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

REVIEW: KFC Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich

I confess that I can sometimes be stubborn about changing my mind; luckily, that’s not required here because KFC has always been my favorite fast food chicken chain, and its new, limited time only Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich just makes me even more confident in that choice.

The first thing I noticed about this sandwich was an extremely pungent (and promising) barbecue smell, followed closely by an observation of just how pretty it looked. A pristine golden bun with a plump fried chicken filet peeking out, nestled among glimpses of ruddy sauce, vibrant pickles, well-cooked bacon strips, crispy fried onions, and a dense layer of cheese…. befitting of the “Ultimate” moniker indeed! (I should note that I had to order this twice, though, as my first go-round was missing the onions, so you might want to check before leaving the store to confirm that no sections of your sandwich are MIA.)

Fortunately, KFC’s latest creation tastes just as good as it looks. Individually, each element sparkled. The fluffy, shiny bun tasted wonderfully light and buttery! The bacon hit the sweet — or should I say smoky — spot right between too lean and too fatty! The just-barely-melted blanket of cheese provided a comfortingly Velveeta-esque creaminess without being runny enough to leave a mess! The fried onions were earthy and savory with a frizzled feel that perfectly backed up the crispy fried breading practically dripping from the chicken! The pickles were snappy and sour (I must admit I don’t usually eat pickles on sandwiches, so I don’t have a ton to say about them, but I’d like to think I could at least tell if they were terrible, and they definitely weren’t terrible)!

The barbecue sauce was nicely sweet but had a subtle spicy aftertaste that left my tastebuds buzzing for more, and its presence was much more powerful than I expected, so thick and sticky it almost reminded me of jam! And the chicken would make Colonel Sanders proud, with the meat providing tender, juicy nourishment and the breading throwing in a zesty crunch that even managed the rare feat of not flaking off immediately the second I bit in!

When taken in all together, a few components stepped out of the spotlight — the flavors of fried chicken, barbecue sauce, and pickle dominated, with the cheese, onions, and bacon more noticeable in terms of texture than taste — but I didn’t find that to be a problem. As I begrudgingly learned in my high school marching band, not everyone can play the fun parts all the time, but even if some bits aren’t as exciting, they’re just as important for a harmonious whole. I truly can’t imagine the Ultimate BBQ Fried Chicken Sandwich without any of these ingredients.

The biggest potential criticism I could predict some having is a desire for more barbecue sauce; mine was merely glopped timidly onto the top and bottom buns rather than boldly oozing out as it does in promotional images, and while that was just enough for me as someone who eats my pancakes without syrup, my fries without ketchup, etc., I can see others finding it a little dry. Ultimately, though, I’d suggest this sandwich for even the sauciest shopper.

I’ll also mention that KFC suggests pairing this with another newbie for the summer menu, its Blackberry Lemonade. It was unfortunately sold out at my local store. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck — but then again, anyone who has this sandwich as an option is already pretty dang lucky.

Purchased Price: $8.37
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 650 calories (other nutritional info not available at time of publication).

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Raspberry Watermelon Refresher

If you need a refresher on Refreshers, they are Dunkin’s line of caffeinated, fruit-flavored cold drinks. They were first introduced in 2020 with a green tea base that remains a steadfast option, but over the years, coconut milk and lemonade variants have been rolled out as well, and all three are available to accompany this summer’s newest flavor, Raspberry Watermelon.

I’ve loyally tried every Refresher so far, and typically if I order one without explicitly specifying the base I’d like, it comes with green tea by default. I was planning to leave the base for this review up to fate but was pleasantly surprised when the Dunkin’ employee asked me which base I’d like. While I’m a huge fan of milky drinks, the coconut milk can be overpowering even for me, and the green tea can be a bit too mild (probably because I’m a slow drinker and the flavor doesn’t hold up great when melted ice cubes water it down, which may not be a problem for most people), so lemonade struck me as the perfect option here. Plus, what could be more fitting to celebrate some overdue warm and sunny weather in my city?

My drink was a gorgeous deep reddish pink, a trait that I assume the green tea variant shares, though coconut milk Refreshers are inevitably cloudier and white-tinged. The pretty color seemed like a positive sign, and my first sip proved me right; this Refresher was as fruity and vibrant as I would expect from its vivid hue. The flavor was impressively cohesive. I find that sometimes when a drink is made up of two different flavors, one dominates the foreground while the other just appears in the aftertaste. But I couldn’t pick the raspberry and watermelon apart here, and I really enjoyed the way they mingled. Both fruits are sweet and juicy, and so is this drink. Yet, like a raspberry, it also had an identifiable tartness, which was evened out by the smooth mellowness of watermelon. The end result was an appealing candy-esque quality that never veered too sharply into overly sour territory.

The lemonade bolstered the tartness, of course, but it did so in a wonderfully balanced way. This may seem like a small difference, but I was glad that this definitively tasted like a lemonade-flavored raspberry watermelon drink rather than a raspberry watermelon-flavored lemonade. The only element of its flavor that I can’t speak to is how it tastes once the ice cubes start to melt because this was just so tasty that, for once, I gulped it down too quickly to find out! And, in case anyone was doubting this drink’s energy boosting powers, I can confirm that I was feeling quite sluggish before my purchase but left the sipping session feeling refreshed indeed.

If you appreciate jewel tone colors, zippy fruit flavors, or feeling like you’re slurping down the essence of summer no matter the weather, “water” you waiting for? Don’t blow this flavor a raspberry; it would make a fine choice for your next refreshment.

Purchased Price: $3.89
Size: Small
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 160 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 38 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.