REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut and Gingerbread Cookie Donut

Dunkin Donuts Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut and Gingerbread Cookie Donut 1

There are a few jobs I hope I never have. Aside from everything Mike Rowe has tried, Santa’s personal chef and copyeditor for his Naughty and Nice List come to mind. Also, the guy who has to develop “new” holiday-themed products for fast food chains.

Between the cookie exchanges, parties, and all those special childhood foods your mom is going to cook for you, there’s a lot of pressure to efficiently maximize your calories. If I’m going to eat a donut during December, I don’t want to waste my time on some plebeian attempt to deconstruct hot chocolate in cruller form.

So consider this an early Christmas present — taking one for the team so you don’t have to feel massive guilt (in addition to feeling massive) for scarfing down holiday flavors that may or may not fall in the “meh” spectrum of taste.

Dunkin Donuts Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut and Gingerbread Cookie Donut 2

Dunkin’ Donut’s new Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut combines sugar cookie and chocolate chip cookie flavors, which, when you think about it, is sort of like the cookie version of Chrismukkah.

Oddly enough, the combo works, even though the cookie dough-flavored filling doesn’t taste much like cookie dough. Actually, I’m not quite sure what it tastes like. Brownish sugar, maybe? Whatever it is it’s not bad, but the real star of the donut is the frosted sugar cookie crumble topping. It’s like a hybrid of vanilla Chex, puppy chow, and streusel topping.

Dunkin Donuts Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut and Gingerbread Cookie Donut 3

Overall, the cookie crumbles give the usual (if not underrated) combo of white icing and airy donut an extra level of yumminess.

Sadly, the Gingerbread Cookie Donut doesn’t have the same level of yumminess. While the gingerbread cookie topping has a strong gingerbread flavor, the pieces are stale, as if they’re from a box of ginger snap cookies that’s been open since 2012.

Dunkin Donuts Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut and Gingerbread Cookie Donut 4

I have a friend who swears by salted caramel vodka, which sounds disgusting. However, after trying the caramel frosting I’ll have to down a fifth to get the sticky cloying taste out of my mouth. It’s not the most inauthentic caramel taste in the world, but it lacks any depth and tastes of nothing but sugar.

I tend to treat donuts by the pizza maxim (even when bad, they’re good) but the Gingerbread Cookie Donut comes close to legitimately sucking, meaning it’s frankly a toss-up between it and a piece of fruitcake.

All things considered, Dunkin’s new holiday-themed donuts are a mixed bag, like your childhood stocking filled with candy but also socks. Still, for as bad as the Gingerbread Cookie Donut is, the Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut might be good enough to leave out for Santa, if you don’t eat it first.

(Nutrition Facts – Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut – 420 calories, 21 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 410 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Gingerbread Cookie Donut – 310 calories, 17 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 360 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.09 (each)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Frosted Sugar Cookie Donut)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Gingerbread Cookie Donut)
Pros: Sugar Cookie Donut topping is one of the better toppings I’ve had on a Dunkin’ donut. Good quality freshness in donut bases.
Cons: Gingerbread cookie topping is as stale as your great uncle’s Christmas jokes. Cookie dough filling doesn’t really taste like cookie dough. Caramel frosting is cloying and out-of-place.

REVIEW: Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna-Roll Soda

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda

Autumn 2005 is one of the most pivotal moments in the history of soft drinks since it marked the arrival of Jones Soda’s infamous Holiday Pack. Featuring a wild medley of bizarre-flavored beverages (turkey and gravy, brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie, etc.), the strange soda set received heaps of media coverage, more or less putting the obscure cola manufacturer on the map.

Here we are 13 years later, and soda companies are STILL trying to replicate Jones Soda’s unusual (yet undeniably successful) marketing strategy. From upstart micro-cola companies to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo themselves, soda manufacturers continue to trot out unorthodox – and in some cases, downright disgusting – colas with the hopes that the (morbid?) curiosity of John and Joan Q. Consumer will be enough to turn a profit, or at least generate some free publicity.

Kroger’s Big K Candy Cane and Cinna-Roll Sodas are certainly emblematic of the weird-simply-for-the-sake-of-being-weird cola trend. Neither product is all that appetizing – nor do they even taste that much like their namesakes, for that matter – but the sheer kookiness of the drinks is appealing.

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda 2

The packaging has this ironic, half-hearted ClipArt feel to it, complete with two of the worst puns you’ll ever read in your life. And if nothing else, the soda hues are definitely cool; the candy cane one looks like mutated Hawaiian Punch (maybe lava lamp juice?), while the cinna-roll one is the same color of ultra thick maple syrup (or 10W30 motor oil?)

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda

Kroger Big K Cinna Roll Soda

Alas, aesthetics can only carry a cola so far, and in the one area that matters most, both these sodas fall flat. The candy cane variation is the better tasting of the two, but even then it just tastes like a jug of Sprite with about 50 peppermints floating in it. Granted, that’s not my bag, but if you’re a connoisseur of peppermint schnapps, you might foster a fondness for it.

Unfortunately, the cinna-roll one won’t impress anybody. First off, the smell is weird. Yes, it’s like a cinnamon roll, but one that’s really stale. Or a fresh one that’s in an old sock – I’ll let you judge that for yourself. Regardless, the taste isn’t there. Instead of tasting like a Cinnabon treat, it’s like thick ginger ale with a surfeit of sugar in it. In fact, both sodas are sugary to the point of being nauseating; one serving of either will net you a whopping 96 percent of your RDA of the saccharine stuff.

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda 4

Alone, I wouldn’t consider either of these novelty colas worth going out of your way to experience. Just for the heck of it, though, I merged the two for science’s sake, and the coalesced Candy Cane-Cinna-Roll abomination actually tasted better than either standalone soda. Take note, Pepsi Fire fans (both of you) – combining these two off-kilter Kroger colas might be the closest thing you’ll get to reliving the magic and mirth of summer 2017. 

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 180 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of total carbohydrates, 48 grams of total sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49 each
Size: 2 liter bottles
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Candy Cane)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Cinna-Roll)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Both flavors combined)
Pros: The packaging is hipster-tastic; the colors of the sodas are really groovy. Combining the two colas together gives you (unofficial) Kroger Fire.
Cons: Both colas are excessively sweet. The cinnamon roll one has an off-putting smell (and carbonation that takes forever to die down). Realizing there’s no rational answer for when your significant other asks you why you’re putting them in the shopping cart.

REVIEW: Arby’s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich

On a confidence scale of 1-10, with 1 being the Browns winning the Super Bowl and 10 being the chances we get too many pumpkin spice-flavored products every fall, my confidence in Arby’s making a good chicken parmesan sandwich is about a 5.

On one hand, it’s Arby’s, which means A) It’s not Taco Bell, and B) The meat should be good. On the other hand, it’s Arby’s, which means the marinara is probably sitting in a box in the back and not simmering in a pot with fresh herbs and minced garlic while being stirred by someone’s nonna.

But then again, Arby’s new chicken parm sandwich is no ordinary one —- it’s a chicken parm sandwich with meat. Now I commend Arby’s for taking the Ron Swanson approach of eating several different animals in one bite with its Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich, but the pepperoni ruins this sandwich.

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich 2

It’s not the pepperoni’s fault, per se. I mean, we’re above Hormel quality here and under other conditions the pepperoni’s salty, unctuous flavor would be optimal. But it’s so loud and salty that it dominates each bite.

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich 3

This is an issue because the rest of the sandwich’s components fail to stand out. The buttermilk chicken is bland, tasting mostly of soggy breading and onion powder. I expected the marinara to pick it up, but even though the much-feared saccharine tomato taste wasn’t there, the sauce was flat and (again) too salty, lacking any memorable tomato flavor.

Even the bun, which Arby’s has paired so wonderfully with various brisket and brown sugar bacon sandwiches, is just sort of there, like the mindless carbs of a forgettable bread basket at a dying chain restaurant.

The one exception is the mozzarella, which is beautifully melted to that stretchable texture and has a nuanced flavor you’d expect from a panini. But here again the pepperoni dominates, canceling out what should be a premium ingredient.

I tend to give Arby’s the benefit of the doubt, and I’m a huge fan of the quality they’ve committed themselves to. But considering the run of successful brisket, brown sugar bacon, and pork belly sandwiches they’ve strung together, the Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich is a letdown.

It feels weird typing this, but this may be one case where we have the meats might be we have too many meats for our own good.

(Nutrition Facts – 610 calories, 28 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 1900 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Not want for meat. Really good melting action on the mozzarella. Moist and plump chicken breast. Marinara wasn’t horrible for fast food. Great if you love pepperoni.
Cons: Forgettable chicken. Overpowering pepperoni. Marinara sauce lacks balance. Virtually impossible to eat and not spill sauce on yourself.

REVIEW: Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks (Creamy Cheddar & Flamin’ Hot)

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot

The Cheetos brand has been on fire recently (pun intended, of course.) Its Mac & Cheese snacks have been rolled out at Burger King twice. There have been bizarre genius marketing tactics, like Cheetos-branded toilet paper and most recently a pop-up restaurant in New York. Since the restaurant is only a three-day event and I live hours away, though, I have to settle for the next best thing, Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks from the freezer aisle!

I tried them when they first launched at BK so I was excited to indulge again, especially with a new flavor. The shape is still a chunkily shaped cylinder with a slight curve and when preparing these snacks Frito-Lay really wants you to work for them as there are no microwave instructions. This does mean, though, that the outsides continue to be crispy and crunchy without being too greasy, which I was expecting.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 2

The insides are full of mac and cheese creamy goodness and I mean that in every sense of the word. It’s an intense cheddar cheese flavor, very rich actually, and with the pasta it does somewhat reach into being quite heavy for a small bite.

However, when it’s bordering on too much, the outside breading always counteracts to save it. They work together really well and I always got a little jolt of excitement when seeing the round end of a macaroni piece unearth itself. The Flamin’ Hot ones have the same cheesy flavor on the inside but with a nice, albeit small, kick of heat from the outside breading.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ”Wow, Leonard is really digging these. I need to stop everything and run out to find these immediately!!!!” There’s no bones about it, these are great mac and cheese snacks and if that’s all they were I would be a very satisfied repeat customer.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 3

However, Chester Cheetah is on the packaging and that’s when everything starts to crumble. The shape and even coloration are very uniform, which is a stark contrast from the original Cheetos snacks. The Flamin’ Hot do get some points for being closer, though, in appearance, with an almost glowing red hue. However, they also get points docked for the spice level. They should almost be called simmering ember instead as the heat is nowhere near the level of their bagged counterpart.

Sure, these are “dangerously cheesy” on the inside but not on the outside where I really wanted them to be. In fact, I couldn’t even find any Cheetle dust on my hands after eating these, which is a signature trait of the Cheetos eating experience. Instead there were just breading particles.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for how dirty my hands were with 1 being I just laid out china for a dinner on a yacht and 10 being I just finished finger painting with a toddler, my hands were maybe only a 5. I even tried licking the breading and got no cheese flavor. I was dangerously disappointed and sad. I don’t even have orange paw-printed toilet paper to wipe away my tears.

(Nutrition Facts – About 3 pieces – Creamy Cheddar – 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Flamin’ Hot – 240 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98 each
Size: 14.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Creamy Cheddar)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Flamin’ Hot)
Pros: Great generic mac & cheese snacks. Crispy outsides and creamy insides really working together. Macaroni noodles occasionally making an appearance.
Cons: No Cheetle Dust. Dangerously small resemblance to actual Cheetos snacks. NO CHEETLE DUST. Temporary pop-up restaurants that aren’t local.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips

I’m from the tri-state, so I think I’ve been exposed to good bagels in my lifetime. I’ve also been exposed to bad bagels parading themselves as good bagels. I like to think I’m a trustworthy voice when it comes to bagel quality. So, when I heard Lay’s had a new Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese chip, I had to review them.

Everything is arguably the best bagel, but they’re a mess to eat and the seeds get stuck in my teeth, so I appreciate Lay’s attempting to bring these great breakfast flavors together without the hassle.

Everything bagel chips already exist and if these taste anything like them, I’ll be more than satisfied. Also, just to let you know, I like my bagels soft and my bagel chips teeth shattering. When people ask me my favorite form of gambling, I tell them “eating bagel chips.”

Nothing about the bag’s smell screamed “everything bagel.” It just smelled like greasy kettle chips. When I buy a dozen bagels, those tend to be the dominant scent in the bag. There’s none of that here.

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips 4

They don’t look that special either. The only seasoning I could see were ACTUAL poppy seeds. Lay’s always puts flavor speckles on chips, why use actual poppy seeds? They’re the worst part of an everything bagel, and usually require floss.

As for the taste, there’s a small hint of cream cheese. Well, there’s a dairy taste at the very least, so they deliver in that department.

Beyond that, I didn’t distinguish the other elements of an everything bagel. There’s a tang at first, but it just tastes like a weak sour cream and onion. I’d let that go if the other flavors worked, but they really don’t.

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips 3

Did I taste sesame? Not really. Was there anything “bready” about these chips? Nope. “Bready” chips are probably easier said than done, but we’re talking about bagels here. These don’t taste like bagels. I stared at the bagel on the bag, and still couldn’t convince my brain.

The thing about regular kettle chips is that the main flavor is oil. The grease is overpowering unless the chip is coated in a strong flavor base, which these chips do not have. The other problem, like always, is the fact the texture is inconsistent. Some chips are perfectly crunchy while some seem like they’re five years old.

Unfortunately, these don’t deliver on the bagel promise. They remind me of really weak, stale sour cream and onion chips. There’s no chance these win the Do Us a Flavor contest.

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips 5

(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A strong contest choice. Cream cheese comes through. Onion and garlic are noticeable. Everything bagels are delicious. Wouldn’t necessarily be a bad chip if they weren’t falsely advertised. They taste better dipped in actual cream cheese.
Cons: Greasy kettle flavor. Weak smell. Boring looking chip. Misses on some major flavor elements. Poppy seeds.

REVIEW: Little Debbie S’mores Cake Rolls

Little Debbie S mores Cake Rolls

Every summer, s’mores fever grips the snack food aisle like a charred marshmallow to a hot skewer. But there’s a good reason only an elite corps of s’mores junk food, with S’mores Pop-Tarts as their patron saint, stick around after the last autumn bonfire is snowed out—and it has nothing to do with seasonality.

See, while any M.B.A. can throw graham, chocolate, and marshmallow flavor into a snack, it takes a wise marketer to understand that smoky, oaky, and toasted marshmallowiness is the literal and flavorful glue that holds a great s’more experience together.

Those who haven’t read Lao Tzu’s The Art of S’more end up overwhelming their treat with bland sugary fluff, a gastronomical mistake comparable to invading Russia in the winter—on two fronts. And Little Debbie’s new S’mores Cake Rolls prove this.

Little Debbie S mores Cake Rolls 2

Each individually wrapped roll is fat. I’d put their girth somewhere between “Fudgsicle” and “cartoon cigar.”

But each individually wrapped is not phat. Most of their bulk is cream filling weight, and this barely evolved Reddi-Wip is more like aerated custard than toasted marshmallow. Heavy on the fructose and vanilla, yet lightly eggy, this vapid stuff overwhelms the rest of the S’mores Cake Roll like a kid trusted to put whipped cream on his own pie slice.

Which is a shame, because the sponge cake itself is pretty tasty. It’s better than a pillowy Twinkie’s, because a S’mores Cake Roll’s namesake cake roll is denser and butterier, like a buttermilk pancake or some New Age cracker. It has tragically little baked graham flavor, and practically no honey notes, though, further downgrading S’mores Cake Rolls’ authenticity from “poorly made s’more” to “flea market bootleg s’more.”

Oh, and the chocolate? Like one of those abstract smudges on a fancy, well-plated dish, the latticed fudge on every roll is more decorative than flavorful. If you chew your roll with the vigor of a beaver who moonlights as an MLB pitcher, you can taste some generic milk chocolate notes in the aftertaste, but it’s about as compelling as coagulated Hershey’s syrup.

Which, considering how most people make their s’mores, is actually a point in Diminutive Deborah’s favor.

Little Debbie S mores Cake Rolls 3

Taken as a whole roll, these things aren’t bad. They’re just misguided. With their interesting dough, pudding-esque filling, and light icing, they taste way more like Éclair Cake Rolls than anything roasted over a fire, and I think Small Deb would’ve been better off advertising them as such to transcend the marshmallow white noise of s’mores product competition.

With their aggressively saccharine cream, smothered pancake swirls, and choco-phantoms, S’mores Cake Rolls aren’t for me. But if you’re a whipped cream whiz, éclair enthusiast, or retired clown desperately jonesing for one last pie to the face, roll on over to the snack cake aisle and get your fix.

The rest of us can try skewering a S’mores Cake Roll over the campfire to get our fix of toastiness. I apologize in advance to Smokey the Bear.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll – 260 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 30 milligrams of potassium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 6 cake rolls (13.13 oz box)
Purchased at: Dollar General
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Hypnotic pancake cylinders. Benevolent custard spirits. Snack cake calories not counting if you’re camping. Learning that eclaire [sic] is French for “enlightened.”
Cons: Fire hoses of cloying cream. Ornamental chocolate ghosts. Geneva Convention-breaking s’more crimes. Clown junkies.