QUICK REVIEW: Auntie Anne’s Birthday Cake Pretzel Nuggets

Auntie Anne s Birthday Cake Pretzel Nuggets

What are Auntie Anne’s Birthday Cake Pretzel Nuggets?

Mall-pretzel-mecca Auntie Anne’s is rolling out the winning flavor of its “Pretzel Nation Creation” crowd-sourcing contest. Just in time for the company’s 30th birthday, Birthday Cake Pretzel Nuggets have vanilla dust, chocolate drizzle and funfetti sprinkles.

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How are they?

What immediately jumps out of this birthday cake is the chocolate syrup. While it says “made with Ghirardelli,” this tasted just like the childhood classic Hershey’s syrup. I’m generally not a big fan, and I didn’t think it belonged in a birthday cake flavored item. To me, birthday cake is vanilla, butter, milk and maybe a hint of cream cheese or almond.

The vanilla dust on these nuggets was more like vanilla sugar, which was fine. It was a nice middle-of-the-road vanilla flavor and did a good job of making itself known. The sprinkles were the flat round type – formally called quins – in bright pastels. Very cheerful.

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A friend who tried these with me suggested an all-over glaze might’ve been better, and I agree. Vanilla buttermilk frosting glaze poured over each nugget would’ve screamed birthday cake and been a great sticky landing pad for those sprinkles.

This was my first time trying the nugget format of Auntie Anne’s pretzels. The flavor was good, but they weren’t as soft at the traditional, large, knot-shaped pretzels.

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Is there anything else I need to know?

Because the nuggets are placed in the cup before “birthdayization,” your sprinkle and vanilla experience will be limited to the 3-4 nuggets on top. The syrup works its way down, but there will likely be some blanks at the bottom.

Conclusion:

Auntie Anne’s Birthday Cake Pretzel Nuggets are definitely a mall food – new but still really familiar, cute but institutional, with a tinge of missed opportunity.

Purchased Price: $5.69
Size: 16 oz. cup
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (16 oz. cup) 530 calories, 6 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 340 milligrams of sodium, 106 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 40 grams of total sugars, and 10 grams of protein.

QUICK REVIEW: Limited Edition Celebrate Mickey Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Celebrate Mickey Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies

What is the Limited Edition Celebrate Mickey Birthday Cake Oreo?

Mickey Mouse is a nonagenarian! And much like my nonagenarian mother, he’s still going strong. To celebrate, Oreo has taken its chocolate Birthday Cake cookies – which have been on shelves since 2012 – and stamped birthday images on them in honor of the world’s most famous mouse.

We’ve got a party horn with tiny Mickeys bursting forth, Mickey in a party hat, and the number 90 with floating Mickeys. The other side is the traditional Oreo pattern.

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How is it?

If you like Oreo’s chocolate Birthday Cake flavor, you’ll like these. The only difference is the patterns on the top.

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If you haven’t had Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies before, they’re a slight twist on the original. Identical chocolate wafers. Softer crème filling with that comforting cake batter aroma and flavor – almond, butter, and vanilla. Brightly-colored confetti speckles make them festive.

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Personally, I love Birthday Cake Oreo, so the Mickey iterations were fine by me. I wanted to ding them points-wise for not bringing anything new to the table other than the visuals, but I couldn’t do it. They’re just too tasty.

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Is there anything else I need to know?

Nonagenarian means a very, very rich mouse in his 90s. Or an elderly woman full of advice I didn’t ask for.

Conclusion:

Good (if familiar) cookie. Cute Mickey Mouse. What’s not to love here?

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 15.25 oz. bag
Purchased at: Key Food
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 cookies) 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 13 grams of total sugars, 13 grams of added sugars and less than 1 gram of protein.

QUICK REVIEW: Hershey’s Waffle Layer Crunch Dulce de Leche and Strawberry

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What is it?

Hershey’s has taken their chunky Cookie Layer Crunch bars (crunchy cookie bits + crème layer + traditional Hershey chocolate coating), given them new strawberry and dulce de leche crème layers and replaced the cookie bits with waffle cone pieces.

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How is it?

Everything about these bars feels average. The dulce de leche and strawberry crème flavors weren’t particularly authentic, bright or rich. Just a run-of-the-mill caramel-y vanilla and Nesquick-style strawberry flavor. If you hate fake strawberry, I recommend you skip this bar.

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The waffle cone bits have a good crunch, but don’t texturally resemble waffle cones – they’re too thick. I can’t even see any telltale ridges on them. Without seeing the wrapper, I would identify these as cookie bits.

As noted in our Triple Chocolate Cookie Layer Crunch review, the outer coating is the very familiar Hershey chocolate.

Is there anything else I need to know?

There’s a lot of air inside these bars. The solid crème layer does not really interact with the physically uneven crunch layer – it sits atop it, leaving empty space. Not a huge deal, but is a bit disappointing in a small bar.

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Each bag contains 9 mini-bars, which felt like a good amount.

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Conclusion:

They taste OK and are new flavors in this series, but there’s nothing great or novel about them – and isn’t that why we’re all here? If you’re a diehard Cookie Layer Crunch fan, they’re worth a try. If not, there’s more interesting chocolates out there.

Purchased Price: $4.95
Size: 6.3 oz. bag of mini-bars
Purchased at: Hershey’s Chocolate World
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2 mini-bars) 200 calories, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 17 grams added sugars and 3 grams of protein.

SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (CHRISTMAS IN JULY EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

It’s July, hot as Hades and even my sweat is sweating. So, let’s talk Christmas! Because it apparently takes time to manufacture and order products, (aren’t we living in the future?) booths at FFS were displaying new things that will be hitting shelves right around the time we’ll switch from complaining about the heat to complaining about the cold.

Tate’s Bake Shop Cookies – Double Chocolate Peppermint and Butter Crunch

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Tate’s – makers of thin, crispy chocolate chip cookies – are debuting two new flavors of thin, crispy cookies for the holidays. The samples I tasted were both delicious – Butter Crunch was quite caramel-y and Double Chocolate Peppermint was minty, but leaned more chocolate than, say, a Thin Mint. Neither one, however, struck me as particularly a holiday flavor. With repackaging, these could run all year.

Available starting in October in grocery stores and retailers nationally.

Pretzel Pete Seasoned Pretzel Mini Twists – Peppermint Flavored

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I don’t think I’ve ever had a peppermint pretzel that didn’t have white chocolate to act as a liaison. Pretzel Pete cut out the middleman and put the peppa’ right on the pretz here. The seasoning dust was sweet, minty and buttery. The pretzels were the standard mini twists that we all know. It was a good combo. I really enjoyed them.

Available on Amazon starting in August

Crafty Cooking Kits – Who-ville Village, Who-ville House, Mini Who-ville House and Mickey Mouse Holiday Gingerbread Cabin Baking Kits

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As someone who loves baking, these pre-baked kits make me a little sad that children aren’t getting the full experience of making something from scratch. But if they act as a gateway drug to get screen-obsessed kiddos into the kitchen and creating, I’m OK with it. And they’re adorable.

Available in grocery stores and retailers starting September/October.

Rice Krispies Treats Kits – Ugly Sweater, Holiday Snowman, and Christmas Stocking

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Huh, this ugly sweater thing just keeps going, doesn’t it? These kits provide the Rice Krispies, marshmallows and decorating supplies. You add butter to make the treats and lay on the frosting and sprinkles.

Available in grocery stores and retailers starting September/October.

Skinny Syrups Limited Edition Holiday Collection – Christmas Cookie, Peppermint Bark, and White Chocolate Mocha

Skinny Syrups Whipped Foam Topping – Chocolate Peppermint and Christmas Cookie

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These zero-calorie syrups seem like a good multi-purpose product, particularly for those of us trying to escape the holidays without a massive weight gain. In addition to what the label suggests, I want to try these in cocktails, throw a dash into peanut butter, and add them to waffle/pancake mix. The foams – let’s face it, those would just get poofed right into my mouth. I won’t bother with the pretense of a food vehicle. I didn’t get to sample them, but I’ll be looking for them on shelves.

Mississippi Cheese Straw Factory Cookie Straws – Peppermint and Red Velvet

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Both of these cookies were dense but crunchy with a powdered sugar coating and would make a nice addition to a holiday cookie table. The peppermint cookie straws were a subtle peppermint. Red Velvet cookies were basically a chocolate chip cookie with a red color.

Available in gourmet shops and select department stores and online starting in September.

Stonewall Kitchen Holiday Baking Mixes – Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Mix, Chocolate Peppermint Fudge Mix, and Holiday Bundt Cake Mix

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Sadly, I didn’t get to sample these baking mixes, which is downright tragic. I’ve never seen a Fudge mix before. I was told that the bundt mix is like panettone. Since panettone is a yeast bread, I’m guessing this is a vanilla cake with the traditional panettone mix-ins like raisins and candied citrus.

Available in gourmet shops and select grocery stores start in September/October.

Dry Sparkling Soda – Cranberry and Blood Orange

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For the holidays, Dry is making new flavors of their soda in large, festive, champagne-like bottles. While there were no samples on hand, the horror-movie enthusiast in me gets very excited at any mention of blood orange, so I’ll be looking for that on shelves.

Available starting in September/October in grocery, big box stores and Amazon.

Dewey’s Bakery Limited Edition Holiday Cookies – Soft Baked Dark Chocolate Mint with Chocolate Chips, Soft Baked Triple Chocolate Brownie, Moravian Style Gingerbread Cookie Thins, and Moravian Style Hot Cocoa Cookie Thins

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Dewey’s was showing and sampling their holiday cookie lineup. I tried the gingerbread and hot cocoa cookie thins, which were tasty and delicate. Exactly the kind of cookies you munch away on and then realize “I ate THIRTY of those?” I also had the urge to make a sandwich cookie out of them with some homemade jam. The hot cocoa thins with a couple of mini-marshmallows between them, microwaved for a few seconds would be great, too.

Available starting in September/October in major grocery chains nationwide.

Hands Off My Chocolate – Strawberry Meringue White Chocolate and Cinnamon Cookies Milk Chocolate

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These weren’t available for sampling, but I love the packaging and look of the bars, so I’m going to try to track them down for stocking-stuffers. They look like little bundt cakes or wreaths. So cute!

Available at select retailers starting in September/October.

SPOTTED AT THE 2018 SUMMER FANCY FOOD SHOW (SWEETS EDITION)

Spotted on Shelves is showing off what was in the aisles at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show (FFS) in New York City. I scoped out new products from familiar brands and interesting things from up-and-coming companies.

As is the nature of trade shows like this, I was plied with free samples and the occasional tote bag. This did not affect what was chosen to appear in this column or my opinions of the products, but it did affect my waistline.

FFS is a great place to indulge one’s sweet tooth. I marveled at all the different ways sugar was used – candy, cakes, jellies, even coffees. You kinda need a sugar high to get through the miles and miles of exhibitor booths. Here are a few interesting sweets unearthed in those aisles.

Candy Kittens Gourmet Sweets – Wild Strawberry, Eton Mess, Blueberry Bliss, Sour Watermelon, and Peach Fizz

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I’m a sucker for cats. A cat-shaped gummy candy? I’m dying. I tried the Sour Watermelon flavor, which was a pleasant, low-key version of a Sour Patch Watermelon. The Eton Mess variety, named after Britain’s meringue/whipped cream/strawberry dessert, was a not-too-sweet strawberry and cream without the sugar coating.

Available at CostPlus World Market starting in August.

Loacker Blueberry Yogurt Crispy Wafers and Quadratini Blueberry Yogurt Bite Size Wafer Cookies

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Loacker’s new Blueberry Yogurt wafer bites keep the well-known and loved wafer formula with the filling this time being a deep fruity blueberry with a dash of yogurt tang.

Available at retailers and grocery chains nationally starting now.

Jelly Belly Candy Cones Ice Cream Flavored Mellocreme Candy

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I expected these to be gummy, but they’re candy corn! The package advertises that each piece is two flavors – the cone and the ice cream. It’s true! The cones tasted caramel-cone-y. The ice cream flavors were as promised, but reminded me of 80s-era aroma touchstones – scratch and sniff sticker chocolate and strawberry and Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers vanilla and mint. The orange was a bit more subtle and creamy that the rest.

Available in grocery stores and retailers starting now.

Biena Thin Mints Chickpea Snacks

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These are chickpeas with a coating that perfectly mimics Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies in taste and velvety chocolate texture. The chickpeas added a new dimension of crunch and nuttiness, however. I didn’t love the combo (turns out I don’t really like chickpeas), but if you’re a fan of one of both of these elements, they’re worth a try.

Available in Whole Foods now.

Stonewall Kitchen Strawberry Lemonade Jelly and Hot Pepper Cranberry Jelly

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I usually love Stonewall Kitchen’s jellies, so I was excited to see these two new flavors at FFS. The Strawberry Lemonade, however, was a little too sedate for my taste – I was some lemonade pucker. The Hot Pepper Cranberry on the other hand, set my mouth on fire and I didn’t taste much cranberry (although with the 5-alarm going on in my head, it could have just gotten ignored).

Available in gourmet shops, select grocery stores and specialty retailers starting now.

Bailey’s Cappuccino – Irish Cream, Caramel, and Mint Mocha

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I hate coffee. I intended to just take photos of this product, but the sales rep in the booth convinced me to try it. “Cappuccino? Pfffff,” I said. That guy should earn salesman of the year because I DID LIKE IT. It was sweet and milky and caramel-y – (hence it’s presence here on the sweets list!) nothing like the horror stuff I’ve tasted. I drank the whole sample. This product was released earlier this year in K-Cups and is now coming out in multi-serve instant bags. Just scoop into a cup and add hot water. There’s a technology in this that allows it to self-foam (I’m told it’s the only product on the market that does!) which was pretty cool. Score one for coffee.

Available in grocery stores starting in September.

Tortuga Caribbean Rum Cake Bites

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If you’ve traveled to anywhere tropical, you have definitely encountered Tortuga Rum Cakes. Perhaps you’ve purchased some at the airport 10 minutes before your flight home because, in your hotel room at 1 a.m., you ate the ones you bought in town to bring back for friends & family. Well, Tortuga must have cameras in my hotel, because they’re introducing rum cake bites – perfect for late night snacking beachside or back home. They’re individually wrapped, a little bigger than a quarter, and retain all the rum aroma and flavor of the original. They are a lot more moist, however.

Available at travel/airport retailers starting in July and will launch later as a variety pack for cruise ships and duty-free outlets.