REVIEW: Dunkin’ Vanilla Frosted Donut Signature Latte

Dunkin’s summer menu takes inspiration from the fresh, delicious flavors of the season, like watermelon, blueberry, and…donuts? Donuts are an unconventional choice for summer only if you do not celebrate National Donut Day on June 7. If you need a better reason to embark on the spiritual journey known as Hot Donut Summer, reach with me: think of the shape of inflatable pool rings, or the treat you enjoy at work while counting down the days to your beach vacation.

The Frosted Vanilla Donut Signature Latte is a tribute to that besprinkled beacon, reminding you that better times are ahead—even if those times involve only the caffeine-and-sugar-induced euphoria that comes with treating yourself. Available hot or iced, the latte is made with rich espresso, milk, and two kinds of sweet flavoring: vanilla and Donut Swirl, described on Dunkin’s website as having “notes of vanilla frosting, pastry, and donut sugar.” The signature drink is topped with whipped cream, caramel drizzle, and rainbow sprinkles.

I ordered a hot Signature Latte on a chilly day. Removing the drink’s lid revealed fluffy whipped cream, melting against the coffee’s heat and decorated invitingly with caramel and sprinkles. In appearance, it reminded me of an ice cream sundae (foreshadowing established) with a strong vanilla aroma.

After a few sips, my notions of Hot Donut Summer had melted away just like the whipped cream. If I hadn’t known the intended flavor, I would have thought I was sipping on an Ice Cream Sundae Latte. The drink was very richly creamy and sweet—a little too sweet, especially where pockets of unmixed flavor syrup lingered at the bottom of the cup. The drink’s vanilla flavor and general sweetness were the most pronounced flavors, although the coffee wasn’t lost. Lacking any bitter notes, the coffee flavor seemed equal in ratio to the vanilla creaminess, which together reminded me of coffee ice cream. I could have dumped my cup’s contents into an ice cream maker, churned for a spell, and transferred the results to a waffle cone for a nice dessert.

As I envisioned this experiment, my mind’s library of useless knowledge released from its archives a lyric from a Beastie Boys song: “I like my sugar with coffee and cream.” If you share the sentiment, the Dunkin’ Frosted Vanilla Donut Signature Latte will be a good match for you: it is sweet, creamy, with elevated vanilla flavor, with extra sweet toppings as the icing on the alleged donut.

Don’t let my ice cream tangent make you think I forgot about the unfulfilled promise of the donut. While combining the longtime colleagues of coffee and donuts into a latte is a fun idea, the resulting product doesn’t remind me of the pastry at all, save their like sweetness. While it may be a sweeter, more dessert-like twist on your usual coffee beverage, the Dunkin’ Frosted Vanilla Donut Signature Latte feels like a missed opportunity for a unique seasonal treat to bask in the summer spotlight.

Purchased Price: $4.39
Size: Small
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 300 calories, 11 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of total carbs, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 39 grams of total sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Lay’s Salsa Fresca Potato Chips

Every time I see a bag of Lay’s potato chips, I am reminded of the brand’s famous slogan, a testament to the enduring brilliance of advertising: “Betcha can’t eat just one!”

While it’s a bet most of us would lose, I have always found tortilla chips and salsa to be the more addictive snack: the salt, the crunch, the heat, the sweet and juicy tomatoes, the urge to eat an entire bowl as your meal at the Mexican restaurant while the waiter casts judgmental glares in your direction!

Merging two snack food kings into one limited edition summer flavor, Lay’s Salsa Fresca potato chips promise a rich, zesty crunch inspired by fresh summer tomato salsa. Betcha can’t eat just half the bag?

Well, there are always loopholes in self-control, and here’s one for this product: it takes somewhere between one and twenty crunches to experience this flavor fully. Deliciously light and crispy, each chip is coated with savory red tomato powder, which is the dominant flavor throughout the bag. The taste reminds me so much of SpaghettiOs—concentrated and a little sweet without being ketchup-like—but I’m not mad about it.

In the first few bites, a faint tickle of spice rises near the back of the throat. Although jalapeños are featured on the packaging, the chip seasoning captures the pepper’s spice without its earthy flavor. The result is a salty, zesty heat that builds, but very slowly. Like a clumsy person navigating an icy sidewalk, it takes its time and risks no fancy footwork. The tickle evolves to broad warmth across the mouth but never gets too intense.

In the aftertaste, I detect some garlic, as well as a little tang. I attribute the tanginess to the sour cream listed in the ingredients, a delicious side in its own right but a curious addition to salsa fresca. Every few chips, the tang turns sharp and vaguely reminds me of lime. Other flavors associated with salsa fresca—like cilantro and onion—are not present.

While the chips represent several key salsa ingredients, the flavors are simple and unfold in stages rather than as one cohesive bite. Overall, the chip is tasty, salty, and snackable, but its flavor is predominantly tomato powder with a building kick.

As a limited edition summer product, Lay’s Salsa Fresca potato chips scratch that salty, snacky itch that plagues me as I wait for my tomato plants to bloom. It’s a fun flavor, but replaceable in my snacking repertoire. I’ll gladly eat more than one (chip), but not more than one (bag).

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 7 3/4 oz (219.7 g) bag
Purchased at: Wegmans
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per serving, about 15 chips) 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Confetti Cake Dipped Cone

A major cornerstone of my life philosophy: I must sprinkle my week with the joy of little treats when I can. What better way to sprinkle joy than with edible confetti?

Dairy Queen agrees with me, and its newest release proves it. The Confetti Cake Dipped Cone is the latest offering in Dairy Queen’s springtime tradition of releasing limited edition dipped cones. Past flavors have included Churro, Fruity Blast, Orange Dreamsicle, and Cotton Candy.

No offense to the past flavors, but Confetti Cake is the perfect flavor for everyday celebrations. Combining butter, sugar, vanilla, and sprinkles, the flavor exemplifies all things sweet, indulgent, and colorful. Unlike its cousin, Birthday Cake, Confetti Cake is not occasion-specific, so you do not need to worry about popped balloons or the crushing weight of how quickly time passes.

I ordered a medium cone and had to take a moment to admire the beauty of the thing. Topped with Dairy Queen’s signature curl, the curvy mounds of vanilla soft serve were generously coated with the confetti cake shell. The shell’s crisp white base, decorated with rainbow flecks, perfectly represented confetti cake. Somehow, the colorful speckles didn’t muddy the white base or add any texture to disturb the absolute smoothness of the dip. The result was so pretty that I need an artist and/or scientist to dismiss my accusations of soft serve sorcery. Maybe Steven H., who made my cone, just knows what the hell he’s doing.

Texturally, the coating was perfect, cracking satisfyingly with each bite before melting away into creamy smoothness. Its flavor, however, was disappointingly one-note. I expected white chocolate or vanilla to flavor the base, but all I could taste was a combination of butter and almond extracts. While the shell was sweet, the perfume-y, artificial quality of the extracts threw off the flavor balance for me.

I almost completely stripped the shell from the cone before I realized what the taste reminded me of. Once, I made homemade buttercream frosting using powdered sugar that was over a year past its best-by date. (This was an accident, of course, not some cruel birthday prank.) The end product was creamy and rich but tasted off, like butter held together by the memory of something sweet. My neglectful baking fail was a much worse offense than the Confetti Cake Dipped Cone, but both experiences ended in disappointment.

When eaten with soft serve, the confetti shell’s flavor was mostly overwhelmed by the ice cream’s coldness. In my eyes, Dairy Queen’s vanilla soft serve is literal perfection, a sweet and creamy dream in any form, so I couldn’t be mad about having that cone in my paw. While the shell itself would rate around 4 out of 10, the ice cream bumped my overall rating up to a squarely-average 5. Colorful sprinkles can brighten up any occasion, but for the Confetti Cake Dipped Cone, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

Purchased Price: $3.89
Size: Medium
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 470 calories, 23 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 43 grams of sugar, and 8 grams of protein

REVIEW: Cheerios Veggie Blends Cereal

As we enter a new year, Cheerios wants to be part of our resolutions with a new line of vegetable-forward cereals called Veggie Blends. Because the brand knows us better than we know ourselves, they’ve chosen to hide the vegetables in our breakfasts.

Cheerios Veggie Blends come in two varieties: Blueberry Banana and Apple Strawberry. Each is made with 1/4 cup of fruit and vegetables per serving. The ingredients include fruit purees as well as spinach, carrot, and sweet potato powders. (The asterisk next to this claim on the front of the box leads to a statement indicating that these ingredients are not intended to replace fruit or vegetables in the diet. In other words, don’t throw away that bag of spinach in the back of your refrigerator just yet.)

The sweetened oat and corn hoops are thinner and flatter than original Cheerios, but they have the same crispy crunch, along with the bonus of natural colors to brighten up your cereal bowl.

The Blueberry Banana variety consists of dark purple and light green hoops. The blueberry flavor is deliciously strong in both taste and smell, conjuring associations of summer blueberry fields and, come winter, startlingly expensive grocery store produce departments. That flavor is concentrated in the purple hoops, which overwhelm the light, natural banana flavor of the green hoops.

When eaten with milk, the cereal maintains its texture really well. However, the blueberry flavor deteriorates, leaving an earthy flavor amidst a bit of sweetness. Never would I mistake this cereal for Carrot-Os in milk, but I liked it much better dry.

I had the reverse experience with the Apple Strawberry variety. When dry, the orange, yellow-green, and purple hoops do not carry much apple or strawberry flavor. They just taste generically fruity. Think of them as the less sweet, less artificial-tasting, but still delicious cousin of Froot Loops. In milk, the fruity flavor becomes more vibrant, but now with an identifiable strawberry element.

When mixed together, the best of both cereals merge to form a confetti of fruity flavor. Highly recommend.

I like Cheerios Veggie Blends better than most flavored Cheerios varieties I’ve had in the past. The Veggie Blends’ flavors — while imprecise — are comparatively stronger without excessive sweetness. In terms of nutrition, the labels of the Veggie Blends and Original Cheerios are very similar. I didn’t detect a great difference in vitamin and mineral content that I might have expected from the Veggie Blends’ hidden fruits and vegetables. However, these added ingredients enhance the cereal’s color and flavor for a more appealing snack or breakfast option.

Both varieties are worth trying, but seriously, don’t forget about that bag of spinach. I know you bought it with good intentions, but it is going to be slimy by tomorrow.

Purchased Price: $4.93 each
Purchased at: Walmart
Size: 18 oz (510 g) Family Size box
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Blueberry Banana), 7 out of 10 (Apple Strawberry)
Nutrition Facts: (per 1 1/4 cup) Blueberry Banana – 150 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. Apple Strawberry – 150 calories, 2 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Black & White Cookie Oreo Cookies

While the phrase “black and white” often connotes unchallenged simplicity, Oreo has instead presented us with the gustatory puzzle of a cookie flavored like a cookie that is technically a cake. Could any dessert be as delicious as the irony?

Whether you know them as black and whites or half moon cookies, the iconic deli staple sweet is the brand’s newest inspiration. Traditional black and white cookies are soft, cakey cookies sleekly coated with vanilla icing on one half and chocolate icing on the other. Limited Edition Black & White Cookie Oreo Cookies consist of golden vanilla wafer cookies and overlapping circles of vanilla and chocolate cremes.

It sounds like a fancy name for a lazy concept — a pet peeve of mine when it comes to product naming. (Unless it has sprinkles and a cherry, it isn’t hot fudge sundae flavored — it’s just chocolate and vanilla!)

Happily, the duo of cremes in this Oreo avoided that naming trap and pleasantly surprised me. The white creme has a distinct vanilla flavor, just like royal icing enhanced by a touch of vanilla extract. I expected to taste Oreo’s traditional white filling, but this creme is very vanilla-forward and less sugary-sweet. The complementary black creme has a deep, almost bittersweet cocoa taste. It is similar to the dark chocolate fillings of Oreo’s past, but not as rich. They are delicious apart, but both cremes together remind me of a black and white cookie in a way that makes “chocolate and vanilla” feel like an inadequate description.

Like the colors black and white, Oreo fans may also be separated into dichotomous categories: those who eat Oreo cookies by twisting the wafers apart to savor the creme first and those who just take a big bite out of the sandwich. Because of the well-flavored filling, B&WC Oreos were made for the first category of tasters. With one bite, the buttery cookies take over, and it is hard to taste the cremes. As a result, the entire cookie becomes just okay instead of special. The golden vanilla wafers were a good choice to represent the cookie’s inspiration dessert, but, like an overcast sky, they hide the understated beauty of the (half) moon.

The enduring success of the original Oreo proves that there is perfection in simplicity. The Limited Edition Black & White Cookie Oreo approaches, but doesn’t quite live up to, that truth. The cookie may have been more successful in the Double Stuf variety, where the filling could really shine. I hope Oreo revisits these cremes before it rushes to develop something more wacky or luxurious because they are too good to be written off as basic.

Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 10.68 oz (303 g) package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (per 2 cookies) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.