QUICK REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins Tiramisu Ice Cream

Baskin Robbins Tiramisum Ice Cream

Bucking the ho ho ho-hum trend of cramming peppermint or gingerbread into every new or limited flavor this time of year, Baskin-Robbins’ November Flavor of the Month is Tiramisu. Tiramisu-flavored ice cream is filled with pound cake pieces, a chocolate mocha ribbon, and chocolate flakes.

Coffee is unabashedly the dominant flavor in this dish, emanating a distinct smell and exercising as much subtlety as a Targaryen barbecue. The tiramisu-flavored ice cream base seems enjoyable on its own, but I had difficulty isolating it from the generous mocha ribbon.

Baskin Robbins Tiramisum Ice Cream 2

Unfortunately, this proves to be too much of a good thing as a coffee-flavored ribbon in a coffee-flavored base leaves a somewhat bitter aftertaste and feels as unnecessary as taking a dip in Goo Lagoon when you already live in a pineapple under the sea.

It also creates a problem for the semi-sweet chocolate flakes which add a nice snap but fail to punch up the chocolate notes enough to stand out despite decent representation. Meanwhile, the scarce pound cake pieces are relegated to merely providing a pleasant spongy texture as their flavor is completely overshadowed by the coffee.

Baskin Robbins Tiramisum Ice Cream 3

Perhaps the rich buttery essence of a mascarpone swirl would have resulted in a more balanced and authentic flavor than the coffee overload created by the mocha ribbon.

I like a bold coffee-flavored chocolate ice cream, and this certainly fits that bill; it just isn’t the iconic, layered taste experience you know and love in ice cream form. This rendition of tiramisu is as authentic to its Italian heritage as a Brooklyn plumber riding a dinosaur.

Baskin-Robbins says a 4 oz. scoop has 26 milligrams of caffeine.

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: Large scoop (4 oz.)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Small Scoop) 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 24 grams of sugar, 1 gram of dietary fiber, and 5 grams of protein..

REVIEW: Doritos Crunch Nuts (Nacho Cheese & Crunch Nuts)

Doritos Crunch Nuts  Nacho Cheese and Cool Ranch

Doritos has two new products — the Crunch Mix and Crunch Nuts. Not since Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos have I ever been so excited for a new Doritos-branded product to hit the market.

My fellow reviewer was pleased with the new Doritos Crunch Mixes, but how does the star items in those, the Crunch Nuts, stand on their own? A Doritos Locos Taco home run? Or a Doritos Loaded strikeout?

Regardless of how they are, they do have cool packaging. It’s futuristic looking with a unique shape that’s square at the bottom but then tapers to completely flat at the top. Its shape and design makes it perfect for snacking in the car.

Upon opening up each container I got blasted with a strong peanut aroma. I could tell right off the bat both flavors have a significant amount of seasoning. The Nacho Cheese is intensely orange, while the Cool Ranch is a lighter tan with a few dark speckles. Each Crunch Nut has an outer crunchy coating that’s covered with seasoning and then an inner portion that’s a full peanut.

Doritos Nacho Cheese Crunch Nuts

With both varieties, they nailed the Doritos flavor as each one tastes exactly their chip counterpart. Also, the name Crunch Nuts isn’t a misnomer as the crunch on them is epic as well. I found the best way to eat these is to soak up the seasoning a bit on your tongue so you get the full flavor and then swing for the fences with your teeth to get the crunch.

Doritos Cool Ranch Crunch Nuts

Once you get to the peanut part, though, it starts striking out. It completely overpowers the shell. It’s as if the Doritos essence vanished and never happened. I mean, I love peanuts as much as anybody, but the flavors together for these aren’t working. The Cool Ranch ones fare a little bit better as the flavor lasts longer and seems to meld better with the peanut, but with Nacho Cheese, not so much. The more I ate, the stronger the peanut flavor got and so I could only eat a few before it bored me.

Doritos Crunch Nuts are nowhere near a home run. They’re more of a line drive that looks like a double and you run past first base on your way to second but then have to quickly shuttle back to first as you realize your hit wasn’t as deep into the gap as you thought.

(Nutrition Facts – about 3 Tbsp – Nacho Cheese – 130 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 11 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein. Cool Ranch – 130 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99 each
Size: 3 oz.
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Nacho Cheese)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cool Ranch)
Pros: Futuristic packaging. Plentiful seasoning and great crunch. Baseball analogies.
Cons: Overpowering peanut flavor. Cheese flavor and peanuts not quite having a beautiful marriage. Not suited to be a solo act.

REVIEW: Hostess Bakery Petites

Hostess Bakery Petites

Hostess’ new Bakery Petites line looks classier than the company’s iconic gang of treats — Twinkies, Ho Hos, and Ding Dongs. While the old school treats continue to be the definition of convenience store chic and have names that probably have different meanings when looked up on Urban Dictionary, the new ones come in resealable bags with classy, curvy graphics and photos that put them on an actual pedestal to show that they’re better.

Hostess’ Bakery Petites are available in six varieties, which I’ve listed and reviewed below in no particular order.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights

Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights

The Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights look like mini unfrosted Hostess Cupcakes rejects. Each one is slightly wider than a quarter and has a sunken middle, which I thought is a no-no when it comes to baking. But it’s not a production error because that’s how they look on the packaging. If that bothers you, I imagine frosting would make a great toupee to hide it.

If you’re someone who loves corner brownies and thinks because they’re round they must be all-corner brownies, slow your roll. While a little chewy, it’s not edge-chewy and I wish they were a little less cakey, but that’s a personal preference. There are chocolate bits inside each one, providing a delightful creamy bite and punching up the cocoa.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights 2

They taste like chocolate cake Hostess products and there are moments when I taste a little greasiness, but it’s still a pleasant chocolatey treat. They’re tasty enough that I ate more than the three-piece serving size in one sitting.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini brownies): 170 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights

Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights

The Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights look exactly alike its Chocolate Chunk sibling, even the dent on top of every piece. They’re so much alike that the photo below is actually not a photo of the raspberry mini brownies. Just kidding. They are.

But, while its sibling has chocolate chunks, this has real raspberries. Although, they come in a form I’ve never heard of before — raspberry flakes. They’re like Ben & Jerry’s Fudge Flakes in that they’re made from chocolate and aren’t flakes. They’re chunks, SO WHY AREN’T THEY CALL CHUNKS!!! Anyhoo, they give the brownie bites a familiar raspberry aroma that I’ve smelled with other confections and a tart candied raspberry flavor.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Raspberry Brownie Delights 2

While almost all the raspberry flavor comes from the flakes, the brownie part has a little fruitiness. This causes the chocolate to take a back seat. While these mini brownies are fine and I don’t have a problem with the fruit flavor, the Chocolate Chunk ones were more pleasing.

Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini brownies): 170 calories, 80 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 15 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Double Chocolate Cake Delights

Double Chocolate Cake Bites

These are like Cake Pops except without the sticks, so if you want to impress folks with cake pop, BYOS. They feature a chocolate creme center surrounded by chocolate cake that’s dipped in chocolate icing and sprinkled with white nonpareils.

The white nonpareils do the following — give a color contrast, add a crunch that contrasts the soft, chocolatey parts, and make them look more than chocolate balls. They don’t add any flavor and that’s a little disappointing because, just like the the Chocolate Chunk Brownie Delights, they have that familiar Hostess chocolate cake flavor.

Hostess Bakery Petites Double Chocolate Cake Delights 2

While those brownies look like mini unfrosted Cupcakes, the chocolatey icing layer helps these taste a lot like Hostess Cupcakes but without the vanilla creme filling. With so much chocolate, it’s hard to taste the different components, especially creme. Wait. Why am I complaining about too much chocolate? I’m being such a chocolate grinch. The cake is moist and the icing layer has a satisfying bite like a sugary glaze on a donut. The Double Chocolate Cake Bites are the ones I finished first and they’re my favorite.

Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini cakes): 180 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites White Fudge Vanilla Cake Delights

White Fudge Vanilla Cake Bites

Out of all of these fancy treats, from the packaging, these look the fanciest — colorful sprinkles on white fudge that coats a yellow cake ball filled with creme. They look so neat that I just want to take a photo of them, post it to Instagram, and wait for the Likes to start rolling in.

But they look a little less impressive in real life. The colorful sprinkles’ brightness is muted because they’re in the fudge coating and not on top of it. With that said, even with the way they are, they still look fancier than the others.

But they also don’t taste impressive.

Hostess Bakery Petites White Fudge Vanilla Cake Delights 2

Despite not having anything regarding cherries in its ingredients list, they smell and taste like maraschino cherries. Also, the cake is dryer than the chocolate one. As for the creme filling, its flavor reminds me custard, but it gets overwhelmed with that fruity flavor. The sprinkles do add a crunchy element to the ping pong ball-sized treats, but they don’t help make them less odd tasting.

Since I don’t think white fudge vanilla cake when I eat these, and I find that to be a bit odd, they ended up being my least favorite of the six varieties.

Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (3 mini cake): 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins

Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins

Hostess totally misspelled “Crispi.” It should be spelled C-O-O-K-I-E.

Their rectangle shape makes me think of blond brownies, but when I eat them, all I think about are chocolate chip cookies. They’re crispy, have a brown sugar vibe, and hard to stop eating. Well, the only times I stopped eats by them as to see if the piece I picked up had chocolate on it.

If you look at the photo on the packaging you’ll see that every piece has at least two chocolate dots on them, but in real life that’s not the case. A number of my pieces didn’t have any chocolate which is disappointing because the chocolate adds a creaminess that’s the opposite of the crispy texture. The chocolate looks like they’re a little melted but without the mess of being melted.

Hostess Bakery Petites Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins 2

The brown sugary goodness, I guess, helps it taste more like a blondie brownie, but I still think chocolate chip cookie when I eat them.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (1 ounce): 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Brownie Crispi Thins

Chocolate Brownie Crispi Thins

While the Fudge Blondie Crispi Thins taste like a chocolate chip cookie, the Chocolate Brownie version tastes more like a brownie thanks to a little bit of dark fudginess. But I could also see these being mistaken flavor-wise as chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

Unlike the blondie version, almost every piece has a chocolate or two. There was even a piece that had five chocolate chips. BONUS!!! They have the same crispiness as the blondie version and the chocolate has the same soft texture. But without the chocolate chips, the thins are bland.

Hostess Bakery Petites Chocolate Brownie Crispi Thins 2

Brownie thins aren’t a new idea. Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle has been around for years, but I’ve never had it, so I can’t compare. But I can compare the two brownie Crispi Thins, and they’re equally tasty.

Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts (1 ounce): 120 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

Sooo, that’s all the flavors.

Overall, I like the idea of Hostess’ Bakery Petites. Cake bites, mini brownies, and brownie thins aren’t new, but they also aren’t very common in the snack aisle. So it’s nice to see a big brand offer them. They use real vanilla and chocolate, and aren’t made using high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavor or colors, which I’m pretty sure is not the case with their popular treats. I guess they show that Hostess is capable of something more than convenience store chic.

Thanks to Impulsive Buy reader Carla for sending me all the varieties.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Chicken Tenders and Side of S’awesome

Wendy s Chicken Tenders 1

Wait, chicken tenders are a thing again?

When McDonald’s killed its Chicken Selects in 2015, I could have sworn the burger-centric fast foods chains were done with premium, dippable chicken. But the resurrection of McDonald’s Chicken Selects as Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders seems to have started something a trend. Case in point, Wendy’s feels the need to one-up the Golden Arches with brand new Chicken Tenders and a never-before-seen sauce – Side of S’awesome.

Wendy s Chicken Tenders 2

I’ve eaten a couple hundred pounds of chicken tenders and I can tell you these are decent as far as the all-white meat stuff goes. They lack the kind of succulent, peanut oil-infused flavor of Chick-fil-A’s tenders, and you’re not going to mistake them for Raising Cane’s or Zaxby’s. But the breading is crisp and well seasoned, the chicken isn’t dry, and there are no textural abnormalities like slimy meat or hollow crevasses under the breading.

But the flavor is predictable: the ubiquitous garlic, onion powder, salt, and black pepper mix you’ve probably tasted in dozens of chain restaurant and food service tenders. In other words, unless you’re really into the breading, you’re gonna want something to dip these in.

Wendy s Chicken Tenders 3

I’m assuming Wendy’s came up with the name for their S’awesome Sauce because someone thought it was cool; that or “Spread,” “Fry Sauce,” and “Ed’s Sauce” were already taken. In any case, they should have named it “It’s Alright Sauce” because it’s okay.

Advertised as “tangy, sweet, and smoky,” it has elements of the first two flavors but very little smokiness unless you count the whisper of Worcestershire on the backend. Overall, it trends neither distinctly tangy or sweet, instead finding a mild middle ground which tastes like two parts mayo, one part mustard, and one part ketchup. But it doesn’t pop; it doesn’t wow; it doesn’t make me lick my fingers and declare to my coworkers that this shit is s’awesome.

Wendy s Chicken Tenders 4

Put another way, if dipping is your thing, then you’ll probably want to stick with your usual Wendy’s go-to sauce.

When I saw that McDonald’s brought back chicken tenders, and then Wendy’s followed suit, my first instinct was to ask myself why major fast food chains had deserted them in the first place. But now that I’ve tried Wendy’s new Chicken Tenders, I can’t help notice how ordinary they taste when lined up against the Raising Cane’s, Zaxby’s, and Chick-fil-A’s of the world. And, unfortunately, even a name like S’awesome Sauce can’t hide the fact that the entire combo is average.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 300 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of total fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 920 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 22 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5 combo ($3.49 for order of 3)
Size: 3-piece combo
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Meatier alternative to Wendy’s nuggets. Solid crunch and well seasoned breading. Lower in calories than most chicken tenders.
Cons: S’awesome Sauce is pretty average. Tenders aren’t particularly succulent or juicy. Breading flavor is predictable. $5 combo meal isn’t as good as Dairy Queen’s $5 chicken tenders lunch.

REVIEW: Snyder’s of Hanover Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces

Snyder s of Hanover Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces 1

Pumpkin Season is in full force and new this year is Snyder’s of Hanover’s Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces, which got me excited since pretzels seemed to be an interesting and novel way to show of the much-loved flavor.

Recently, though, I have been tackling new pumpkin-flavored items with some hesitation because it seems like the flavor can vary greatly in execution. It’s best when the pumpkin-to-spice ratio is masterfully in sync, usually with one not overpowering the other. It also helps to have real pumpkin included. Let’s see how Snyder’s did.

Snyder s of Hanover Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces 2

As I break open the bag, I am hit with intense spice aroma. I can definitely smell the cinnamon and nutmeg. Pumpkin, though? Not so much. The pieces are all different shapes and sizes with a nice orange hue affixed to a majority of the pieces. It’s not bright enough to be mistaken for a cheesy seasoning, but not too dull either.

Snyder s of Hanover Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces 3

There’s also some dark speckling on top of the orange. As far as size, most of the pieces are bite-sized except for one that was still largely intact. As I stare at it more it kind of resembles a finger and with this being a fall flavor before Halloween it oddly fits right in.

The pieces are as crunchy as you would expect from a well-crafted sourdough hard pretzel. There’s a nice doughy kind of flavor that pops up as you break down the pieces in your mouth. Once you get it going after the crunch, the coating’s flavor comes through.

How does the flavor taste, exactly? Is it packed full of pumpkiny goodness? No, not really. Is there an explosion of earthy spices in your mouth? Maybe, but just a little.

Snyder s of Hanover Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Pretzel Pieces 4

Honestly, though, all I tasted was cinnamon. There was cinnamon, more cinnamon and then some more cinnamon all backed by the sweetness of sugar. I kept eating more to try to convince myself I could taste the pumpkin or some of the other spices, like nutmeg, especially because I had smelled it earlier. However, no luck.

It’s surprising because pumpkin powder is listed as one of the ingredients. In the end, though, these are just very, very good cinnamon pretzels with a nice festive orange color. Next year, these should be rebranded as festively colored cinnamon sugar pretzel pieces for Halloween. Either that or the pumpkin powder needs to move up the ingredient list significantly.

(Nutrition Facts – about 1/3 cup – 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.99
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Shopfoodex.com
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy and delicious sourdough base. Pleasant orange coloring. Accidental shapes that turn out to be festive. Real pumpkin powder.
Cons: Off balanced pumpkin spice ratio. An aroma that didn’t match in taste. Faint to non-existent pumpkin flavor. Glorified cinnamon sugar pretzels.