When you combine bread, cheese, and meat, there’s no possible way to go wrong, right? That’s what I believed before writing this review. But unfortunately, the new Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread from Domino’s was disappointing in more ways than one.

I have to admit, I first opened my box to quite the pretty picture — a thick golden loaf featuring rivulets of scorched cheese dripping from every crevice, densely-sprinkled flecks of garlic and Parmesan, and a single ruby-hued piece of pepperoni smack dab in the middle, like a beautiful ribbon hinting at the even more beautiful present within.

Domino's Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread Side. It's like the Battlestar Galactica if it was made of bread and cheese.

If you place your order through the Domino’s website like I did, you’ll notice this side dish and/or entrée is specifically described as “8-Piece Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread.” But I should note that mine was barely perforated, so ripping apart a single piece was not the cleanest endeavor. Upon tearing off a hunk (which, due to said difficulties, I think technically constituted two pieces), I was greeted by my first hint that this bread might not be all I’d chalked it up to be.

Innards of the Domino's Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread. It's mostly bread. There's so little cheese that a mouse will probably walk right by.

Peering at the cross-section, the innards didn’t look that different from a regular load of bread. There was the slightest clue of mozzarella cheese seeping out from the center and a thin slip of red that signaled the presence of pepperoni, but the fillings certainly weren’t as jam-packed as the word “stuffed” would imply.

A different looks at the innards of the Domino's Pepperoni Stuffed Cheesy Bread. There aren't many pepperoni, but slightly more than there is cheese.

Unfolding my slice confirmed that, yes, there was a small amount of fluffy mozzarella and the telltale gleam of orange grease (Domino’s website also mentions cheddar, but it looked and tasted like part of the cheese melted on top), but there were only two limp pieces of pepperoni sitting side-by-side. That ratio was pretty consistent throughout the rest of my meal, and it just doesn’t feel right that it would only contain eight measly single-layered pieces throughout the dang thing.

Unfortunately, this tasted pretty much just how that inside looked: like bland bread that was crispy on top and soft on the inside, with only the occasional faint suggestion of spicy pepperoni or sweet cheese. When the cheese did shine through, it pleasantly reminded me of what’s in the stuffed crust from Papa John’s… and reignited my decades-long desire for Domino’s to introduce their own stuffed crust pizza, but I guess that’s a different story. I also got a strangely earthy aftertaste that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, but it wasn’t great.

Honestly, I got some of the garlic Parmesan seasoning on my hand when I was opening this, and it’s sad to say that licking that off was the most flavorful part of this meal by far.

When my dad is disappointed by junk food that he’d been looking forward to, he’ll lament that “It wasn’t worth the calories,” and that’s exactly how I felt here; maybe you won’t hate this, but if you’re planning on eating something bready, cheesy, and meaty anyway, you definitely can—and should!—do a lot better.

Purchased Price: $9.24
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per 1 piece) 170 calories, 8 grams of fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Frosty Cream Cold Brew

My first thought upon taking a sip of Wendy’s new Frosty Cream Cold Brew: why is this so dang sweet?

My second thought: am I actually just drinking straight-up creamer?

My third thought: a lot of people are going to say this is way too sweet.

My fourth thought: but I’m not one of them, BRING IT ON!

Suffice it to say, this latest offering from my favorite red-headed fast food mascot (sorry, Ronald McDonald) comes on strong. It also comes in three flavors; I chose vanilla (it felt like the most neutral for a review… and also happens to be my favorite), but if you prefer chocolate or caramel, those are also available.

My knee-jerk comparison to coffee creamer makes sense, as this beverage consists of cold-brewed coffee with something that Wendy’s identifies as “Frosty creamer” (which, according to its site, is creamer that is actually made from a Frosty), plus a syrup in the aforementioned flavor of your choice, served over ice.

If you’re unfamiliar with cold brew, it’s coffee made from grounds steeped in cold water for an extended period of time. In addition to being known for being more caffeinated than regularly brewed coffee, cold brew has a reputation for tasting particularly smooth, and that’s definitely a word that I would use to describe this drink. On top of that rich, goes-down-easy taste, the texture was noticeably thick and creamy, which made for an indulgent feel. I drank mine late enough in the day that it was more of a dessert than a pick-me-up, and that feels appropriate for something so decadent (although perhaps not the best for my sleep schedule).

The only thing this coffee was missing for me was, well, tasting like coffee. I’ve had cold brew before, and while it is usually on the mellow side, I’ve still always been able to notice that characteristic bitterness lurking beneath the surface. Here, though, even as someone who typically can’t hide the acrid flavor even when it’s masked by generous quantities of milk and cream, I genuinely couldn’t detect any hint whatsoever.

I suspected that maybe my first few sips were just ridiculously sweet because I was getting all the creamer at once, and yes, the sweetness of my subsequent sips was definitely less intense (though definitely still there)… but those sips still tasted more like milk than coffee. While remaining velvety in texture, they also seemed a little watered down flavor-wise. Honestly, if I’d tried this drink past the initial sips while blindfolded, I probably would have guessed it was milk tea after the ice had started to melt.

As I’ve stressed a few times by now, that pronounced sweetness was a positive for me, but I’m aware that many would find it overpowering or just not complex enough (and I admit that I also wish there was a tad more to the flavor profile than “overly sweet, then milky/watery”). So if you’re a coffee purist or just wary of a sugar rush, I’d advise sticking with just regular cold brew or a regular Frosty (or heck, both separately). But if, like me, every one of your teeth is a sweet tooth, you’ll likely find this combination crave-worthy, even if somewhat simple.

Purchased Price: $2.17
Size: Small
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 170 calories, 3 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Snoop Cereal (Fruity Hoopz, Cinnamon Toasteez, and Frosted Drizzlerz)

Are you a fan of rap music and/or the classic recipe book “From Crook to Cook”? Do you want your breakfast cereal to serve a charitable mission? Or are you just tired of seeing toucans and wacky anthropomorphic amalgamations of various food products have all the mascot fun? If you’ve answered yes to any of those questions, you might want to check out the three new flavors of Snoop Cereal (and if you’ve answered yes to all of them, wow, you have really specific tastes).

As the name suggests, these cereals and the colorful animal characters that tout them were indeed created by Snoop Dogg (and Master P, in a collaboration between their Broadus Foods brand and Post), and they even have lyrics on the boxes to match. But what’s more interesting is that proceeds from each purchase are donated to charities that help homeless families and fight food insecurity.

How are they, though? Well… let’s just say that if you’ve ever consumed a sugary cereal before, my findings probably won’t surprise you…

Fruity Hoopz with Marshmallows

At first glance, this “sweetened multigrain cereal” looks just like Froot Loops. On second and third and fourth glance, it does too… so, okay, you’ll probably be familiar with what you’re getting into. I thought maybe the loops looked a bit thicker than I expected, but that didn’t impact the eating experience much. You’ll smell them before you taste them, a fruity, cloying perfume that perfectly foreshadows the sugar-glazed, slightly floral burst of crunchy sweetness to come.

The most “unique” element here (if it can even be called that) would be the marbits, of which I was lucky to find about one per generous spoonful, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they are also not super revolutionary. Again, they seemed to me a bit larger than what other cereals like Lucky Charms provide, but they have that same eminently chompable texture, soft yet with an audible crack after you bite down and before they melt pleasantly and cotton-candy-ishly in your mouth. I prefer my cereal with milk and found that these left the milk with a delightful syrupy sweet flavor, but after intending to eat just a few dry pieces, I (perhaps predictably) had a lot of trouble stopping, so you can’t go wrong either way.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 1/3 cup) 150 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein

Cinnamon Toasteez

This may be obvious just from the box, but I couldn’t find a huge difference between this “sweetened crispy wheat and rice cereal” and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, both appearance-wise and flavor-wise. A few of the pieces I had were extra cinnamon-studded, with stripes closer to black than brown and a slightly more potent taste, but these are mostly just sweet with a vague air of cinnamon-y-ness. I think the OG Cinnamon Toast Crunch tastes a bit more of actual cinnamon and therefore is a bit better, but unless you’re particularly picky, this should definitely make a more-than-serviceable substitute.

It’s also neat that, ranging as they do from lightly wavy to practically bent in two, the pieces aren’t perfectly square, giving them extra texture and dimension, and some are studded with air bubbles that contrast the general brittleness well. Their flat shape also allows a cool crispiness when sampled straight from the box, though I found these just as appealing when they were soggy with milk. But strangely, while the cinnamon dust became very visible in the milk that collected at the bottom of my bowl, it didn’t seem to affect its flavor whatsoever, so that was a bit of a bummer.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup) 180 calories, 5 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Frosted Drizzlers

This “sweetened, crunchy, frosted whole grain wheat cereal” seemed the most novel to me, but that’s probably just because I don’t eat a ton of its doppelganger, Frosted Mini Wheats. (And probably also because, I’ll confess, when I purchased them, my brain only really registered the word “Frosted,” so I expected something… flakier.) Like the Hoopz, these pieces seemed unusually but not unpleasantly jumbo-sized; I couldn’t tell if they were longer than your typical pillow of shredded wheat cereal, but they certainly seemed thicker.

This is the cereal where I felt milk made the biggest difference for the better. Despite a generous dusting of sugar, the strong wheat flavor and bristly texture pretty thoroughly outweighed any hints of sweetness when eaten dry, but they tasted noticeably nicer when soaked in milk. This flavor was decent, but something about eating an easily countable number of ginormous pieces instead of the seemingly infinite number of tiny pieces that other cereals tend to offer just feels less fun. Plus, I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I was chewing on a bunch of tiny wicker baskets. Oh, and these produced an even more flavorless milk than the Cinnamon Toasteez.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (21 biscuits) 210 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 5 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 12 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.

These cereals are tasty, if unlikely to be anything you haven’t seen or snacked on before. You won’t miss much if you don’t try them, but hey, knowing that your sugar rush comes with a side of helping those in need is pretty sweet.

Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: 12 oz box (Fruity Hoopz and Cinnamon Toasteez), 18 oz box (Frosted Drizzlerz)
Purchased at: Target