REVIEW: Lindt Lindor Limited Edition Red Velvet Truffles

Lindt Lindor Limited Edition Red Velvet Truffles

Like an escape hatch hidden behind a library bookshelf in the 19th medieval literature section, red velvet cake is so much more than it seems. It is what chocolate cake would be if it were recruited as a spy, stealthily dying its natural brown cake a burnt red and shunning its chocolate frosted exterior for a plain, smooth buttercream, possibly even with some cream cheese added in (scandalous!).

But we know that these red dyes and swirly buttercreams are just fancy looks, right? At its heart, red velvet cake is still just a humble, fudgy chocolate cake, and I don’t mess around when it comes to chocolate cake. These little Lindt truffles are no exception: I want nothing short of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate…oh yeah, and a dab of buttercream. Bring forth your cocoa-iest, Lindt!

Lindt Lindor Limited Edition Red Velvet Truffles 2

Let us pause to celebrate Lindt’s interactive packaging. Not only does bursting open the bag bring forth smells of sugar and milk chocolate, but the act of unwrapping and beholding one of the white chocolate orbs provides you with a warm bubbly feeling and sense of accomplishment. It’s similar to the sensation of completing all 256 secret levels in Super Mario Brothers, only without golden coins, Luigi, or the need to defeat a spikey-shelled turtle creature with anger problems.

Chomping down, there’s an immediate crackle from the white chocolate shell, which leans more on the “Buttercream” rather than the “Cream Cheese” side of the Frosting Spectrum (very scientific). The insides are smooth and, I’m pleased to discover, taste like actual chocolate.

Sure, there’s some red dye going on, saturated fat out the wazoo, and vegetable oil helping it all hold together, but it graciously doesn’t obstruct from the rich, milk chocolate flavor sustained here. It ends up being about a 30:70 flavor ratio between the white chocolate “buttercream” flavor and milk chocolate fudgy flavor and, while I’m not sure what recipe, ingredient, or Harry Potter magic made this so intensely chocolate-cakey, I approve of it.

Lindt Lindor Limited Edition Red Velvet Truffles 3

Having had far too many dry, crusty red velvet cakes in recent years, I confess I underestimated these truffles. While this isn’t the truffle I expected, it’s unquestionably a delicious one and I will happily finish the bag. They have crisp white chocolate, fudgy insides, and, when looked at in a certain light, turn your tongue red.

Oh, and they taste solid: sweet, white-and-milk chocolatey, a tad earthy, very sweet with a crunchy shell and smoothy-groovy insides. In this, Lindt proves that there is no need to have such a noisy fuss over cake. Indeed, you can avoid the oven and actually find something not only decent, but absolutely delicious.

So, if you want some cake without the flour, hassle, waiting, or just want to eat something smaller than a manhole cover, now you can join the over five million people who talk to their therapist about their mild addiction to red velvet on a weekly basis.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 truffles – 220 calories, 160 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 6 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crispy shell. Smooth, fudgy insides. Actual white chocolate used. Turns tongue red (sorta). Cake without an oven. Escape hatches hidden behind library shelves. Warm bubbly feelings attained by completing 256 levels of Super Mario Brothers.
Cons: Will disappoint cream cheese lovers. Questionable red dye. Oodles of saturated fat. Awkward discussions with therapist about red velvet cake addiction. Spikey-shelled turtle creature with an anger problems.

REVIEW: Reese’s Popped Snack Mix

Reese s Popped Snack Mix

3 hours.

2 Netflix marathons.

1 snack mix to rule them all.

And as one who has come to understand her entire cinematic history through the haze of popcorn, pretzels, and candy-coated pieces, this newfangled Reese’s snack mix, with its images of poofs, pops, and peanut-infused delights, holds deep hope…and with that hope, the inherent danger of disappoint. But let us not be swayed by fear of defeat! If you, like me, have ever wondered what it would be like to have the concession stand throw your Reese’s in your popcorn bucket and drizzle it in chocolate, now is your time! Rise up! Get thee to the Target! Destiny awaits…

Reese s Popped Snack Mix 2

And destiny does not disappoint.

Crunchy, poofy, crispity, fudgy, melty, snappy, and all around chompity, this mix has enough textures to push Snap, Crackle, and Pop into retirement. The popcorn serves as the snacky backdrop and is voluminous, distinctly crisp, and drizzled in fudgy chocolate goo. The pretzels (which tend to be throwaways for me) are refreshingly crunchy and have solid speckles of salt.

On the sweeter side of things, the plentiful mini Reese’s cups dot the snack landscape like so many Super Mario coins, providing at least one or two bursts of chocolate and peanut butter in each handful, while the giant, mildly mutated candy-coated peanuts are more like Dragon Coins: a bit rarer, but, when you find them, they bring a wallop of flavor as they’re doused in sweet, sweet peanut butter. Basically, they’re a Peanut M&M, but in Reese’s Pieces form.

The peanut butter used throughout has that wonderfully distinct Reese’s grit that strikes a common ground between creamy and crunchy peanut butters. Taken as a whole, the experience will delight to the extent that you may find yourself asking: How can I better integrate this mad science into my daily life?

A great question! Let’s see what we can do. Let me just take a look at the ingredients…

Reese s Popped Snack Mix 3

Do you see that? Wheat! Milk! Nuts! This stuff is basically a confused granola bar, that great king of go-to snacks, making it perfect for absolutely any occasion that strikes your fancy. Plus, it’s totally good for you. Trust me. I’ve dated a doctor.

Reese s Popped Snack Mix 4

Let us not hesitate to celebrate the simple genius that is the combination of crunchity peanut butter and creamy, sweet chocolate. While not revolutionary, this mix is delicious enough to make even the most despised movie sequel moderately enjoyable. It’s chocolatey, salty, crunchy, sweet, peanut buttery goodness, all freshly sealed and ready to roll. If you’re frustrated with current snack mix varieties, don’t punch a hole in the wall! Go out and get you some therapy, then celebrate your newfound sense of self-worth with some Reese’s Popped Snack Mix. You will have no regrets.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 130 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Good amount of Reese’s Cups. GIANT, charmingly mutated, peanut-filled Reese’s Pieces. Not too many pretzels. May inspire newfound sense of self-worth. Super Mario.
Cons: Lots of popcorn…maybe too much? Would love more giant Reese’s Pieces. Makes you think of 18,000 other Reese’s-themed things that could go in a snack mix. Disappointing movie sequels. Thinking about Snap, Crackle, and Pop’s retirement home.

REVIEW: Hostess Bakeshop CupCake Cookies

Hostess Bakeshop CupCake Cookies

Everyone has a soulmate snack cake. The one sugary, refined, packaged, and questionably delicious baked good that, despite what logic, fortune cookies, retrogrades of mercury, physician advice, and foreboding messages written in your toast imply, you adore. From SnoBalls to Zingers, Cosmic Brownies to Donettes, we all are star-crossed and bound to one.

And, while I may have had a few flings with a Star Crunch — and maybe a Zebra Cake or two — okay, I love them all. But today my heart’s matched to the Hostess CupCake. Who can resist the oddly fudgy cake? The sugary icing floof? The chocolatey ganache with eight sugary squiggles you can gobble right off the top??

And now they come in cookie form, which, as we well know this is the equivalent of the muffin top of the pastry world, doused in fudge and oozing with icing. I’m hungry just typing that. Let’s dive in!

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Texture-wise, this cookie’s a winner. It’s more cake-like than crispity-crunchity and deftly walks the line between being both fudgy and more fluffy-wuffy than a bunny sleeping on a TempurPedic in a field of dandelions. That fluffy-wuffiness (using scientific terms today) serves the cookie well as it contrasts with the smooth, crisp coating and sugary squiggle.

And the smell only makes everything better. Right out of the package, aromas of chocolate burst out like 15,000 ponies cascading into a Roman Coliseum. It smells of sugar! And cocoa! And that bizarre nutty-coffee sweetness that comes at the end of Dove dark chocolate! (Is there a name for this? Professional Linguist turned Chocolate Connoisseur: please help!)

That said, this top-notch smell doesn’t fully carry over when it comes to flavor. In fact, the cake tastes of very little: mainly flour, but also a hint of cocoa and Maxwell instant coffee. The chocolate coating helps things out by the hair of its chinny chin-chin.

It’s sugar-forward and tastes like Hershey’s milk chocolate while the sugary squiggle tastes of sugar… and maybe a hint of marshmallow? And while I was bummed to discover there was no fluffy icing filling inside (cue the sad tubas!), the coating itself is definitely a step up from that in the typical Hostess CupCake… although I’m pretty sure you could wax a car with that stuff.

Hostess Bakeshop CupCake Cookies 3

All in all, these buggers end up tasting like those soft-baked Snackwell’s chocolate cookies: a not-so-exciting cake with a sugary, semi-chocolatey icing. While they were tasty enough, I found myself dreaming nostalgically of that fluffy white filling in a regular Hostess CupCake. Without it, the cake lacks pizazz.

If you give these a whirl, I encourage smooshing two cookies together with ice cream and/or questionably emulsified (but impossibly delicious) whipped topping to mimic the effect. Without that? These will be but mediocre, and you deserve better than mediocre, dear reader! Do not settle for bland cookies. Otherwise, there will be sadness, the ship will be down, the Titanic will be sunk, and you will be floating on a makeshift raft made out of a door as you talk nonsense to your frozen lover while Celine Dion sings over flute music in the moonlight, and no matter how long you say, “I’ll never let go,” you gotta let go.

So I’m letting go of you, Hostess CupCake Cookies. Or at least not buying you again without a Costco-sized vat of whipped topping. I may have built you up as lofty dreams in my head, but, as Celine Dion prophesized in 1998, “my heart will go on and ooooon.”

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookie – 110 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 1 pack/10 cookies
Purchased at: Von’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fudgy, fluffy cookie texture. Chocolatey icing. Squiggles! 15,000 ponies cascading into a Roman Coliseum.
Cons: No fluffy filling. Chocolatey smell doesn’t fully carry over in flavor. Not-so-exciting cake flavor of flour and cheap coffee. May have Celine Dion song stuck in head for the rest of the day.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Watermelon and Cherry Haribo Gold-Bears

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears

What is it about Haribo gummies?

They’re always especially fruity. It’s as if a Fruit Roll-Up got bitten by a mutant Gusher, morphed into a carnivorous mammal, and had its DNA enhanced with fruity powers that allow it to shoot delicious, sugar-laden laser beams from its squishy eyes.

So mark me excited when I saw that there were not one, but THREE new flavors out: Cherry, Green Apple, and Watermelon, all in a race to be the next Haribo Bear.

Now, before we get into tasting, I would regret not mentioning how difficult these gummies seem to be to find. The Green Apple? Seems to not even exist within a 30-mile radius from Los Angeles, proving itself more obscure and elusive than a 1979 Boba Fett action figure. If you find them, stock up and watch as you make yourself a mini fortune on eBay. (Yes, I will be your customer.)

In good fortune, I finally tracked down the Watermelon and Cherry at the checkout aisle of a fringe Walgreens. Let’s see how they stack up.

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 2

Right out of the package, the beary gems have a perfect stretchy, squishy bounce. For a second there, I wasn’t sure if I should eat them or pile them together and make a mattress to sleep on.

(You should eat them. Just FYI.)

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 4

Behold! The Watermelon bear!

This guy tumbles from the pack, pinker than a flamingo wearing a cotton candy muumuu in the Barbie aisle. A little sour, a little tart, a little flowery, and a little I-don’t-knowy, the taste of this bear must be what happens when a Watermelon Jolly Rancher gets squishified with a Strawberry Starburst.

It’s got a bit of sourness without veering into the “Warhead” zone and has a lightness, sweetness, and unseasonal summery joy that’s welcome in this January chill. Good show, Watermelon bear!

Now, to our next contender: Cherry.

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 3

Witness the Cherry. He is a simple fruity ursine. Squidgy and soft like his Watermelon brethren, he comes in a humble shade of mahogany that would make Franken Berry blush. The taste is reminiscent of what might happen if a bottle of grandma’s cranberry juice got sneezed on by a box of Cherry Jell-O: extremely tart, a little bitter, a smidge cough-syrupy, and barely sweet.

I had been hoping for a brighter, more sugary riff closer to a Sonic Cherry Limeade or a Cherry Jolly Rancher, so this version hinges toward being too tart for my tastes. I’d also like to pretend I have a more sophisticated palate than someone who adores sugary, maraschino-laden flavors, but who am I kidding? I’m more likely to have a flying magical moose drop a diamond-encrusted Dyson vacuum on my head.

Limited Edition Haribo Watermelon and Cherry Gold-Bears 5

So, at the end of the day, while the Cherry did fine, I’m giving my vote to Watermelon. It’s a bright, summery flavor, doesn’t taste like cough syrup, and will go smashingly with the lemon, raspberry, orange, strawberry, pineapple, and, lime they’ve already got rolling in the line.

But I also have an astronomically high tolerance for sugar. At $1 per package, I say give them a go and see what you think. You may love them. You may throw them against the wall. You may have profound revelations equivalent to kissing the philosophy of Albert Camus in the candy aisle. Who knows? Go forth! Find out! The great unknown awaits!

(Nutrition Facts – 17 pieces – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1 each (on sale)
Size: 4 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Watermelon)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Cherry)
Pros: Squishy enough to make a mattress with. Cherry could make Franken Berry blush. Watermelon is sweet enough to provide summer in the middle of January. Fruitiness is equivalent to a Fruit Roll-Up bitten by a mutant Gusher.
Cons: Cherry tastes like Cherry Jell-O and grandma’s cranberry juice. Being unable to find Green Apple. Realizing that I have the palate of a 3-year-old. Having a flying magical moose drop a diamond-encrusted Dyson vacuum on your head.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Quasar Bar

Trader Joe's Quasar Bar

Each Halloween, we are given an invitation to be That Place.

You know. The one at the top of the hill with the full-sized Take 5’s and Reese’s Pumpkins that’s decked out with trap doors, creaky porch stairs, and an abandoned basement that’s haunted by Captain Windemere, the one-eyed Disc Jockey who refused to play special requests.

That Place? Is the coolest place in town.

And you and me? We could be That Place. But first, we gotta find, taste, and stock up on the best full-sized candy out there.

So it is that, in a spot of convenient timing, Trader Joe’s gives us not one, but TWO full-sized candy bars to consider for the occasion: the Quasar and the Boffo, here to compete with Milky Way Midnight and Snickers. The Milky Way-ish Quasar is the first runner up for consideration. Let’s see how it goes.

Trader Joe's Quasar Bar 2

In a shape that may or may not look like the CTA-102 qausi-stellar object, this bar sports an impressively smooth coating that tastes of fudge, coffee, and Dove semisweet chocolate while the nougat provides an earthy fluffiness that reminds me of a malted milkshake. The caramel rounds things off with a hefty dose of stretchy toasted sugar. Taken together, there’s fluff, snap, and stretch, which sounds like it came straight from Richard Simmons’ 1995 classic, “Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2: An Aerobic Concert.”

And while that’s all well and good, it’s time for the true test: Milky Way Midnight v. Quasar.

FIGHT!

Trader Joe's Quasar Bar 3

First off, who needs carbon dioxide and stardust? If I’m reading this right, our universe is made of chocolate, caramel, and nougat, which makes me want to quit my job and hop on-board the next spaceship. Look out NASA! Here I come!

Confectionary-driven occupational transitions aside, let us put our science cap on and compare the differences.

Biting in, the Milky Way is softer and fluffier than our Trader Joe’s compatriot. The caramel is thin, but powerful in its toasted-sugar-and-vanilla way. The dark chocolate, on the other hand, serves as little more than a crispy shell that tastes of air, wood shavings, and disappointment. The center nougat works double-time in hopes to make up for the chocolate by giving us a double punch of bright vanilla, but it can’t quite edge out what’s been lost in the chocolate.

On a second chomp of the Quasar, the nuances are front and center. Alongside the malt, sugar, and chocolate, there are hints of brown sugar and toffee in the caramel while the milk chocoltiness of the nougat and the semi-sweetiness of the coating balance off each other in a way that would make Count Chocula jealous. The nougat takes a little more jaw work than its competition, but the chocolate is richer and the caramel is stretchier. Without a doubt, Quasar, you are my new Milky Way.

Trader Joe's Quasar Bar 4

Everything I know about Quasars I learned from Professor Higgins, Power Rangers, and these bars, and, while spatial distortions of gravity, magical swords, and chocolate bars seem dissimilar, they are connected by their capacity for their sheer, unlimited awesomeness. This bar reinforces that: the chocolate is just sweet enough, the caramel is stretchy, and the nougat is fluffy and light. In flavor, texture, and sheer “I want to eat that again,” the Quasar gobbles up the Milky Way Midnight, not even looking back as it cleans its teeth with a toothpick.

But are they good enough to make me That Place this year? I have hope.

Now I just need to find the ghost of a one-eyed Disc Jockey…

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 220 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 1.8 oz
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Balance of milk and dark chocolate flavors. Thick, stretchy caramel. My new Milky Way. Quasar CTA-102. “Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2: An Aerobic Concert.”
Cons: Nougat takes some jaw work. Making Count Chocula jealous. The ghosts of Disc Jockeys who refuse to play special requests.