REVIEW: Dr Pepper Zero Sugar

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Bottle

What is Dr Pepper Zero Sugar?

Keurig Dr Pepper has released a new sugar-free formulation of its iconic soft drink. Using a combination of aspartame and acesulfame potassium, Dr Pepper Zero Sugar is being described as an addition to the aspartame-only Diet Dr Pepper, rather than a replacement.

How is it?

Dr Pepper famously has 23 unique flavors, and you can find lists on the internet that purport to reveal them all. I don’t know how accurate these are (carrot, really?), but as a frequent Diet Dr Pepper drinker, I’m very familiar with what they create.

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Closeup

I pour Dr Pepper Zero Sugar into a glass and take a sip. It tastes like the Diet Dr Pepper that I’m familiar with. Yet, I think a more direct comparison will be fruitful.

One result of spending way too much thinking about junk food is that I’ve realized how susceptible to marketing I am. I prefer Coca-Cola over Pepsi partially because of its comfortable, timeless-seeming aesthetic, as opposed to Pepsi’s aggressively cool Generation Next campaign from my childhood. I still think of a Subway sandwich as a healthy option.

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Compare

I choose Diet Dr Pepper from the work vending machine because it tastes more like regular Dr Pepper. But does it, really? To test this, I grabbed the original, diet, and zero sugar versions to try them side-by-side. It’s a Dr Pepper Challenge, if you will.

I haven’t had a regular Dr Pepper or any full-sugar soda in years, so I taste it first to establish a baseline. It’s very similar to the Zero Sugar version, with a more syrupy consistency and more intense sweetness. I move onto the diet one and am surprised by the difference. The mouthfeel is thinner and the sweetness has a flatness with a slightly chemical flavor that I’ve never noticed before. It does not taste like regular Dr Pepper. This is very concerning to me. Are my opinions so subject to media influence? Am I captive to corporate forces larger than I can conceive? I resample Dr Pepper Zero Sugar to confirm that it tastes more like regular Dr Pepper, and am convinced that it more faithfully replicates the original.

Conclusion:

Dr Pepper Zero Sugar has opened my eyes to the truth. Diet Dr Pepper does not taste more like regular Dr Pepper, but this version does. Well played, Doctor, though you can still expect a malpractice lawsuit for all the quarters I’ve fed into the cafeteria soda machine.

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2 Liter
Purchased at: Piggly Wiggly
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (12 fl oz) 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 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Good Humor Viennetta (2021)

Good Humor Viennetta Box

What is the Good Humor Viennetta?

After an absence of almost 30 years, Good Humor has reintroduced the Vanilla Viennetta to American grocery store shelves. Back in the ’90s, you couldn’t watch an episode of Murphy Brown without seeing a commercial featuring a sophisticated dinner party with a Breyers Viennetta served in elegant crystal champagne coupes. It was the classy ice cream dessert for people who knew the difference between a champagne flute and champagne coupe.

How is it?

Good Humor Viennetta Whole

The rectangular ice cream cake looks exactly as I remember, with layered waves of ice cream interlaced with thin chocolate ribbons. I feel the chocolate crack as I slice into it and then lay a slice onto my plate. I’m impressed the thinness of the chocolate layers allows the portion to retain integrity.

Good Humor Viennetta Cross

I fondly remember the times my parents decided to get something a little special for dessert and picked up a Viennetta. Nostalgia firmly in place, I take a bite.

It’s ok.

Good Humor Viennetta Chocolate

The vanilla ice cream (frozen dairy dessert according to the packaging) is pleasingly light and soft, but has an unremarkable flavor. The thin chocolate layers provide a delicate texture to the dessert, but leaves a waxy residue in my mouth. Overall, this is a disappointment.

Anything else you need to know?

Here’s something I didn’t know until I watched an old Viennetta commercial on YouTube: this product used to be produced by Breyers, and was said to be made with premium ice cream, not the current frozen dairy dessert. Perhaps my memories aren’t at fault, and this version of Viennetta is a poor knockoff? Does this mean that my pair of light up sneakers really were just as cool as I remember?

Conclusion:

If nothing else, Good Humor’s Viennetta is a testament to marketing and design. At its core, the dessert is nothing more than mediocre ice cream laced with waxy chocolate ribbons. But it looks very fancy, and a very effective marketing campaign 30 years ago means there’s a generation of people who will want to try it.

Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 21.9 fl oz (650 ml)
Purchased at: Pick ‘N Save
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (1/6 cake/54 grams) 130 calories, 7 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar (including 9 grams added sugars), and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Gluten Free Oreo Cookies

Gluten Free Oreo Cookies Pkg

Nabisco has introduced Gluten Free Oreo Cookies in both regular and Double Stuf varieties. Made with rice and oat flours instead of wheat, Nabisco hopes to make the best-selling cookie in the world available to the gluten-intolerant. Can it recreate the iconic sandwich cookie, or was gluten the secret to its success this whole time?

I open the lily-white packaging using the convenient tear strip and see the cookies lined up in their orderly rows, just as I have dozens of times before. I pick one from the middle row to inspect more closely and see that “GLUTEN FREE” has been incorporated into the classic Oreo design.

Gluten Free Oreo Cookies Split

The chocolate wafer tastes the same, with a hint of bitterness that’s perfectly balanced with the sweet white creme. It has the same crispness. It smells the same. These are indistinguishable from classic Oreo, as far as I can tell.

Yet, first appearances can be deceiving. No one grabs an Oreo and just…eats it. They’re meant to be twisted, licked, dunked, and crushed. Will the Gluten Free Oreo stand up against more strenuous testing? I suspected that I would have to do some science to these to fully assess them. So I picked up some traditional Oreo cookies to do some comparison testing.

Both twist cleanly apart so I can scrape off a full serving of crème from each and confirm they are the same. The chocolate wafer sans crème also remains indistinguishable in flavor and texture.

Gluten Free Oreo Cookies Side by Side

Next, I dunk each in milk for a full 30 seconds to see how they hold up. I place them on a plate and notice that they have similar sogginess levels.

For the final test, let me tell you what’s been my favorite way to eat an Oreo since I was little: complete submergence. Simply float the cookie in a glass of milk and wait. Slowly, very slowly, the milk will penetrate the cookie island.

Gluten Free Oreo Cookies Floating

As a kid, I would imagine this was an ancient Atlantis-like nation. As the milky sea flooded the roads formed by the embossed design, I would imagine the world being lost. What secrets were being consigned to the opalescent depths? What technologies would need to wait centuries to be rediscovered? What people clung to each other in their last moments?

I was an, um, imaginative child. Anyway, Gluten Free Oreo work just as fine for this too. Even when completely saturated, it retains enough integrity for a spoon to recover it from the depths and then into my mouth, a much worse fate.

Coming to a final judgment about Gluten Free Oreo is difficult, in a way. Is there anything new or exciting here? No. That’s the point. There’s no reason for a shopper not avoiding gluten to pick these up, but they do perfectly replicate the world’s favorite cookie.

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 13.29 OZ (376g)
Purchased at: Woodman’s Market
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (3 cookies) 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 14 grams of sugar including 13 grams of added sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

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.