REVIEW: The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream

As I walk through the deserted streets, I see empty Golden Corrals, abandoned Chinese buffets, and all-you-can-eat specials replaced with takeout options. What’s a person who wants to eat a large amount of “acceptable” quality food to do?

The Cheesecake Factory!

Unfortunately for me, the nearest Factory is over 100 miles away, and traveling two hours to eat takeout in my car isn’t something I’m desperate enough to do. Yet.

Thankfully, The Cheesecake Factory has released a new line of ice creams inspired by its namesake dessert.

Original

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream Original

This new line of ice cream is off to a strong start. The Original flavor has real cream cheese flavor and tang. The graham cracker crust pieces remain firm and have an appropriately gritty texture.

Eaten by itself, the crust pieces might be too salty, but when mixed with a bit of ice cream it obtains the perfect balance of sweet and salty. As someone who loves a nice slice of rich, dense, sit-like-a-rock-in-your-stomach cheesecake, ice cream can never replace that, but this will do in a pinch.
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Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (124 g serving size) 360 calories, 23 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 29 grams of sugar (including 25 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

Chocolate

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream Chocolate

The Chocolate flavor is less strongly reminiscent of cheesecake. I can taste an underlying acidic bite from the cream cheese and sour cream, but it’s difficult to detect and only barely manages to distinguish this dessert from plain chocolate ice cream. The chocolate fudge swirl adds some interest, but I miss those crust pieces.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (124 g serving size) 330 calories, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 29 grams of sugar (including 26 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

Strawberry

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream Strawberry

There’s not much mystery here. This tastes like strawberry ice cream mixed with Original flavor, and I heartily approve of this simple approach. The richness of the ice cream base mixes well with the slight acid of the fruit.

There are real strawberries mixed in here, so it avoids the off-putting artificial flavor that strawberry ice cream sometimes has. The graham pieces make a triumphant return, and make me wonder if there are snackable graham cracker crust pieces available. Maybe a cookie kind of thing? No, not just graham crackers. Someone should get on that.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (124 g serving size) 350 calories, 21 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 32 grams of sugar (including 28 grams of added sugar), and 3 grams of protein.

Salted Caramel

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream Salted Caramel

The ice cream itself seems only slightly caramel flavored, but when combined with the salted caramel swirl and especially salty graham cracker crust pieces, it’s very salt forward. There’s not as much cheesecake flavor as I’d like, but as with the Chocolate, the cream cheese and sour cream adds a mild tang that manages to set it apart.
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Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (124 g serving size) 370 calories, 22 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 270 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 32 grams of sugar (including 28 grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

Birthday Cake

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream Birthday Cake

Here’s a question: if cheesecake is better than birthday cake (and it is), why would you make a birthday cake-flavored cheesecake? Though I was dubious of the concept, this ice cream has some good qualities.

The sprinkles melted away immediately without leaving waxy residue, and the cake pieces remained firm, with a nice chew. The blue goo swirls were…gooey. The flavor is vanilla, with hints of butter. It really tastes like birthday cake, but once again I feel that the cheesecake character should be taking center stage here, but is lacking.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (124 g serving size) 310 calories, 19 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 29 grams of sugar (including 26 grams of added sugar), and 3 grams of protein.

Cookies & Cream

The Cheesecake Factory at Home Ice Cream Cookies  Cream

I feel like I’m repeating myself, but there’s not enough cheesecake flavor here. This mostly seems like regular cookies and cream ice cream. The cream element allows some of the cream cheese to peak through, but not enough for me. Cheesecake Factory, listen to me: no one looks to you for a nuanced culinary experience. I want to be knocked out by the richness of your decadent desserts, even in an at-home offering.

Oh, and it looks like there are not only cookies pieces here, as is often the case, but full sandwich cookie pieces mixed in. That’s cool.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (124 g serving size) 320 calories, 19 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 28 grams of sugar including 25grams of added sugar), and 4 grams of protein.

Key Lime

Not Available.

Let me ask you, what kind of psychopathic grocery store manager decides to stock six of seven flavors of a new product line? Sure, one might decide to only stock two or three flavors to test the local market, or maybe decide to go all in and order a full complement. But six out of seven? That’s a recipe for a full Moby Dick, Captain Ahab-style obsession with tracking down that last flavor.

I don’t know who’s who in this analogy. Am I the captain here and the store manager Moby Dick? Or is the white whale the Key Lime ice cream? Or am I the whale now, after eating so much ice cream? The point is, I have a new mission is life, and it’s to find new ice cream to eat. So, I guess nothing much has changed…

Overview

I wouldn’t turn any of these flavors away after putting away a giant plate of Cheesecake Factory’s Louisiana Chicken Pasta, several pieces of buttered brown bread, and an Ultimate Margarita or two. In for a penny, in for a pound (or several), after all. Yet, with the exception of the Original flavor and a few others, they don’t set themselves apart from their non-cheesecake flavored alternatives.

Purchased Price: $4.29 each
Size: 14 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Woodman’s Markets

REVIEW: Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel by Monster Energy

Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel

What is Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel?

The new Reign line of energy drinks has a brand extension that promises an even more Xtreme performance boost than its standard offering. Fortified with Branch-Chained Amino Acids, Citrulline, and 300 milligrams of caffeine, Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel makes some big promises, like burning calories and accelerating metabolism. After tasting all three flavors (Red Dragon, True Blu, and Jalapeno Strawberry), I fully expect my mortal frame to combust spontaneously, unable to contain the energies contained therein.

How is it?

Red Dragon

Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel Red Dragon

I didn’t expect their colors to be clear. Reign has seemingly decided to target the consumer who desires to unleash the beast within via scientifically formulated supplementation, but is also very concerned about artificial colors. The flavor tastes of generic red fruit. Strawberry? Cherry? Fruit Punch? Who knows? It tastes red.

True Blu

Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel True Blu

I went into this thinking True Blu would be a blue raspberry flavored, but instead, it tastes like a classic energy drink, very similar to Red Bull. The citric acid adds a puckering tang that always reminds me of Sour Patch Kids gummies. This one will please those who are looking that the classic energy drink kick, but it doesn’t offer something unique.

Jalapeno Strawberry

Reign Inferno Thermogenic Fuel Jalapeno Strawberry

My midwestern taste buds were suspicious of this one going in. Spicy strawberries? What’s next, chili-infused chocolate? Oh wait, that exists. The scent is unexpectedly pungent, and actually caused some nasal irritation, like when you smell horseradish. Conversely, the flavor is quite smooth and pleasant. The sweet berry flavor plays very well with the jalapeno. There’s a very slight spiciness at the end that doesn’t linger.

Is there anything else you need to know?

The True Blu’s flavor transported me back to middle school in the ’90s, when I first tasted Red Bull. It was perhaps the boldest thing I’d ever done in my life to that point (maybe still?).

You have to understand that the ’90s were a different time. The Simpsons was the most audacious, boundary-pushing thing on TV. There wasn’t the internet as we know it, only vague rumors of a kid the next town over who took a sip of Red Bull and then his heart exploded on the spot. I survived the 80 milligrams of caffeine found in an 8-ounce can of Red Bull. In comparison, Reign Inferno contains 300 milligrams per serving, which is only a portion of my daily caffeine intake. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Conclusion:

Other than their high caffeine content, Red Dragon and True Blu don’t offer anything new. Their flavors will be familiar to energy drink aficionados. Jalapeno Strawberry was a surprise and provided a pleasant flavor combination.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 16 FL OZ.
Purchased at: Woodman’s Market
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Red Dragon), 5 out of 10 (True Blu), 8 out of 10 (Jalapeno Strawberry)

Nutrition Facts: (1 can) Jalapeno Strawberry and True Blu – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 0 gram of protein, 2% Potassium, 120% Vitamin B6, 130% Niacin (Vitamin B3), and 250% Vitamin B12. Red Dragon – 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 0 gram of protein, 2% Potassium, 120% Vitamin B6, 130% Niacin (Vitamin B3), and 250% Vitamin B12.

REVIEW: Mountain Dew Zero Sugar

Mountain Dew Zero Sugar

What is Mountain Dew Zero Sugar?

PepsiCo has released Mountain Dew Zero Sugar, a new formulation with 0 calories and 0 sugar. Wait, what’s going on here? Isn’t there already Diet Mountain Dew?

Calorie and sugar-conscious consumers may have noticed some weirdness with the calorie counts for various sizes of Diet Mountain Dew. A 12-ounce can will have 0 calories, but larger serving sizes will have 5, or even 10 calories.

This is because the FDA requires companies to round to the nearest 5 calories, with anything below 5 calories per serving able to be stated as 0. If these calories and carbs have been a barrier from choosing PepsiCo’s citrus soda, this is the Dew for you.

How is it?

The question of Mountain Dew Zero Sugar isn’t how it compares to regular Mountain Dew, but how it stands next to Diet Dew. To test this, I poured a sample of each and carefully considered their attributes.

Mountain Dew Zero Sugar Comparison

The color is identical, though I detected a slightly sharper citrus scent in the Zero Sugar sample. I take a sip of each, being sure to aspirate the beverage and thereby allowing the aerosolized droplets to fully coat my palate. This reveals the samples to have very similar flavors. There’s a rounder flavor to the original Diet Dew, with Zero Sugar once again being a bit more acidic. I suspect the small amount of concentrated orange juice in the original formula accounts for this.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Mountain Dew Zero Sugar Closeup

My careful organoleptic analysis revealed some subtle differences that will be clear to the mindful drinker. The flaw here is that no one actually sips Mountain Dew. No, Mountain Dew is meant to be chugged while snowboarding down some sick powder, brah, or perhaps while pwning some n00bs in Call of Duty.

I would’ve liked to replicate those conditions, but I can’t snowboard and am terrible at competitive video games. Instead, I slammed down a glass of each while playing Death Stranding and as a snow plow added to the grey pile of slush in front of my driveway.

They taste the same.

Conclusion:

Mountain Dew Zero Sugar succeeds at removing an obstacle for calorie and sugar-conscious drinkers from Doing the Dew without sacrificing Diet Dew’s flavor.

Purchased Price: $2.68
Size: 16.9 oz (6 bottles)
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 9 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: General Mills Jolly Rancher Cereal

General Mills Jolly Rancher Cereal

What is Jolly Rancher Cereal?

Regular readers of The Impulsive Buy will have noticed in recent years the bounty of breakfast cereals based on other sweet confections. Whether it be Twinkies, Pop-Tarts, or Dippin’ Dots, there seems to be no limit to manufactures’ desire to rebrand known properties into something that will fit in a bowl.

The latest is General Mills’ Jolly Rancher Cereal. A hard candy doesn’t seem like a natural candidate to convert to breakfast time (we get these before Ding Dong or Ho Hos cereal?), but let’s see if The Big G can move these from the office candy bowl to the kitchen cereal bowl.

How is it?

General Mills Jolly Rancher Cereal Dry

Upon opening, I can tell these are going to be more than a rebranded Trix. There’s a tangy scent that I’ve never encountered in a cereal before. I pour a measured 36 gram portion into my bowl and am once again disappointed at how small a suggested serving of cereal is.

General Mills Jolly Rancher Cereal Wet

As I pour in the milk, I notice that the cereal pieces are more pillow-shaped than the spherical pieces on the front of the box. The flavor has some of the tang I detected, and that really works to remind me of the cereal’s candy namesake. Each different fruit piece has a distinct flavor, though you can’t really tell in a mixed spoon. The green apple has an especially nice green apple flavor.

Is there anything else you need to know?

I have to admit I’ve never really cared for the original Jolly Rancher candy. It’s amazing how they manage to take an ordinary flavory like “cherry” and make it taste just a little bit weird, like the manufacture gave free rein to the guy who designed the artificial watermelon flavor.

Still, I have to admit this cereal somewhat won me over. Most fruit cereals only manage to be overly sweet and generically “fruity.” These manage to offer a more distinct fruit flavor, at least if you manage to get a spoonful of a single flavor. Which I did. Multiple times. Because I live a full and interesting life.

Conclusion:

I’m not going to wake up excited to have my bowl of Jolly Ranchers, but it’s a good option if you’re looking to change things up. I have a feeling that we’re at peak novelty cereal, so I don’t know how long these will last on store shelves. Give them a try.

Purchased Price: $3.64
Size: 18.7 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (36 grams) 140 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Cookies & Creme Twix (2019)

Twix Cookies  Creme  2019

What is Cookies & Creme Twix?

Even ‘90s kids may not remember Cookies-N-Crème Twix, released for a short time in 1990. While not as cheeky as Oreo releasing a cookies and crème flavored Oreo a few years back, I have to wonder if Mars R&D had some real inside-the-box thinkers working there back in the 90s. Can a cookies and crème flavored cookie bar distinguish itself in the crowded modern candy market?

How is it?

Twix Cookies  Creme  2019 Out

These mini Twix are the perfect size for popping whole into your mouth, and but I restrain myself and bite one in half. There’s a nice crunch from the chocolate cookie and chocolate flavor from the coating, but the crème doesn’t make much of an impact.

Twix Cookies  Creme  2019 Innards

There are little cookie bits inside it, and that seems wrong. There’s already a cookie base! It may seem I’m making a sharing-sized issue out of a bite-sized matter, but it seems representative of the problem with this bar. Instead of making a great creme filling, Mars threw a typical cookie-and-crème filling in and called it a day.

Is there anything else you need to know?

I may razz Mars for its conservative approach to the Twix brand, but in truth I appreciate it. At a time when many manufacturers are in a race to wow consumers with more and more outlandish offerings (did anyone really want Swedish Fish Oreo cookies or Pecan Pie Pringles?), I like that Twix can be counted on to keep it with simple with various combinations of chocolate, cookie, caramel, and maybe peanut butter if we’re feeling frisky.

The problem with Cookies & Crème Twix is that the crème is unremarkable. If it had been able to distinguish itself in some way, this candy bar might work. As it stands, I’d rather have some caramel or peanut butter.

Conclusion:

Cookies & Crème Twix are unexceptional and actually offer a lesser taste experience than the brand’s more typical offerings.

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.7 oz. Sharing size bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 3 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3 cookies) 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 13 grams of sugar (including 12 grams added sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Salted Caramel Milky Way

Milky Way Salted Caramel

What is Salted Caramel Milky Way?

I’m of two minds when it comes to salted caramel. On the one hand, “We added salt!” seems like the absolute bare minimum a company can do to differentiate its product. On the other, salt is a magic rock that makes everything taste better, and salted caramel demonstrates this particularly well.

Mars’ latest addition to its famed Milky Way line of products is the Salted Caramel Milky Way. According to the nutrition facts, a typical Milky Way 2 to Go bar has 75 milligrams of sodium, and this one has 170. Will adding 95 milligrams of rock be enough to rise above the competition?

How is it?

Unlike the more gourmet salted caramels that you might find, there are no salt flakes on the outside of these bars – they look like plain Milky Ways. As I bite into the bar, the saltiness is striking but not overwhelming. I’ve always found Milky Ways to be a bit too sweet, so it takes a fair bit of saltiness to balance it out.

Milky Way Salted Caramel 2

I take another bite and am surprised at the crunch. If this was a plain Milky Way, visions of insect endoskeletons and other foreign objects being ground into nougat would flash through my mind. In a salted caramel confection, it’s very pleasant. Context is everything. There may be not salt flakes on the outside, but they’re somewhere.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Given the vivid salty crunch, I expected to see some sizable flakes mixed in to the caramel, but close inspection doesn’t reveal any. This makes me think the caramel itself may not be the salted component in this bar.

But how to isolate the famously ooey-gooey bar into its constituent parts? The results of my freezer + meat mallet solution can be seen below.

Milky Way Salted Caramel Shattered

Picking through the shards of candy, I taste some bits that are mostly caramel and mostly nougat and am convinced that this is actually a “Salted Nougat Milky Way.” Salted Nougat sounds like the kind of weird old-fashioned candy that your grandfather ate at the 1904 World’s Fair, so it’s understandable that Mars went with the more popular Salted Caramel moniker.

Conclusion:

The Salted Caramel Milky Way bar is an excellent addition to the Milky Way line. It’s noticeably salty with crunchy bits, which may be off-putting for some, but if you’re a fan of salted caramel, you’ll love it.

Purchased Price: $1.48
Size: 3.16 oz.
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 bar) 210 calories, 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar (including 25 grams added sugar), and 2 gram of protein.