REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Strawberry Cheesecake Fudge Stripes Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Strawberry Cheesecake Fudge Stripes Cookies

This is the tragedy of Keebler’s Fudge Stripes cookies – adulthood steals your ability to wear them as a ring.

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As a girl, I delighted in prancing around in pretend evening gowns with a rock of a Fudge Stripe on my finger. Of course, it was far too ostentatious and impractical, so I nibbled around the edges to reduce it to a more modest size.

Inevitably, it would crack and fall apart in the process, so I would have to eat it and start all over again. Now my fully-grown fingers are too thick to sport the beloved shortbread & frosting jewelry of my youth. My FS consumption dropped off considerably.

Then Keebler started wooing me back with “Limited Batch” flavors. Peppermint. Red Velvet. Birthday Cake. Cinnamon Roll. Lemon Cream Pie. I loved them all. I was still a little sore about the ring thing, but I was definitely back in the fold.

Hence, I’d already written this review in my head when I lifted the package of Strawberry Cheesecake Fudge Stripes from the grocery shelves. 9 out of 10! How could I NOT love them?

Keebler Limited Batch Strawberry Cheesecake Fudge Stripes Cookies 3

When I opened the package, I was greeted by the rosy pink color of the base cookie and a strong scent of tangy cheesecake. I wasn’t getting strawberry, however. No worries, I was sure the taste would make up for it.

On first bite, my expected explosion of Frankenberry-ish fake strawberry didn’t materialize. The cheesecake frosting flavor was good despite being a hair more acidic than most cheesecake flavored items. The strawberry shortbread apparently called in sick today, however. Instead of a fruity delight, it tasted more like eating a flour-flavored cookie with a chemical aftertaste. It’s surprising since the last two Fudge Stripes flavor releases, Lemon Cream Pie and Cinnamon Roll, were spot-on with flavor tone and intensity.

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This may be the only time in my life I’ve said this, but I’m probably not going to finish this package of Fudge Stripes. Every bite screams “not worth the calories.” They’re a fail for me.

But Keebler, how ‘bout an adult-finger-size Fudge Stripes release? Eh? Eh?

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, calories from fat (not listed), 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 10g total sugars incl. 9g added sugars and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 11.5 oz. package
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Great color and tasty cheesecake frosting.
Cons: “Knock knock.” “Who’s there?” “Not strawberry.”

REVIEW: Thomas’ Limited Edition S’mores English Muffins

Thomas Limited Edition S mores English Muffins

As someone who works in the marketing department of an organization that has only discovered social media within the last year, I tend to feel an affinity with Thomas’ English muffins. For years, these guys had one shtick: nooks and crannies.

If sharing the same marketing platform as a dilapidated four bedroom Tudor didn’t do it for you, you’re not alone. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason people tolerate English muffins is because they’re the breakfast equivalent of chips. It’s all about the toppings —- I lean toward the classic cream cheese —- and that delightful round shape.

Well, no more. The new s’mores flavor joins a suddenly marketing-savvy Thomas’ lineup that includes pumpkin spice, salted caramel, and maple french toast. To be honest, each has sounded great, but all have only been okay, undone by a hit-or-miss internal flavor that’s never as pervasive as it should be, and has to be rescued by the spread.

Call me old fashioned, but I have higher expectations for s’mores. In fact, if you call something s’more-flavored, I expect it to taste like a s’more without having to build an actual s’more out of it. Unfortunately, that’s what you have to do to coerce the summertime campfire flavor out of these muffins.

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If you’re the kind of person who eats English muffins both plain and untoasted (in which case, why?) you’ll find these have very little resemblance to a S’mores Pop-Tart much less actual s’mores. The small bursts of cocoa and marshmallow are almost impossible to see without a microscope and almost as difficult to taste.

There is a sort of cocoa flavor that hangs in the background as well as a general honey sweetness, but it’s not discernible as a s’more. A Tootsie Roll? Yes, I can taste that, but not a s’more. To make matters worse, there’s this dough conditioner chewiness thing going on which doesn’t go away unless you toast the muffins well past the point of burnt.

Speaking of toasting, I tested the muffins on a light and a moderate setting and found the graham flavor decreased each time. Granted, there’s not much to begin with, but on a moderate setting the muffins taste like a honey whole wheat English muffin. And because there’s no actual chocolate chips, toasting doesn’t reveal any melty chocolate.

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Ultimately, when I spread the muffins with chocolate marshmallow frosting, they tasted moderately like a s’more. This was anticlimactic though, because I’d already licked some frosting with my finger, which also kind of tasted like a s’more.

Thomas’ S’mores English Muffins are only available for a limited time, which is probably a good thing, because you don’t need mediocre s’mores ruining your life. You also don’t need mediocre English muffins, which is what these are when you take away the chocolate marshmallow frosting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 muffin – 150 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of dietary fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 6-pack
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Modest cocoa-flavor hangs in the background. Tastes better than a regular English muffin if you eat it plain. Inevitably signals the coming of peach cobbler English muffins come August.
Cons: Doesn’t taste like a s’more. Very lackluster marshmallow and graham elements. Even worse toasted. Overly doughy chew.

REVIEW: Nestle Butterfinger Limited Edition Smokin’ Hot Peanut Butter Cups

Nestle Butterfinger Limited Edition Smokin Hot Peanut Butter Cups

“Spicy” candy bars aren’t exactly a new concept.

In fact, jalapeño and chipotle pepper-flavored chocolates have been around for years, with prestige choco-preneurs like Lindt, Theo, and Taza among the companies pumping out sweet-and-hot fusion treats. Heck, just last year, M&M’s even got in on the action with their L-T-O Chili Nut variation.

The thing is, such products are unlikely to ever be mainstream hits. There are people who love chocolate and there are people who love spicy foods, but there probably aren’t that many people out there who enjoy both concurrently. In a way, “spicy chocolate” is kind of like the reverse Reese’s cup – instead of two distinct tastes harmoniously merging, it represents two distinct tastes waging guerilla warfare on your tongue.

In that, I’m not really sure there is a target audience for something like the “Smoking’ Hot” Butterfinger Cups. It’s not that the product is bad, per se, it’s just that it feels so…uneventful.

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For starters, calling the cups “smokin’ hot” is a huge misnomer. While the cups do indeed have a palpable paprika aftertaste, the overall effect is so mild that you barely get a tingle on your tastebuds. It actually took me a good five seconds before I realized the cups even had the slightest tinge of spiciness. With a delayed gustatory impact like that, you really can’t even use these things for pranks; by the time your unknowing “victim” realizes he or she has fallen for the old switcheroo, they’re likely to finish the whole cup – that is, if they notice the meager paprika kick at all.

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But the lack of spiciness might not be the offering’s biggest core problem. I suppose with a product like this, comparisons to that other, older, and more famous line of peanut butter cups are unavoidable. Although these cups do have a noticeable, traditional Butterfinger taste, the texture seems a bit off. It’s crunchy, but not as crunchy as the standard issue candy bar.

Ultimately, you wind up with a product that tastes more like Reese’s than Butterfinger, which – depending on your perspective – may be a positive or a negative. Alas, considering the word “Butterfinger” is on the packaging, I’m assuming manufacturer Nestle might be leaning more towards the latter than the former.

So what consumer itch are these things supposed to be scratching, precisely? Even if you’re one of the few odd ducks out there who dig spicy chocolates, the cups are probably too mild for your liking, and if you’re just a regular old chocoholic, you’ll probably consider the “spicy” kick either superfluous or flat-out off-putting.

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Some ideas never should’ve made it past the drawing board. And unfortunately, Nestle’s latest L-T-O novelty is one of those marketing misfires that definitely deserves its lukewarm consumer reaction.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 120 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of total fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 4-pack
Purchased at: Kangaroo
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: The chocolate is pretty tasty. The cups have a semi-noticeable Butterfinger taste. The paprika flavor is unlikely to irritate your sinuses.
Cons: The product isn’t really spicy – at all. It tastes way more like a Reese’s cup than a Butterfinger bar. Realizing it’s only a matter of time until someone releases a spicy guacamole iteration of Almond Joy … or Tabasco Sauce Pop-Tarts.

VIDEO REVIEW: Philadelphia Milk Chocolate Cheesecake Cups

Purchased Price: $2.99 (on sale)
Size: 2-pack
Purchased at: Safeway
Nutrition Facts: (1 cup) 220 calories, 100 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber 22 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Mtn Dew White Label

Mtn Dew White Label

Gather ‘round, kids: it’s time for a Choose Your Own Adventure story!

You are Mountain Dew Pitch Black, a heroic soda knight whose early 2000s Halloween conquests — and recent 2016 revival — made him the sugary stuff of legends and memories alike.

But although you’re a more mythic Mountain than Olympus, people aren’t as charmed by radioactively purple syrup as they used to be. So if you don’t want to join Heinz EZ Squeeze in Violet Valhalla, you’ll have to grow up.

Which path will you take at this pivotal crossroad?

If you choose the dark path, turn to a different review.

If you choose the light path, turn to the next page and prepare to see a threatening, all-caps THE END that’ll make you glad you kept your thumb on the previous page.

Why? Because while Mountain Dew’s recent Black Label was a deliciously classy Pitch Black who grew up to host dinner parties and own an art house theater, this new White Label tastes like an adult Pitch Black who bitterly yells at the local news with his mouthful of lukewarm Hungry Man dinners.

Mtn Dew White Label 2

Enough doom, gloom, and microwaved rib eye for now: let’s start with the positives. Mountain Dew White Label does preserve much of the grape flavor that makes Pitch Black great, without the syrupy discomfort that Pitch Black’s many grams of sugary slugs slime onto the back of your throat. At only 35 grams of sugar and 140 calories per can, this comparatively light Dew won’t leave you shamefully feeling like you drank a Nickelodeon prop.

I say “much of the grape flavor,” because the fruitiness is lighter, too. The white grape juice concentrate lacks the sour, tangy punch of its red sibling, but it replaces it with an unparalleled crispness that’s nearly floral. It’s no chardonnay, but I can see this flavor appealing to a niche audience of Dew snobs.

Unfortunately, that’s the nicest thing I can say about Mtn Dew White Label. Because once the white grape flavor fades, an unwelcome orange backend takes its place. The can claims that White Label is “Dew with Crafted Tropical Citrus,” but the bitter, acrid tang of this orange finish just tastes like the juice of a wrinkly tangerine that was infused with expired SunnyD and the pity tears of a passing pineapple.

In short: this tropical shipwreck’s more LOST than Gilligan’s Island.

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Mtn Dew White Label isn’t undrinkable, and it might work for those seeking a super smooth soda that won’t pummel their trachea with the aggressive jabs of a million bubbles, but Black Label just tastes superior in every way. White Label is pretty much Diet Black Label (it contains Sucralose, and you can tell), and since Black Label was already a less carbonated Pitch Black, this new Dew’s one degree of separation too far away to be worth it.

So please, young Pitch Black, if you’re reading this, disregard Master Kenobi and embrace the power of the Dark Side.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 70 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 35 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: White grape concentrate that’s crisper than Denny’s hash browns. Not feeling like my taste buds went on Double Dare. Liquid opacity that rivals Crystal Pepsi. Pairing this with Doritos for a low-budget wine & cheese night.
Cons: Diet Diet Pitch Black. Cantankerous citrus aftertastes. Pineapple pity parties. Suddenly: sucralose! Never getting to eat purple ketchup again. Throwing so much shade they could’ve called it “Grey Label.”

REVIEW: Lay’s Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips

I love Tex-Mex – breakfast tacos, fajitas – you name it, I’ll eat it. But, my favorite Tex-Mex invention is hands down: queso.

As part of their annual “Do Us A Flavor” contest push, Lay’s has unleashed another presumably LTO flavor – Southwestern Queso – to get the creative juices flowing. Of course, Lay’s had to be politically correct and name it “Southwestern Queso” but is there really any other kind of delicioso queso like this?! I think not. I am currently living very far away from the “Southwest,” so I was pretty stoked to see something, anything queso.

When I opened the bag, I was surprised that there was no pungent smell invading my olfactory system. In attempts to make up for the flavor not actually tasting like what it’s trying to mimic, a lot of limited edition foods overcompensate with smell or at least I think so. Unfortunately, this notion gave me false hope that the chips would actually taste like queso. Anyways, the smell of these reminded me faintly of BBQ; I couldn’t really pinpoint it immediately.

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The chips looked like a normal seasoned chip color – a twinge of orange, but not neon Cheetos orange. Unlike the photo on the bag, they were also speckled with additional seasoning which reminded me of speckling on Lay’s Kettle Cooked Jalapeno Chips. Is it bad that I was surprised that the chip pieces were actually whole? I recall Lay’s being really brittle/always cracked for some reason. But, these whole oval slices looked like they actually came from a spud.

Like the smell test, I couldn’t really immediately identify what I was tasting. I kept thinking BBQ but realized the prevailing taste was another Lay’s favorite: Sour Cream & Onion. But, the aftertaste was like Cheddar & Sour Cream. So, the extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese (don’t ask haha). After a handful of chips, I was surprised that I was picking up on a little heat as well. But, it wasn’t too spicy.

Lay’s, what about this tastes like my beloved queso?

Lay's Southwestern Queso Potato Chips 3

After my tastebuds were saturated in salt and artificial flavoring, I concluded that it wasn’t good but wasn’t terrible for a chip. But, don’t you dare try to tell me that this is queso-flavored. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.

If I were naming the flavor I’d name it: Cheddar, Sour Cream & Onion with a little bit of Hot ‘n Spicy BBQ. After this disappointment, I took a peek at the ingredient list. Lay’s attempted to make it look like they tried with “Southwestern Queso Seasoning”, red and green bell pepper extract, paprika extracts and even blue cheese. Either R&D really sucked or this “Southwestern Queso Seasoning” is the Franken-creation I previously mentioned.

I keep telling myself that some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex, but Lay’s Southwestern Queso flavor is a really hard sell.

(Nutrition Facts – 15 chips – 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.98
Size: 9.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: No pungent smell. Whole chips that look like they actually came from a spud! Some Tex-Mex is better than no Tex-Mex?
Cons: What about this tastes like my beloved queso? Extra tang initially reminded me of eating spoiled cream cheese. It’s like Lay’s took all their popular existing flavors and blended it into one like Frankenstein’s monster.