REVIEW: Java Monster Swiss Chocolate

Java Monster Swiss Chocolate

What is the Java Monster Swiss Chocolate?

It promises “the taste of Swiss chocolate paired with premium coffee and cream and supercharged with our Monster Energy Blend.” It’s currently a Dollar General exclusive flavor.

How is it?

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When poured, the color is the same as heavily creamed coffee, with a scent to match. The java flavor is strong without being overpowering. It’s not as tooth-cracklingly sweet as some other pre-made coffee beverages I’ve had, though it still has a “syrupy” character.

As a regular energy drink consumer, I’m on the lookout for that medicinal energy drink aftertaste, the one that makes it seem like the manufacturer crushed up a multivitamin into your drink. I detect some, but it’s so small that it could easily be a sense memory of the hundreds of other energy drinks I’ve had.

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The chocolate flavor is very slight. I don’t want to alarm you, but it’s possible the chocolate element in this beverage actually has no connection at all to Switzerland, and “Swiss” was added to the name in an attempt to brand the product as more exotic and exciting than it really is. Shocking, I know. There’s so little of it here that I don’t think it deserves top billing, naming-wise.

Is there anything else you need to know?

I usually drink my coffee hot, so I was curious what would happen if I heated this in the microwave for a few seconds. I’m secretly hoping the added thermal energy will have some strange alchemical effect and transmute the Monster Energy Blend into a Jekyll/Hyde concoction, allowing me to unleash the beast within.

Alas, the beast must remain chained, as heating only has the effect of making it hotter. If anything, the heat distracts from the already very slight Monster Energy Blend flavor, turning this into a plain hot cup of joe.

Conclusion:

Java Monster Swiss Chocolate delivers a decent coffee flavor with a slight chocolate note. It’s not bad but doesn’t separate itself from a hundred other options.

Purchased Price: $2.10
Size: 15 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Dollar General
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 210 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 500 milligrams of potassium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 35 of sugar, and 8 grams of protein.

QUICK REVIEW: Lindt Limited Edition Snickerdoodle White Chocolate Truffles

Lindt Limited Edition Snickerdoodle White Chocolate Truffles

What are Lindt Snickerdoodle White Chocolate Truffles?

In search of a seasonal treat that didn’t involve pumpkin, spices, peppermint, or any of the usual suspects, I came across Lindt’s Snickerdoodle White Chocolate Truffles. After years of spiced lattes and eggnog mochas, I’m ready for something different.

These truffles have a snickerdoodle-flavored white chocolate ganache center surrounded by a white chocolate shell with cookie inclusions.

Lindt Limited Edition Snickerdoodle White Chocolate Truffles 2

How are they?

Clearly, these won’t appeal to the white-chocolate-isn’t-really-chocolate-and-shouldn’t-exist crowd, but those grinches would probably object to snickerdoodle being called a seasonal flavor in the first place.

Lindt Limited Edition Snickerdoodle White Chocolate Truffles 3

Both the shell and center have a flavor reminiscent of speculoos cookies, which are like fancy European snickerdoodles made with brown sugar and spices. The cookie pieces remain crispy and add a bit of crunch, something I usually don’t care for in my chocolate. In this case, it brought to mind the eponymous cookie, so I didn’t mind.

Is there anything else you need to know?

Pro Tip: Maximize your enjoyment of these truffles by not munching down on them like they’re M&Ms. Pop one in and let your body heat melt the outer shell. By the time that happens, the ganache center will also have begun to melt, and then burst out in a flavor avalanche. Yes, I’ve put too much thought into this, but I’m serious about my chocolate.

Conclusion:

These truffles don’t taste like grandma’s snickerdoodles, which might disappoint some. Personally, I’ll take the deeper, more complex flavor of a speculoos over an ordinary snickerdoodle anytime. (Sorry, Grandma.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 6 oz. package
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3 truffles) 220 calories, 17 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 15 grams of total sugars includes 12 grams of added sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Halo Top Peanut Butter & Jelly Ice Cream

Halo Top Peanut Butter  Jelly Ice Cream

The existence of high-protein, low-calorie ice cream is a point of dispute in my family. I mean, no one thinks that the pint sitting in the freezer is a mere illusion, only that it shouldn’t exist.

The entire point of ice cream is that it’s an indulgent calorie-bomb. The most thought one should give to an ice cream’s caloric content is to purposefully turn the nutrition facts away as you scoop out a second serving, some say.

Back when these healthy ice creams more resembled frozen protein shakes than real ice cream, I tended to agree. Then Halo Top came along and introduced a product that made me say, “Hey, this isn’t that bad.” That may seem like faint praise, but Halo Top has been a regular part of my diet ever since, so I was excited to taste the new Peanut Butter & Jelly flavor.

The people at Halo Top recommend letting the pint soften a bit by letting it sit out a few minutes before eating. As a practiced hand at eating these pints, I can confirm these instructions should be followed; otherwise you’ll need an ice pick. By which I mean you should toss it in the microwave for a few seconds (remove the foil top first). I’m hungry now, and if I had any self-control I wouldn’t need to stock my freezer with this stuff!

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A fairly uniform white surface presents itself upon uncovering. I was hoping for some distinct ribbons of peanut butter and jelly to swirl themselves throughout the pint, but at most there are some vaguely brownish areas. This is disappointing, and it doesn’t get any better as I dig through the container. I’m willing to forgive this and still have high hopes. Some may eat with their eyes first, but I mostly eat with my mouth. How does it taste?

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I scoop a measured, sensible portion into a bowl, cover the rest, and place it back in the freezer for a later time.

This is a lie.

I ate the entire pint! That’s the entire point of Halo Top. Remember: no self-control.

Readers shouldn’t take my weakness of character as a statement of unrestrained endorsement. I like it because there’s a strong peanut flavor, and the jelly has enough tartness to make it interesting.

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There are some shortcomings, however. The flavor immediately reminds me of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but in an indistinct way. There’s jelly, but I have no idea what kind. There’s not really peanut butter in it, but more of a peanut butter essence throughout. It’s peanutbutterandjelly flavored. The gritty texture is an issue as well, and it doesn’t go away no matter how soft it gets.

Is Halo Top as good as Haagen-Dazs? No, of course not. It’s as good as that ice cream that comes in the giant gallon bucket. Generally speaking, that’s good enough for me. This flavor succeeds by tasting as it should but is one of Halo Top’s lesser attempts. Try it if you’re already a fan, but it won’t change anyone’s mind.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 90 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 4 grams of sugar alcohol, and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.59
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at:
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a peanut and butter sandwich.
Cons: Indistinct flavor. Gritty texture.

REVIEW: Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookies

Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookie

I was watching the Food Network recently, and one of the dozens of “Best of…” programs was featuring State Fair food. I hadn’t been to so much as a county fair in a long time, so I was not mentally prepared for the monuments to gluttony that I saw.

The last time I checked, funnel cake with powdered sugar or maybe an extra long churro was peak-indulgence. I’m not complaining, but we’re living in a world with fried cheesecake hot fudge sundaes topped with caramel, pralines, brownie pieces, and whipped cream, so I needed to reorient my worldview.

When I saw Oreo’s new Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookies at Walmart, I knew I had to try to try them. Can the State Fair experience be recreated at home?

Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookie 2

There are two cooking instructions on the box, conventional and microwave oven, so in the interest of experiencing everything these cookies had to offer, I tried both methods. The conventional oven preparation is pictured on the left and microwave on the right. I’m pleased that neither preparation has resulted in Oreo Crème leaking out the sides. I get inordinately angry at burst filling.

Right out of the oven, the scent immediately reminds me of french toast sticks. That’s a bit…strange, but not too off-putting. As I bite into it, my first impression is of chicken nuggets.

What?

No, the sharp chocolaty sweetness is quickly apparent, followed by the filling’s mild creaminess. So, they taste like Oreo cookies, but what’s going on here? Both the conventional and microwave oven samples share the same aroma, and I realize that what I’m detecting the ubiquitous essence that all deep fried and frozen snacks share, like fryer oil that should’ve been changed sooner. These also have the soggy breading that is the fate of so many other freezer-to-oven items.

Oreo Chocolate Crunch State Fair Cookie 3

These are not the little morsels of bliss that I was hoping for, so I decide to deconstruct them in an effort to see where everything went wrong. The crème is ordinary Oreo filling that thankfully never gets too hot or melty. (Imagine burning your tongue on molten crème filling.) The Oreo cookie is plain Oreo cookie that’s a bit soggy. The breading is plain breading that, despite the name, doesn’t taste like chocolate and never gets very crunchy. Combine all this and you get something that’s edible, but doesn’t even surpass common Oreo cookies, much less something you could get at a State Fair.

In the end, these State Fair Oreo Cookies are a bit disappointing. Perhaps Food Network programming has set my expectations for decadence too high. Will normal deserts now turn to ash in my mouth, forcing me to seek ever-loftier sensual delights until the line between pleasure and pain, virtue and vice are blurred? I dunno, but normal Oreo still taste pretty good, so I’m probably safe.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cookies – 130 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Warm Oreo Crème doesn’t leak out the sides and is very tasty.
Cons: Odd-yet-familiar deep-fried frozen item scent and flavor. Doesn’t get very crisp even in a very hot oven.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel

There are a few childhood joys that I vividly remember: snow days, skipping math class, faking a sick day, etc.

You get the idea.

Almost nothing could make me happier as a child than neglecting my education. The only thing that came close was seeing that mom had decided to splurge on Toaster Strudels instead of the unfrosted store brand Pop-Tart knock-offs that she usually bought. You got to frost them yourself! They were virtually fine dining in a toastable format.

It’s been years since I’ve eaten a Toaster Strudel, so I was excited to try Pillsbury’s new Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudels. The box promises that they’re “Like a donut, but even better!” That’s a strong statement, but given my childhood affection for the pastries, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, even if it does come from a piece a sentient dough like the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Toasting the strudels for the manufacturer’s recommended 1 to 2 cycles at low to medium heat results nicely browned pastry. Even better is the sizzling sound they make while toasting. I don’t know if these can replicate a true donut flavor, but a little bit of fried taste would go a long way towards convincing me.

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel 2

I tried to recreate the frosting face from the box, but it got just as messy and disfigured as one might expect. It always frustrated me as a kid that I couldn’t get the frosting to look as lovely as on the box. It’s why I eventually just began to eat the frosting separately… Ok, that’s a lie. I ate the frosting separately because I couldn’t wait for the toaster to pop up. I would’ve failed the marshmallow test.

The first bite doesn’t disappoint. The crust is flaky and crisp, and there is indeed a flavor that’s reminiscent of a donut fresh out of the fryer. There’s a whiff of that weird artificial pastry flavor that frozen baked goods often have, but it’s not overpowering. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Go smell a partially defrosted pot pie sometime.)

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel 3

The filling is strange. It’s plain. I was expecting the filling to deliver the glazed donut flavor if glazed donuts have a flavor besides “sweet,” but it doesn’t. It tastes like a simple vanilla filling. It’s not bad, but it means that these come much closer to replicating a Bavarian cream filled donut than a glazed. I guess I was hoping that Pillsbury food scientists would have somehow distilled the essence of the glazed donut and injected it into the pastry, but I’ll choose a filled over glazed donut any time.

Pillsbury Donut Shop Glazed Donut Toaster Strudel 4

As a child, I ate childish things. When I became a man… I still eat childish things, but now I have to buy them myself instead of having mom do it. These are worth price even if they don’t live up to the promise of providing glazed donut flavor.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 170 calories, 6 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 mg milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.59
Size: 6-pack
Purchased at:
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crisp and flaky crust that gets a bit of fried flavor from the toaster.
Cons: It doesn’t really replicate the flavor of a glazed doughnut. It’s just a Toaster Strudel with vanilla filling.

REVIEW: KFC Pickle Fried Chicken

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken

KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken is the latest addition to their lineup of southern-inspired sauced chicken options. Described as “crunchy fried chicken covered in a delicious dill pickle sauce,” at first glance KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken appears to veer closer to a Double Down-style stunt offering than the Nashville Hot, Georgia Gold, or BBQ Smoky Mountain varieties.

As a Yankee from the Midwest who’s only occasionally traveled below the Mason-Dixon line, even I’m aware that the South can do some pretty creative things with pickles. Don’t misunderstand me, as a fan of all things salty, sour, sweet, and weird in various combinations, I wholeheartedly approve.

I’ll try your Kool-Aid pickles, pickled watermelon rind, and pickled pig’s feet. I can’t guarantee I’ll try them twice, but I’ll certainly give them the benefit of the doubt. It turns out Kool-Aid pickles don’t deserve that benefit, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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So, if I’ll eat a koolickle, why am I skeptical of this chicken? It must be because my only experience with the chicken+pickle flavor combination is Chick-fil-A’s namesake sandwich, whose only adornment is dill pickle slices. It’s always left me a bit underwhelmed with its plainness.

I know. Boo! Hiss! Thrown Tomato! But pickles don’t seem like a substantial enough addition to elevate a fast food item.

I ordered a Pickle Fried Chicken Tender Basket, which comes with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a biscuit. I also got a Pickle Fried Chicken Little. (The mashed potatoes and gravy is school cafeteria-level, but the biscuit is fantastic.)

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 3

Despite my skepticism, these tenders are very impressive. They’re juicy, and I’m pleased that the extra crispy chicken remained so after the 20-minute drive home. These aren’t heavily sauced, but the dill pickle flavor asserts itself well. It’s not a novelty flavor like I initially suspected.

Instead, the dill compliments the chicken and a slight vinegar tang cuts through the grease. Make no mistake, these are greasy, but when it comes to fried chicken, I consider that a feature and not a bug. Taking a bite with the accompanying pickles is peak-dill, and good enough that I wish KFC had given me more of them.

KFC Pickle Fried Chicken 4

The Chicken Little is good, but a bit less impressive. The addition of bread and mayonnaise serves to mute the dill pickle flavor of which I’m a newly converted fan. By the way, why doesn’t KFC serve sandwiches on their biscuits? Their current biscuit would be perfect for a slider, and a more massive biscuit sandwich would be a real winner. I’ll take my royalty fee in coleslaw, Colonel.

After tasting KFC’s Pickle Fried Chicken Tenders and Chicken Little, the problem with Chick-fil-A’s sandwich becomes clear: not enough pickle. This is a limited time offer, so I recommend trying it before it’s gone.

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable on KFC’s website.)

Purchased Price: $5.59 (Chicken Tenders Basket/$1.39 Chicken Little Sandwich
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chicken Littles Sandwich)
Pros: Well balanced dill pickle flavor. Crisp coating with juicy chicken.
Cons: Perhaps too greasy for some. Pickle flavor can get overwhelmed by bun and mayo.