REVIEW: DiGiorno Stuffed Pizza Bites

DiGiorno Stuffed Pizza Bites Bags

Tearing open my two bags of DiGiorno Stuffed Pizza Bites (which I keep wanting to call pizza rolls à la Totino’s), I was hit with the powerful feeling that I’d just gotten home from fourth grade soccer practice and was racing to prep my afternoon snack before my favorite cartoon started.

The bag suggests three ways to cook these adorable little Hot Pockets lookalikes, but since I don’t have an air fryer, I was limited to using my oven (for 22 minutes at 350° F) and microwave (for 1 minute and 15 seconds). Regardless of appliance used, the cooked pizza bites emitted the immensely comforting smell of warm dough, grassy herbs, and tangy marinara sauce, with just a hint of processed uncanniness to really drive the nostalgia home.

The bag advises you to use the oven or air fryer if you like a crispier texture and the microwave if you seek a softer pizza bite. The bites that I baked in the oven were impressively firm with a satisfying crunch. The microwaved ones, though… varied. One of the two that I put in the microwave came out noticeably softer but not mushy or falling apart as I’d feared, and in fact, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that I preferred it to its oven-ed counterparts. The other, though, somehow ended up extremely overcooked, a thick brick with even the filling nuked stiff. Whoops. Anyway!

DiGiorno Stuffed Pizza Bites Outsides

The two flavors were unsurprisingly pretty much impossible to distinguish just by looking at their outsides, though even after a bite I couldn’t immediately identify which was which. The one that I eventually pegged as the four-cheese was an oozy, vodka sauce-looking shade of orange. The other was flecked with dark red chunks that I immediately guessed were flecks of tomato from the sauce, but ended up being the pepperoni. Whoops again!

DiGiorno Stuffed Pizza Bites Insides

The four cheese flavor’s titular cheeses are reduced fat mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, and romano. The best way I can think to describe the potent results of mashing them all together is “funky.” I could make out a fresh, creamy flavor that probably came from the mozzarella, but there were also undertones of sharpness. According to Google, that would be the Romano. There’s also a sort of earthy nuttiness that Google also tells me is typical for both parmesan and asiago. With the pepperoni flavor, mozzarella is the only one from the cheesy cacophony invited to the pizza party, so the taste was dominated instead by the meaty, faintly spicy tang of the pepperoni and marinara sauce. The four cheese flavor wasn’t bad, but I definitely preferred the simpler, more classic taste of the pepperoni.

At the end of the day, these were about what you’d expect from a pizza roll, er, bite. I appreciated their unique heft (“2x the size per piece,” the bag crows), but the experience wasn’t notably different than, say, the aforementioned Totino’s. These pizza bites might have briefly flashed me back to my childhood, but now that I’m old enough to simply order myself an actual pizza instead of rooting through the freezer for my mom’s purchases to satisfy my dough-sauce-cheese cravings, I’d rather just do that.

Purchased Price: $6.49 each
Size: 14 oz bag
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3 bites) Four Cheese – 200 calories, 8 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein. Pepperoni – 230 calories, 12 gram of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew

Dunkin Salted Caramel Cold Brew Cup

This was a hard review to write, and by that, I mean I gave in to the temptation to take a tiny taste of cold foam immediately after leaving Dunkin’ and then had to exert a downright colossal amount of willpower to make the suddenly-excruciating three-minute walk home without downing the entire thing.

First, I need to shine a spotlight on the lid that delivered this sweet sneak peek. If you’ve had a drink with cold foam before, you’re probably already familiar with its wider-than-usual opening that serves a mouthful of intact foam with each no-straw-required sip (before the foam inevitably melts, anyway).

Dunkin Salted Caramel Cold Brew Foam

Next, I need to thank said lid for allowing me to experience such a delicious flavor. The Salted Caramel Cream Cold Brew name is predictably accurate, as right off the bat, the foam packs a mix of salt, caramel, and cream flavors. Interestingly, though, while I don’t usually think of either salt or caramel as being subtle, they were not what stood out to me in my sampling. That honor goes to the foam’s creaminess, and I don’t just mean its soft, luxurious texture. The flavor that it most reminded me of was actually Twinkie filling. Sure, its rich, sweet taste played a large part in that, but so did the sheer feeling of comfort it brought me. Coffee tends to get a bad rap through its association with the stressed out, overworked, and under-slept, but this saccharine cold foam had me feeling childlike wonder.

Dunkin Salted Caramel Cold Brew Half Full

The cold brew (which I ordered black, though you can opt for cream) felt pretty standard with its dark, almost chocolatey flavor profile. While it was velvety and milder than a brew of the non-cold variety, I didn’t get much of the tang of saltiness nor the buttery richness of caramel from the drink itself. Notably, it performed a bit of color-changing magic. Remember that inevitably melty foam? The coffee started out a very deep brown but ended up practically tan from foam seepage, which presumably contributed to its rich, silky taste. I’ve witnessed the occasional schism between “serious” coffee drinkers who prefer a plain and simple experience and those like myself who welcome every frilly flavor out there, but I don’t think this offering is any less elegant for its sweetness, achieving a middle ground that can appeal to both sides.

I will say, I’m not sure why this is specifically a spring menu item. Maybe I’m just distracted by the thought of caramel apples, but the flavor strikes me as autumnal, if anything. So it’s a bit of a seasonal stretch, but eh, tomayto, tomahto (or cair-a-mel, car-mel).

Ultimately, if you’re not already a cold brew fan, I don’t think this will be the drink to convert you. But if you are a curious connoisseur — or if you’re just looking for some extra pep in your step and want a smooth, multifaceted flavor to help you achieve it — I’d recommend checking this one out.

Purchased Price: $5.00
Size: Small (12 oz)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 140 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 27 grams of total sugars, 0 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Limited Edition Starlight

Coca Cola Limited Edition Starlight Box

“The taste of limitless possibilities.” “The flavors of unknown stars.” “Tastes like magic.” While Coca-Cola Starlight’s promotional materials are pretty elaborate when it comes to capturing the soda’s galactic aesthetic, they’re surprisingly lax about, well, what it actually tastes like. Fortunately, I’m prepared to take one small step for reviewer, one giant leap for junk food fankind!

Coca Cola Limited Edition Starlight Can

Pouring the drink from its adorably tiny, star-speckled can (it’s also available in the typical 20 oz bottle) into a clear glass showed that it’s as red as Mars. Okay, maybe more of a burgundy, but it’s certainly more colorful than your average Coke. I sampled the full-sugar version, though you can also get Starlight as sugar-free. It had the general taste you’d expect of Coke, simultaneously sweet and bitingly carbonated. However, there’s another note that, much like a UFO, wasn’t possible for me to immediately identify.

Coca Cola Limited Edition Starlight Glass

At first, I wanted to describe it as fruity, but upon further probing, I think that was just the influence of the berry-like hue. Starlight’s unique flavor — which was especially prominent in the aftertaste and even in the soda’s scent — is actually closer to that of a graham cracker. Coca-Cola also notes that a “subtle cooling sensation” is one of this drink’s features. When pressed, I could indeed vaguely identify a chilly feeling similar to when you drink water directly after brushing your teeth with mint toothpaste. But honestly, I didn’t really notice it until I looked for it, so I guess the “subtle” part is right!

Starlight’s theme is a bit unusual for a brand that usually determines flavors by slapping the name of a fruit in front of “Coca-Cola.” But I can make out a train of thought somewhere along the lines of “Space -> stars -> stargazing -> camping -> s’mores -> graham cracker, ergo space flavor = graham cracker.”

It may not be the most intuitive fit, but if you’re willing to think outside the box a little, it works pretty well, and I think the same can be said for Starlight’s taste. While I could still see this offering fitting in well with classic fruity faves like Cherry Vanilla in a Coca-Cola Freestyle Machine, I, for one, praise our Coca-Cola overlords for making a new flavor that defies such simple characterization.

Starlight is also not just tasty but trendy, already rocking collaborations with singer Ava Max and fashion brand Staple. I felt about a million light-years old trying to figure out how to scan my can with my phone camera to pull up an augmented reality concert from a holographic Ms. Max, but the concept had me starry-eyed. Because Starlight’s release coincides with the launch of the new Coca-Cola Creations, a “global innovation platform” that will spotlight an array of Coca-Cola-branded products and experiences both physical and digital, we can expect more innovative flavors and applications to come.

Sadly, like many other stars, Starlight’s time in the limelight is fleeting, as it’s limited edition. Ultimately, I think the combination of curious concept, creative marketing crossovers, and, of course, uniquely yummy taste means it’s well worth jetting off for.

Purchased Price: $7.29
Size: 7.5 oz cans/10 pack
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 24 grams of total sugars, 0 grams of fiber, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich

Wendy s Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich Top

I thought that the hardest part of eating Wendy’s Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich would be weathering the habanero hot honey (or saying its name three times fast). As it turns out, the actual hardest part was just getting to the honey.

Prying the top bun off to take a picture of the sandwich’s contents required some legitimate elbow grease, for which I was rewarded with an extremely strong aroma of pickles. I had known the sandwich would contain “pickle chips,” but honestly, I’d assumed that that was just a synonym for a couple of thinly-cut pickle slices, so I was pretty puzzled to discover a hearty heaping of what looked like straight-up potato chips, just a bit green (that’s more or less how they tasted, too). Delving into the “What’s on it” menu on Wendy’s website helpfully specified that these were actually “Crunchy Dill Chips” (as opposed to the more traditional experience of “Crinkle Cut Pickles”). Mystery solved, I sampled each of the other components in turn, a supporting cast consisting of:

“Premium bun”: Soft, airy, and inoffensive. Not immediately clear how it was different from the alternative option that the website has labeled “sandwich bun.”

Applewood smoked bacon: Thick and chewy, striking an impressive middle ground between too fatty and too burnt.

Pepper jack cheese: So creamy and mild that I mistook it for White American at first, though it finally left a whisper of peppery spice in its aftertaste.

Chicken: A typical breaded chicken breast (I opted for the “Classic” version of the sandwich, rather than “Spicy” or “Grilled”). Basically, one giant nugget.

And the titular hot honey?

Wendy s Hot Honey Chicken Sandwich Under the Bun

My impression, frankly, was that it was difficult to locate, even after performing bun surgery. I expected the honey would be coating the chicken, so it took a while to realize that it was actually applied directly to the top bun, almost entirely obscured by pickle chips. On its own, the taste made a pleasant impact, with a spiciness that was noticeable but didn’t cross the line into painful, tempered as it was by a simultaneous rich sweetness.

Unfortunately, the sandwich as a whole ended up somehow tasting like less than the sum of its parts. The plump, juicy chicken dominated the experience both in terms of texture and taste. I guess it’s a positive sign that Wendy’s doesn’t skimp when it comes to meat, but you’d hope that the promising array of other ingredients would be way more prominent, and they simply did not deliver. After a few bites, I started to pick up on a bit of tanginess from the pickle chips and some sweetness from the honey (plus after swallowing, the roof of my mouth had a telltale tingle from the heat), but if I’d been taste testing this blind, I wouldn’t have even known the cheese and bacon were there.

Wendy’s also offers a dipping cup of hot honey that you can order as a side, so adding more might help the exciting-on-paper flavor to seriously shine. I did ultimately enjoy my meal, but that might just be because I really like basic chicken sandwiches. If you’re looking for something more exciting, this offering will probably not have you calling out, “Honey (Chicken Sandwich), I’m home!”

Purchased Price: $6.19
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 700 calories, 31 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 2040 milligrams of sodium, 70 grams of total carbohydrates, 18 grams of total sugars, 2 grams of fiber, and 37 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Little Caesars The Batman Calzony

Little Caesars The Batman Calzony Bat

Maybe I’m jaded by fall 2021’s original Crazy Calzony, but my first thought upon seeing this uncannily bat-shaped tangle of bread and cheese was not “Oh, the humanity!” but “Wait… this one actually genuinely looks cool, seriously, I’m not even being ironic this time!” Unlike the deformed plus sign of yore, the Batman Calzony packs more pizza than calzone. It’s shaped something like what would happen if you bit a giant chunk off the top and bottom of a normal pizza pie and then immediately felt guilty and grafted half a calzone onto each gap in the hopes that no one would notice. (If Frankenstein ever gets a new movie adaptation, I have ideas for the next Calzony tie-in.)

The pizza patches are definitely thinner than the typical Caesarean slice, but intriguingly, they retain that soft, chewy texture that can be hard to find outside of thicker pizzas. This worked really well for me, giving a satisfying snap as I bit through the toppings and into the dough and allowing all the tastes — savory cheese, meaty pepperoni, sweet sauce, and bready crust — to mingle together easily. But if the two components of the Calzony are a crime-fighting duo with the superpower of novelty appeal, let’s just say that the pizza parts are the Robin.

Little Caesars The Batman Calzony Slice

Living up to Batman’s rep, the calzone sections immediately appear more glamorous and mysterious, artsily dotted with flavorful cheese. Biting into them, though, is an inconsistent experience. The squared edge where the calzone separates from the main body of the pie is breadier, both at its base and because of the dough folded on top of it, which is distinct both visually and taste-wise from the tapered end. In promo pictures, you can clearly see julienned pepperoni swimming in the open-faced cheese, but I insist they were not so prominent in my Batman Calzony!

Starting from said bread edge, the experience was like a traditional fast food breadstick, mild, garlicky, and pleasantly airy. In my second bite, I was waylaid by a surprisingly spicy pepperoni. I don’t think anyone should find it too fiery to handle, but the zing was noticeable enough to be worth mentioning and tangy enough to deal a pretty potent blast of flavor. However, things were conspicuously un-cheesy until I reached the pointed edge. Even so, if you’re expecting a hearty mouthful of ricotta like you might get at your local non-Little-Caesars pizzeria, you might be disappointed. It struck me as kind of sneakily brilliant that the official press release does not actually describe this section as a calzone in and of itself, but rather as “a calzone crust filled with garlic white sauce, cheese, and julienned pepperoni,” because the filling isn’t exactly the most, well, filling, and while all the ingredients of a calzone are there, I found the whole thing lacking in cohesion.

Little Caesars The Batman Calzony Box

Of course, cohesion is not likely to be anyone’s main reason for purchasing a novelty fast food pizza product shaped like the Bat-Symbol, so I’m still going to recommend this. After all, I’m not a superhero expert, but isn’t making sacrifices for the sake of looking cool kind of the whole point of Batman in the first place?

Purchased Price: $7.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 pizza) 2650 calories, 123 grams of fat, 50 grams of saturated fat, 245 milligrams of cholesterol, 6010 milligrams of sodium, 256 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 109 grams of protein.

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