REVIEW: Marmite Peanut Butter (U.K.)

Marmite Peanut Butter Jar

In the last years of the 19th century, Justus von Liebig, inventor of Marmite, looked into an empty beer barrel, saw the yeast gunk there, and thought, “Yeah, Imma gonna eat that.” More than a century later, Unilever has released a new spread that combines Justus’ salty yeast extract with another culinary innovation of the late 19th century: peanut butter.

I have to ask, who is this product for? Peanut butter isn’t very popular in the Marmite-loving United Kingdom, and the peanut butter-loving people of the United States hate Marmite, if they’ve had it all.

Me. It’s for me. As someone who loves both ingredients in this spread, it’s possible I’m a target demographic of one, so I knew I had to try it.

Marmite Peanut Butter Spoon

Upon opening the jar, I give the contents a stir. This is an all-natural peanut butter with no sugar or added oils, so it’s separated. Then, I take my mixing spoon and give it a lick (because I’m efficient). The first flavor is of the familiar roasted peanut butter, quickly followed by salty yeast extract. It can be difficult to describe the taste of yeast extract spreads like Marmite if someone hasn’t had them before. It’s salty, and meaty, and a bit beery, and very, very intense.

The peanut butter and Marmite complement each other very well, but there’s no sweetness whatsoever. The Marmite even covers the peanuts’ natural sweetness, so the savory character can be a bit overwhelming. I usually prefer peanut butter without added sugar, but I have to wonder if this spread would have benefited if it had a salty-sweet thing going for it.

Part of the reason Marmite and peanut butter go so well together is that they’re versatile ingredients with savory and sweet applications, and have a fandom willing to explore the culinary limits. I’ve spent countless hours exploring Instagram looking for weird peanut butter sandwich combinations. Think peanut butter and pickle is weird? Try the next-level peanut butter with sauerkraut and onion, or peanut butter on eggs. On the other hand, a thin swipe of Marmite is a great addition to marmalade or cheese on toast.

Marmite Peanut Butter Spread

To test the versatility of this combined spread, I knew I had to do more than lick a spoon. I prepared a piece of toast with the classic peanut butter and strawberry jelly combination, as well as peanut butter and sharp Wisconsin cheddar. The Marmite PB&J proves I was right that this spread benefits from some sweetness. It tastes like standard PB&J with an umami flavor boost. The peanut butter and cheddar is a bit more challenging. It’s already a combo that leans in hard to unctuousness, and the Marmite does nothing to cut the fatty flavor. I liked it, but I also like peanut butter on sloppy joes, so your mileage may vary.

Look, I know I’m weird. I’m willing to pay $19.99 to have a small jar imported. Is it worth that price? No. Is it worth the much more reasonable £2.40 at Tesco? Yeah. Or, you could just buy some peanut butter and Marmite and mix them yourself.

Purchased Price: $19.99
Size: 225g
Purchased at: Amazon.com
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (15g) 88 calories, 6.8 grams of fat, 0.9 grams of saturated fat, 280 milligrams of sodium, 1.8 grams of carbohydrates, 1.2 grams of fiber, 0.9 grams of sugar, and 4.2 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Tripleshot Energy Zero Sugar

Starbucks Tripleshot Energy Zero Sugar Cans

What is Starbucks Tripleshot Energy Zero Sugar?

Starbucks’ regular Tripleshot line of beverages promises an extra energy boost thanks to added B vitamins, guarana, and ginseng, with the latter two helping to lift the caffeine content to 225 milligrams. The new Zero Sugar line, available in Black and Vanilla flavors, promises all that without sugar.

How is it?

Starbucks Tripleshot Energy Zero Sugar Black

Both flavors pour black. Unlike most Starbucks grocery items, there’s no added milk here. I taste the Black first and am pleased that it’s not overly sweet and without an artificial sweetener aftertaste. The coffee itself is fairly nondescript, without any overtly positive or negative characteristics. It’s not bitter, or astringent, or flat-tasting, but there’s nothing of much interest either.

Starbucks Tripleshot Energy Zero Sugar Vanilla

I tend to agree with those who think Starbucks roasts its beans too darkly, so the roasted flavor dominates and lingers too long for my taste. The same can be said of the Vanilla variety. Although in this case, the vanilla flavor has an artificial character that battles with the dark roast to see which is more slightly off-putting. Both are entirely drinkable, but neither offers anything to highly recommend them.

Anything else you need to know?

In my experience, there are two kinds of people who are perhaps a bit too proud of the coffee they drink. Some will breathlessly tell you about their favorite third-wave tasting studio that just got in a new Yirgacheffe that can only be found on a single Ethiopian hill and must be harvested by the light of the full moon during a leap year. Then there are those who will regale you of the absolute swill they’ve drunk, just the worst dregs imaginable. Maybe it was actually scrapings from a hospital cafeteria grease trap? They don’t know, but they drank it, dammit!

Starbucks regularly earns the contempt of both these groups. Luckily for Starbucks, that leaves the vast majority of coffee drinkers: those who want to be able to go to any random street corner and find a cup of coffee that’s consistent and better than what their Mr. Coffee can produce. The Tripleshot Energy Zero Sugar beverages are for people who like coffee just fine. So if they’re in a convenience store, they might choose it instead of their usual Red Bull.

Conclusion:

As someone with a locally roasted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe on my coffee shelf right now, these Tripleshots taste like decent coffee that’s been allowed to get too cold. It’s not a terrible option if you’re looking for a quick pick-me-up, but it’s not something I’d regularly drink. Then again, I am an unbearable hipster, so your mileage may vary.

Purchased Price: $2.09
Size: 15 fl oz (442 ml)
Purchased at: Woodman’s Market
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1 can) 25 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Bottle

What is Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend?

I can’t be the only cereal lover to receive a face full of debris as I tip nearly empty bags of Cinnamon Toast Crunch into my maw, attempting to extract the pure, concentrated essence of deliciousness found at the bottom of every bag. To save us from ourselves, there’s now Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend.

How is it?

Call me cynical, but I was half expecting this seasoning blend to consist solely of sugar and cinnamon. A look at the ingredient statement assures me that there’s more going on here than what a 7-year-old can throw together while running late for school.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Closeup

I pour a generous mound on a plate, lick my finger, and dig in. I’m surprised by the quick, sharp spice flavor given how mild the cinnamon is in the namesake cereal. This doesn’t taste much like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but offers a greater depth and variety of flavors.

The sweetness follows, but there’s also vanilla, caramel, and salt. Yes, salt. It’s the third ingredient on the ingredient statement, so salted caramel fans will find a lot to like. It’s salty enough that I imagine there are some savory applications. Cinnamon Toast Crunch sweet potato, anyone? Popcorn? Maybe even dipping some breakfast sausage? There are lots of possibilities for this seasoning blend.

Anything else you need to know?

Readers may be shocked to hear that I’ve never had a Complete Breakfast™ before today. I’ve had a Full English Breakfast, stacks of pancakes bigger than the platter they were served on, and Moons Over My Hammies aplenty. Yet, a Complete Breakfast™ is something that only existed in the cereal commercials that interrupted the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles every Saturday morning when I was a kid.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Complete Breakfast

Even back then, I knew that cereal was the fastest, lowest effort breakfast option, so the idea of serving it with sides of buttered toast, fruit, juice, and another glass of milk always seems ridiculous. Yet, the Complete Breakfast™ has remained an aspirational ideal for decades now, so I knew I had to take this opportunity to assemble one and try Cinnadust on various items.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Cereal

I know I’m not alone in shoveling sugar on top of already sugar-loaded cereal, so it doesn’t seem outrageous to sprinkle Cinnadust on my bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch to create Super Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Since it doesn’t exactly replicate the namesake cereal’s powdery coating, it adds some interesting flavors. But the cereal is too sweet for much nuance to come through.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Toast

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Fruits

On the other hand, it is a fantastic topping for buttered toast, apples, and bananas. Cinnadust toast is like cinnamon sugar toast, but better, with the salted caramel flavor accentuating the golden brown bread. Likewise, the less sweet fruit allows the spicy cinnamon notes to come through, and the light saltiness offers a flavor boost.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend Milk

The only failure here was adding Cinnadust to milk. This isn’t a drink mix, so it is not surprising it didn’t work, but I was hoping for some instant cereal milk. Instead, it only made slightly sweet milk with floating cinnamon clumps.

Conclusion:

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cinnadust Seasoning Blend doesn’t precisely replicate the flavor of the cereal. But it still tastes great and complements a wide variety of sweet treats.

Purchased Price: $5.48
Size: 13.75 OZ (282g)
Purchased at: Sam’s Club
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (1 tsp) 15 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar including 4 grams added sugars, and 0 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Vampire Kisses

Hershey s Vampire Kisses Bag

What are Hershey’s Vampire Kisses

Just in time for the Halloween season, Hershey’s has introduced Vampire Kisses, a variation of its classic milk chocolate candy. Along with the chocolate, it’s filled with strawberry-flavored crème.

How are they?

Hershey s Vampire Kisses Chocolate

The milk chocolate shell is the same tangy butyric acid-infused Hershey’s chocolate to which American consumers are accustomed. I’ve recently heard the flavor described as “yogurty,” which is all I can think of when tasting it now.

Hershey s Vampire Kisses Filling

According to the package, the filling is a strawberry-flavored crème, but there’s a lack of distinct strawberry flavor in it. It’s better described as generically fruity and without creaminess either.

Though, in a bit of flavor serendipity, the combination of acidic chocolate and fruity filling combine to remind me of the berries and Greek yogurt parfait I had for breakfast. I doubt that’s intentional.

Anything else you need to know?

The fanged Kisses depicted on the packing suggest that the candies themselves have been turned to undead creatures of the night. That’s ridiculous, of course. Instead, I propose that these are candies meant for vampires. Here’s how I think some famous blood-suckers would consume a Vampire Kiss.

Count Orlok – This rodent-looking guy nibbles the top off, then attempts to suck the strawberry filling out. Unfortunately for Orlok, I can confirm that the filling is much too viscous to be consumed in this way.

Vlad “The Impaler” Dracula – Individually, with a toothpick. It can be done, but the candy shell is liable to crack unless it’s well-chilled, and no self-respecting vampire is going to devour a victim that’s gone cold.

Louis de Pointe du Lac (A.K.A. Brad Pitt in Interview with a Vampire) – After monologuing about the dark-as-night chocolate and filling sweet as the crimson sun at dawn that shall never again greet him, Louie quickly tires of them, lamenting that each Kiss is dust to his undead palate.

The Count – This denizen of Sesame Street knows that these are 55 individual Kisses in his bag. Being a nobleman with an appreciation for aesthetics, he doesn’t eat any since 55 is such a pleasing number.

Edward Cullen – Edward’s fervor for Hershey’s Kisses is unparalleled, but he knows that to succumb to temptation inevitably leads to their destruction. He keeps a bag in the back of the cupboard, knowing it’s only a matter of time before he gives in.

Angel/Angelus – Angel, the beau of Buffy, the vampire slayer, would never risk a Kiss. Kisses lead to more intimate encounters, which lead to the one moment of perfect happiness that would rip his soul away, turning him to the evil Angelus. Angelus is a total chocoholic, so he eats the entire bag.

Conclusion:

In fiction, a kiss from a vampire (that is, being bitten) has one of two consequences. Either you’re turned superhuman being beyond human reckoning, or you’re a left a lifeless husk drained of all vitality. There’s not much in-between, which is why these candies falling into mediocrity is so disappointing.

Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: 9 oz bag (255g)
Purchased at: Piggly Wiggly
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (6 pieces) 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar including 13 grams of added sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Brach’s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn

Brach s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn Bag

What is Brach’s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn?

Somewhere in the world, a withered monkey’s paw has lowered a finger.

Okay, fess up.

Which one of you wished for new candy?

I can only assume that’s how this product came to be because Brach’s has introduced a product no one could have honestly wanted: Turkey Dinner Candy Corn.

How is it?

Brach s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn Poured

Green Beans

It took me a while to put my finger on what these taste like because it’s not like any green bean I’ve ever tasted. Yet, there’s a certain noxious quality that’s familiar. Then it hit me. These taste spoiled. My only explanation is that whoever is responsible for this grew up eating canned green beans that had been boiled to mush and then left on the stovetop for too long.

Roast Turkey

Oh, wow! This really tastes like turkey! That’s a terrible thing for candy to taste like! Everything about this is off-putting. Even the yellow top of the candy corn reminds of the scummy fat that rises to the top of turkey drippings. I applaud the food scientists for managing to nail the flavor of a turkey dinner’s centerpiece, but wish they would use their skills for good rather than evil.

Cranberry Sauce

These taste generically fruity, but lack specific cranberry flavor and tartness. They wouldn’t be out of place in any other assortment of fruity candy, but fail to add to the turkey dinner theme.

Ginger Glazed Carrots

These are delightfully accurate recreations of their namesake. There’s real sweet carrot flavor with a spicy ginger bite. If you don’t like carrots or ginger, you won’t like them, but they’ll be a favorite for glazed carrot fans.

Sweet Potato Pie

These don’t taste anything like sweet potato pie, but they taste exactly like maple syrup. Given some of the other flavors’ awfulness, I’m going to count my blessings, not ask too many questions, and quickly move on.

Stuffing

I had no idea how the folks at Brach’s would replicate a savory side dish in a candy form. And it turns out neither did they because this one just tastes weird. There’s perhaps a toasted bread and herb note, but the sugary sweetness overwhelms any savory characteristic and results in a muddled mess.

Brach s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn Lined Up

Anything else you need to know?

A common trope in old sci-fi is the notion of having an entire meal in pill form, which always seemed odd to me. Who would rather swallow a pill than eat real food? Then, Silicon Valley introduced Soylent to the world because eat was getting in the way of productivity.

So, here’s my theory: some techbro was annoyed at getting yanked out his coding flow state to have Thanksgiving with his family, found a monkey’s paw, and then wished for some festive way to fulfill familial obligations as efficiently as possible.

It’s candy, so it’s fun! It’s also possible to eat by the handful, so it’s also very efficient! All the better for getting back to coding that dystopian facial recognition algorithm as quickly as possible.

Conclusion:

Despite some truly horrific flavors, I must admit I come away impressed by Brach’s ability to offer the full cornucopia of Thanksgiving experiences in one bag. From the disgusting dish your younger cousin brings (Hush, everyone. He tried.) to the unexciting but crowd-pleasing favorites that Grandma faithfully delivers and the standout that everyone looks forward to every year, Brach’s Turkey Dinner Candy Corn replicates the highs and lows of a Thanksgiving with family.

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 12 oz bag
Purchased at: Walgreens
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (15 pieces) 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar including 23 grams added sugar, and 0 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Mini Crullers and Bites

Krispy Kreme Mini Crullers and Bites All

What are Krispy Kreme Mini Crullers and Bites?

Krispy Kreme was top of everyone’s minds a few years ago, with devotees swearing by their pillowy soft Glazed Original (which happened to coincide with the company’s IPO, hmmmm…).

The hype has diminished since, but Krispy Kreme remains a force in the world of chain doughnut shops and a stalwart presence on market shelves. Its latest offering is a variety of Mini Crullers and Bites, with the promise of more limited time offerings in the future.

How are they?

Original Glazed Mini Crullers

Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Mini Crullers

Krispy Kreme seems to be trying to replicate a French Cruller, which is usually the same dough as an eclair (Pâte à Choux, for you fancy lads and ladies). A real French Cruller is very light, with a distinct chewiness.

These seem more like a light cake doughnut piped into a cruller shape. The texture is far from fresh, though that’s par-for-the-course in mass-produced grocery store pastries. If I close my eyes, I can pretend these are day-olds instead of I-have-no-earthly-idea-maybe-last-month?-olds, which can’t be said for every doughnut on store shelves.

It should be said that Krispy Kreme has offered bags of Mini Crullers in stores for a while now, so I’m uncertain what’s new about these. Most promotional photos depict individual packs of two crullers, but all the boxes of Mini Crullers I purchased held a single large bag.

Purchased Price: $3.88
Size: 12 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 crullers) 250 calories, 15 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 18 grams of sugar including 17 grams added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Blueberry Mini Crullers

Krispy Kreme Blueberry Mini Crullers

This tastes exactly like every mass-produced blueberry pastry I’ve ever had. It’s the same sweetened, fried dough with blueberries (courtesy of the “blueberry flavored bits” no doubt) that I’ve tasted a hundred times before. You can’t go wrong with that combination, but I’m left unconvinced that these offer anything unique.

The assets and liabilities of this product line begin to come into focus here. Barring catastrophe, they’re going to be tasty, but I don’t know if any will be standouts.

Purchased Price: $3.88
Size: 12 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: (2 crullers) 260 calories, 15 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar including 18 grams of added sugars, and 2 gram of protein.

Limited Time Lemon Mini Crullers

Krispy Kreme Limited Time Lemon Mini Crullers

Lemon pastries can sometimes be overly lemony, but these are pleasingly mild. There’s an essence of lemon suffusing the cake that allows me to appreciate the flavor without feeling like I’m being sprayed in the face with Lysol. The lack of poppyseeds makes me realize that I have no idea what purpose they have ever served in pastries. Have we all been duped? Are poppyseeds a lie?

Purchased Price: $3.88
Size: 12 oz box

Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: (2 crullers) 260 calories, 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 18 grams of sugar including 18 grams added sugars, and 2 gram of protein.

Original Glazed Bites

Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Bites

The Glazed Bites are very similar to the Crullers. The crumb may be slightly denser, but the oil has infiltrated to a comparable degree. The actual texture similarly middling, so the super sweet Krispy Kreme glaze is doing a lot of work to cover for a product that is better than the pack of gas station Donettes, but doesn’t offer much more.

Purchased Price: $3.97
Size: 8 oz box/5 pouches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: (4 Bites) 210 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar including 11 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Chocolate Bites

Krispy Kreme Chocolate Bites

Take an Original Bite, add cocoa powder, and you have a Chocolate Bite. It’s good. If there’s a problem, it’s that I’m made to think of a brownie bite, which begs comparison to Little Debbie’s Cosmic Brownies — greatest of all grocery snack items. So, for those keeping score — Pro: tastes good. Con: not as good as a completely unrelated product.

Purchased Price: $3.97
Size: 8 oz box/5 pouches

Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: (4 Bites) 190 calories, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar including 12 grams of added sugars, and 3 grams of protein.

Apple Cinnamon Bites

Krispy Kreme Apple Cinnamon Bites

The spiced apple flavor is surprisingly robust considering how subtle the other flavored varieties have been. It’s very spice-forward, with apple flavor following. In a collection of products that have yet to offer a standout entry, these rise above the others.

Purchased Price: $3.97
Size: 8 oz box/5 pouches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: (4 Bites) 220 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar including 12 grams added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Limited Time Strawberry Bites

Krispy Kreme Limited Time Strawberry Bites

You know how I applauded the Lemon Crullers for not over knocking me over with lemon flavor? These are like those, except this time, I want to be knocked over! Yes, I’m a mercurial guy when it comes to food. Strawberry flavor is something that can take center stage, but these have the same understated fruit essence. That’s not a problem, but I’m left wanting more.

Purchased Price: $3.97
Size: 8 oz box/5 pouches
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10

Nutrition Facts: (4 Bites) 220 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar including 11g added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.

Anything else you need to know?

It’s been said that the peak doughnut experience is a warm Krispy Kreme fresh out of the fryer, which is only briefly available while a location’s “Hot Light” is on. I must admit I’m a bit resentful that the nearest Krispy Kreme is almost two hours from me. No, not because I’m unwilling to drive two hours and then stalk a Krispy Kreme, but because I am. It’s only a matter of time. Who wants that kind of knowledge about themselves?

But until that fateful day, a lifetime of nuking grocery store pastries tells me that these will be well served by 20 seconds in the microwave. The heat elevates the aroma, the glaze melts slightly, and the crumb softens. The Crullers become so delicate as to fall apart, though the Bites remain easily handled. 10 out of 10 would microwave again.

Conclusion:

Krispy Kreme Mini Crullers and Bites Closeup

I’m not sure the Krispy Kreme products on grocery shelves ever lived up to the hype (pilgrimage to my “local” shop pending). Is there really much of a difference between A Krispy Kreme Glazed Original and Dunkin’s, or Kwik Trip’s Glazers? Perhaps if they’re hot (grumble…)? These Crullers and Bites continue the Krispy Kreme tradition of maybe being better than the competition, but not outstanding.