REVIEW: Hershey’s Kisses Flavor of Hawaii Pineapple Coconut

Hershey s Kisses Flavor of Hawaii Pineapple Coconut

This time last year, Hershey’s launched its “Flavors of America” campaign. I thought this was a genius way to introduce new flavors – appeal to our national spirit and highlight the diverse agriculture and local/regional culinary specialties of our fair country.

While I had issues with the Flavor of New York Cherry Cheesecake bar, for the most part I enjoyed the products that came out of this promotion – Orange Creme Pop and Key Lime Pie Twizzlers, Strawberry Kit Kat, etc.
 
I thought the Flavor of Hawaii Coconut Almond Hershey’s Kisses were the standout of the bunch. They were superbly light and the enrobed almonds added a nice crunch. I nearly ate a whole bag in one sitting.
 
When I heard that Hershey was retreading these Kisses as Pineapple Coconut, I was excited but confused. I didn’t understand why it was having another go at Hawaii when there were plenty of other flavors and states it hadn’t hit yet. I love pineapple, though, so I definitely wanted to try them.
 
On breaking open the bag, I inhaled a lung-ful of suntan lotion. It smelled like whatever tropical-fruit-scented concoction I was slathering on my translucent skin during my family’s summer 1987 vacation to Honolulu. In that sense, it was definitely a flavor of Hawaii for me. But a food-scented lotion is more appealing than a lotion-flavored food. My hopes were starting to deflate like a pool float with a slow leak.

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While last year’s Coconut Almond Kisses were a subtle affair with a classy coconut and a smart almond textural bump, Pineapple Coconut were like 12-year-old me in Hawaii – frizzy, permed hair, Jamz shorts in a seizure-inducing pattern and geometrically abstract sunburn lines. Just wrong.
 
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The same lovely coconut remained, but these Kisses were mostly pineapple. Not an authentic “I just came from the Dole Plantation tour” flavor, but more of a “Check out these gummies I found at It’s Sugar.” I’m not against fake-fruit flavors – I prefer fake watermelon to the real thing – but in this case, the artificiality didn’t mesh well with the low-key coconut. I wouldn’t even say I disliked the pineapple on its own merits – I think it would have been great as a Twizzler.

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These Kisses also lacked a nut filling, which I really missed. I decided to make some of my go-to crafty snacks – I call them Flying Saucers. One round pretzel, one Hershey’s Kiss, bake at 250F for 3 minutes exactly, press one M&M into the center to flatten it out.  

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For me, the pretzels fixed the flavor imbalance and gave it texture. I had more appreciation for the Coconut Pineapple afterwards.

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Overall, these weren’t bad and would be a nice treat for a luau-themed patio party this summer, but if the Coconut Almond Kisses are available – choose them instead.
 
Now, can we PLEASE move on to some other states’ great flavors? How about Vermont Maple Kisses? New Mexico Chili Chocolate Kisses? Massachusetts Cranberry? Louisiana Bananas Foster?

(Nutrition Facts – 7 kisses – 170 calories, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 16 grams of total sugars, 13 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.75
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Hershey’s Chocolate World
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Same light, lovely coconut flavor as last year’s model.
Cons: Pineapple that isn’t in tune with the coconut. Why are we going to Hawaii again? This kiss needs nuts (or pretzels or something crunchy and savory)!

REVIEW: Market Pantry Unicorn Magic Ice Cream

Market Pantry Unicorn Magic Ice Cream

I am loving this modern resurgence of unicorns. It brings me right back to my pre-teen Lisa Frank sticker collecting days. But since I’m already nursing a Hello Kitty obsession and can only handle one “too old for this” thing without looking like a complete lunatic, I limit my unicorn love to food items.

When I saw Target’s new Market Pantry ice cream was called “Unicorn Magic” AND had glitter candy bits, I was ready. First, glitter – no brainer – yes. Second, magic – I don’t go for the poop and snot falderal that drags down many current unicorn products. We all know unicorns do not poop or have phlegm. They’re all magic, sparkle, and love. Thanks for taking the high road here, Target.

The description of the ice cream itself was a bit vague – pink fruity? What does that mean?

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On prying open the tub, I was a little disappointed by the visual – a muddled pastel pinky-blue that looked more My Little Pony spackling compound than unicorn magic.

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I breathed in a barely-there fruity aroma. As I scooped down into the frozen mass, the colors differentiated and I could see a more vibrant pink with bright blue and white streaks. Getting better…

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On the taste front, this ice cream was a delight. “Pink fruity” was definitely cherry – a GOOD cherry. It was very light, not the nightmare medicinal cherry that haunts us all. The blue raspberry stripes gave it a little Jolly-Ranchers-esque flavor pop.

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I’m not sure why the white swirls are billed as frosting. They screamed marshmallow in taste and texture. Is marshmallow passé now? It was a perfect Fluff-like addition to the creamy fruitiness. I found myself eating more of this ice cream than anticipated.

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“What about the glitter candy bits” you ask? Well, here is Unicorn Magic’s epic fail. There were plenty of them, but they were barely distinguishable in a scoop. They’re basically shards of white Magic Shell with tiny flecks of color. Come on, people. What about this thing says “glitter”? Confetti, yes. Glitter, NO. What a disappointment.

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Overall, Unicorn Magic is a tale of two promises – the taste delivered the magic, but the appearance was Unicorn Sedative. I mean, look at the color difference between the container and the product! I have to ding them two rating points for this since the style of the thing is half (or more) of the appeal of unicorn products.

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Since I liked the taste, I decided to repurpose this ice cream into something that would highlight that but hide the visual. I made bite-sized frozen cookie sandwiches. 3/4 teaspoon scoops of pre-made sugar cookie dough dyed with food coloring, baked. Press a tiny scoop of ice cream between two cookies and roll sides in fun sprinkles.

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(Nutrition Facts – 2/3 cup – 220 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of total sugars, 20 grams of added sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 1.5 qts.
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Great combination of light cherry, intense raspberry and smooth marshmallow fluff. No poop or snot to be found.
Cons: My eyes did not experience magic. I’m spearheading legislation to regulate the use of the word glitter in food products, with a maximum of life in prison for not bringing the sparkle if you advertise it.

REVIEW: Neapolitan M&M’s

Neapolitan M M s

When I read that M&M’s were making a Neapolitan variety, my first thought was “Is that still a thing?” I haven’t had Neapolitan ice cream since I was a kid in the 80s. My mother would bring home tubs of the cheapest store-brand tri-colored treat and daintily shave off layers from all flavors equally. Then I would excavate every molecule of strawberry ice cream until it looked like David Copperfield made it disappear with jazz hands and a hypnotic stare.

Never mind that chocolate was actually my favorite ice cream; I had to take the strawberry. This irritated my mother to no end. But she kept buying Neapolitan and I kept eating a neat one-third of it.

Now it’s 2018 and I don’t think I’ve heard Neapolitan referred to as a flavor in more than 20 years. I wanted to try the M&M’s, but wondered if I could resist the urge to only eat the pink ones.

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The aroma inside the bag was mostly chocolate. The visual was a bit of a surprise – the vanilla pieces were a rich cream color instead of white. Yes, I know, the bag clearly depicts them as cream-colored, but I was taken by the overall packaging color scheme – which was WHITE. Just sayin’.

Despite there being three colors, the flavors of the pieces are the same. Yes, I know, the bag clearly says all three flavors in every piece, but I thought the pink ones might be strawberry-dominant, cream more vanilla, etc. This disconnect didn’t affect my feelings about them overall, but again – just sayin’.

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My first taste impression was a strong strawberry and chocolate flavor. But instead of taking me back to the freezer with an ice cream scoop, Neapolitan M&M’s brought me back to the breakfast table. They are the solid orb version of a bowl of Frankenberry and Count Chocula cereals combined. The strawberry was a pretty spot-on facsimile of Frank, my personal strawberry flavor touchstone. My memory of Neapolitan strawberry is a much more subtle flavor than Frank. The chocolate was close enough to The Count to make the comparison, although hardcore Chocula fans might disagree. I’d expected a real ice cream experience, but my love of monster cereals made it still a successful combo in my opinion.

I couldn’t immediately find the vanilla. But as I plowed through the bag and thought about the cereal comparison, the case of the missing vanilla was solved. It’s the milk in the cereal bowl. It made total sense because most M&M’s vanillas taste like milk to me. It took a bit to find because it’s a supporting actor here – Frank and The Count are center stage, which was alright by me.

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Overall, I thought these were fun and tasty. Kids will love them because of the child-friendly flavors, as will nostalgic adults. I think M&M’s are most successful when they’re tinkering with fillings/textures (nuts, caramel, crispy), but these are on the higher end of the flavor-only M&M’s varieties. Bella Napoli!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz./16 pieces – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of total sugars, 17 grams of added sugars, and 1 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Nostalgic flavor combination that smacks of Monster Cereal goodness. All three flavors in every piece kept me from eating only the pink ones
Cons: Not really ice cream-ish (if that’s a deal breaker for you). Showing/telling me things on the packaging that I ignore and am later surprised by.

REVIEW: Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Rolls

Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Rolls

Is there anything better than gooey cinnamon rolls, hot out of the oven, while you’re trapped inside during a blizzard? There is, and it’s Pillsbury Grands Limited Edition Hot Cocoa Rolls. I got my hands on Pillsbury’s new concoction at the perfect moment – right before the “bomb cyclone” dumped snow and ice all over my world.

The best part of making Pillsbury rolls is the exquisite tension of opening the tube. It’s pressurized, like a doughy grenade. I start with tentative pokes of a spoon into the cardboard seam, expecting the BOOM to take my fingers off – or worse. When that doesn’t work, I start really digging in, still in expectant terror of explosion. Nothing. Finally, I’m a spoon-wielding maniac, stabbing from arm’s length until I hit the seam right on and a quiet POOF comes from dough and air squeezing through the tiny slit in the cardboard. Extremities intact, heart racing, I wrestle the tube open.

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I had to re-spiral the dough once separating the five rolls from each other. Mass production and tube pressure mushes them out of shape and I simply cannot abide a wonky roll. Some chocolate filling flaked off in the process, but I sprinkled most of it back on.

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After baking for the prescribed time (the low end – I’m impatient), I had five gorgeous rolls with decadent velvety brown spirals. I only got a mild chocolate aroma, but lots of the standard kitchen-filling baked goodness smell.

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I like to ice my rolls when they’re warm, not hot – this way it melts but stays mostly on the top & sides. While I waited for my buns to cool, I snuck a taste of the marshmallow icing. It was like a dollop of Marshmallow Fluff fell into the traditional Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll icing.

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Once iced, it was time to dig in. While snow whirled around outside, I uncoiled the first finished product. As with any good cinnamon roll, it started a little crusty on the outside and turned progressively soft and gooey as I moved further into the spiral.

The chocolate filling did remind me of a cup of Swiss Miss – a light but tasty cocoa flavor. With the deep chocolate color, I expected a more pronounced taste, but I really enjoyed the restrained milky/marshmallow feel. They were absolutely delicious and before I knew it, three were gone and I had to save the other two for the remaining people in the house who would definitely judge me for eating them all.

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I didn’t try to pair these with a mug of hot cocoa – I was eating them too fast to even stop for a drink – but next time I’d try them with hot cider. And there will definitely be a next time.

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Overall, this was like cinnamon roll’s cuter cousin from out of town came to visit. We had a winter fling and now I’ll go back to cinnamon – until hot cocoa visits again.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll with icing – 300 calories, 60 calries from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 530 milligrams of sodium, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugars and 5 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.78
Size: 17.5 oz. tube (5 rolls)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Hot Cocoa Rolls > Bomb Cyclone. Laid-back chocolate flavor. Packaging that scares the bejeezus out of me.
Cons: Having to share with others. Limited Edition = having to say goodbye to my winter romance.

REVIEW: Drake’s Fudge Dipped Devil Dogs

Drake s Fudge Dipped Devil Dogs

I like my food plain and dry. I eat sandwiches without condiments. Cereal without milk. I credit two things for this strange (according to the world) habit. First, the “Don’t Drown Your Food” public service announcement that ran during Saturday morning cartoons. What can I say, it really stuck with me. Second, the driest snack cakes known to mankind – Devil Dogs. It’s little wonder these cakes are bone-shaped, as in “Dry as a…”

As a child, I took it as a test of my junk food mettle to down a whole Devil Dog (or multiple) without a drink. It was the ‘80s equivalent to the Cinnamon Challenge. Nobody could power through those little Saharas like me. It’s a wonder I survived to adulthood without fatally aspirating a chunk of chocolatey desiccant. Sure, there was a layer of frosting between the layers, but we all know that did nothing to offset the plastic-wrapped drought that is Devil Dogs.

Despite Devil Dogs’ apparent desire to kill me, I love them dearly. They are second only to Hostess Cupcakes in my all-time rankings. But they’ve sat out the recent novelty flavor trend, hence I haven’t paid them much attention lately. So I was delighted to see them re-enter the arena with a new iteration – fudge-dipped. I like it, DD – keeping close to your roots. No garish colors or artificial fruit filling, just more of what you already do well.

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Inside the individual wrappers, I was greeted by the familiar Devil Dog aroma – cocoa-cocoa-cocoa. But a new sensation enveloped my fingers – slightly moist melty chocolate. Like the Ring Dings and Yodels’ shells, Devil Dogs’ new thinny thin covering was body heat sensitive and easily left traces of itself on my hands.

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Compelled by habit, I took the biggest bite possible, expecting the lovely arid velvet to cling to my throat as usual. But three things happened: 1) the fudge coating paved the way for an easy swallow. 2) the cake itself seemed to be slightly less dehydrated – perhaps the chocolate cover held more moisture inside? And 3) the frosting layer was lighter. My memories of Devil Dog filling was a thick, sweet slab. This filling was more like marshmallow – sticky with tiny air pockets. This was a nice change.

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The basic flavor of Devil Dogs was intact – the cocoa cake and the sugary sweet filling. The fudge dip tasted just like Yodels’ and was a logical extension of this classic ‘Dog. The refined textures appealed to the 40+ year-old me who’d rather not eat tiny cakes with the Grim Reaper standing behind me, waiting for his chance.

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Overall, if you’re a fan of Devil Dogs, this is a treat to try. If you can’t handle the realness of Devil “Dry AF” Dogs, you might just be able to take these, with a glass of milk in reach.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 280 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of total sugars and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 18.32 oz. box (8 cakes)
Purchased at: Food Emporium
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Familiar Devil Dog cocoa flavor and Yodel-y chocolate shell. Lighter, fluffier filling. Not being choked by complete, utter dryness.
Cons: Not being choked by beautiful, beautiful dryness. I can’t let it go. I just can’t.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Gold Peanuts & Pretzels Bar

Hershey s Gold Peanuts  Pretzels Bar

HERSHEY’S GOLD – IT’S THE FIRST NEW HERSHEY BAR FLAVOR IN 20 YEARS!!! At least that’s what the press release and news articles screamed.

But didn’t I review a new Hershey’s Cherry Cheesecake bar flavor. a few months ago? And wasn’t I snarfing down Candy Corn and Candy Cane flavors recently? Yes, but Hershey’s says it’s the first non-chocolate flavor release since Cookies ‘n’ Creme in 1995. Like the C&C bar, Hershey’s Gold is a creme-based bar.

How is that different than a flavored white chocolate bar? I fell into a rabbit hole of internet research on what’s considered real “chocolate” and comparing ingredients from various Hershey’s bar flavors.

Three hours later, I realized there was a candy bar next to me, being NOT eaten. Focus! Let’s just say it’s a new Hershey’s bar flavor and consume it already.

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This bar is a deep golden hue, as promised. The peanut and pretzel bits mixed in were tiny shards. I expected larger peanut chunks and hoped for crunchy pretzel balls in the style of the Cookies ‘n’ Creme cookie balls.

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A fun surprise was the new pip layout (yes, that’s what those squares are called, apparently). Instead of the standard uniform rectangles, these are offset with some larger ones. The design initially looked asymmetrical, but came together to satisfy my sense of geometric justice.

On first smell, this thing is ALL peanut butter. On first taste, same thing. Overwhelmingly peanut butter. I can’t discern any pretzel taste beyond a slight burst of salt. Same with the caramelized creme – a little toasty sweetness. These are flavors I associate already with peanut butter and PB-flavored foods, however, so to me they’re hard to separate out. What they do is blend seamlessly to make a really nice peanut butter bar. It’s creamy and salty and sweet, but not too much of any of those things.

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The texture was slightly crunchy, but a far cry from what I’d expect from peanuts and pretzels. As a big pretzel fan, I was disappointed in their shallow presence here. Had this been billed just a peanut butter bar, I’d say this was a great entry.

But the larger issue was — was it s’moreable? I grabbed some holiday Peeps and graham crackers and headed to the microwave. (Yeah, I’m one of those.)

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18 seconds later – Holy peanuts, Batman. These are great. I think this bar is far more interesting as s’mores than as a candy bar.

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(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 220 calories, 14 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 20 grams of total sugars, 17 grams of added sugars, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.39
Size: 1.4 oz. bar
Purchased at: Duane Reade
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Good peanut butter flavor. New artsy pip design. Incredibly S’morable.
Cons: Are you there pretzels? It’s me, Rachel. Still haven’t figured out the whole “first non-chocolate bar in 20 years” thing.