REVIEW: Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero

AP English nerds rejoice! The world has redeveloped an interest in classic dystopian novels, the likes of which “Cliff Notes” developed an entire business off the laziness of the rest of us.

At the top of the list stands “1984”, the seminal Orwell work about the sacrifices of personal privacy in modern society and how individuality can be suppressed through fear.

This resurgence is just in time for a new development. When the Coke Freestyle soda fountain, seemingly a paragon of choice, was released eight years ago, numerous pundits referenced “1984” in regards to one feature: that each Freestyle machine collects data on the beverages we have dispensed for “Big Bubbler” at the “Ministry” in Atlanta. For the first time, that data has been put into play, as the two most popular choices have been bottled and rolled out nationwide.

Moving past the debate about privacy invasions that are just as commonplace at the grocery store and Amazon.com these days, cherry soft drinks have been popular since the 1930’s, and it’s no surprise Cherry Sprite is the top Freestyle option for most anyone – other than the namesake of one version of the concoction. Apparently identity appropriation doesn’t get you a seat on the “Good Ship Lollipop”.

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The press release states: “Formulations for the fountain and bottled versions of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero vary”. Let’s hope this isn’t like heading to a Chevrolet dealership to find out the SS Sedan doesn’t look like this.

Sprite Cherry and Cherry Zero are clear, identical to original Sprite, but unlike the red-tinted versions that come from the Freestyle. The initial scent of Sprite Cherry was a strong cherry, with the citrus notes fading in at the end. Sprint Cherry Zero was less distinct, fruity and fresh but not as discernible.

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Sprite Cherry was a wonderful experience. It was crisp and really suggested a balance of cherry with a lemon/lime combo and equal in sweetness to original Sprite. It was one of the best new bottled sodas I have tried in recent years.

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Sprite Cherry Zero was adequate, but in comparison to Sprite Cherry, was a relative disappointment. No individual flavor stood out. This was a particular letdown as cherry flavors have proven very effective in no-cal soft drinks. Cherry Coke Zero, Diet Dr. Pepper Cherry, and Diet Mountain Dew Code Red stand as some of my all-time favorites.

The primary reason is that the strong cherry flavor seems to make up for the artificial sweeter, resulting in a less diet-feeling experience. Coke may have tried to achieve the balance of cherry with the other flavors in the full sugar version, but it was the wrong call in the diet version.

My hopes for a new go-to diet drink were dashed as abruptly as Winston’s fleeting happiness before the novel’s climax. Sprite Cherry might end up with more staying power, as an enjoyable but not radically different option (Ministry of Plenty approved!)

As for me, I’ll go back to dreaming about my soft drink “dark haired girl” – when Coke decides to add Mango, Watermelon, Pomegranate, and Chocolate options to the Freestyle – or my “Golden Country” – a Pepsi Spire machine near my home.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 fl ounces – Sprite Cherry – 200 calories, 0 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 54 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein. Sprite Cherry Zero – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, less than 1 gram of carbohydrates, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3.50
Size: 20 oz. bottles
Purchased at: Wawa
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Sprite Cherry Zero)
Pros: Freestyle feedback leading the R&D process. Balanced Cherry hit of Sprite Cherry. Brave New World. Fahrenheit 451. It Can’t Happen Here.
Cons: Not enough cherry “umph” in Sprite Cherry Zero. Uber-safe options coming from the Freestyle (no Grape Mello Yello?). The Pepsi Spire locator map that indicates a Subway next door to where I work in Delaware that is actually in Saskatchewan.

REVIEW: Peeps Mystery Flavors (2017)

Peeps Mystery Flavors (2017)

I remember stumbling upon last year’s Peeps Mystery Flavors and I was very much caught off guard.

Not one, not two, but three new flavors that I get to try and guess?! COUNT ME IN. I fell in love with the buttered popcorn one and so this makes me very excited to see what Peeps has in store this year. What would be the new buttered popcorn for me?

There are again three flavors to guess and while the packaging has stayed similar the Peeps are now speckled with bright color flakes. This adds a whole another layer of complexity as it ties the colors directly to the peeps giving you another reference point to lead you to the correct flavor or just throw you off completely.

First up is my favorite, Mystery Flavor #1 of 3.

On first whiff, there is a predominately maple kind of scent like straight maple syrup, perhaps even a hint of caramel as well. Biting into the Peeps, I love how the sugar and flakes on the outside mix together with the squishy marshmallow inside.

However, the flavor doesn’t get any stronger, which is disappointing. I still taste maple but then also think these could be coffee too, but definitely with some creaminess. I really enjoyed these but am completely stumped by the flavor. They could be waffles or pancakes or cappuccino or latte but what I keep coming back to is maple syrup.

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Next up is my least favorite, Mystery Flavor #2 of 3.

After opening it I got a serious blast of fruitiness, but not sure which one yet. Eating the Peeps, made me think instantly of orange. These had a lot of flavor and were sweet, but also tart. There may be another flavor in there but these tasted exactly like those orange fruit slice candies. It can’t be THAT simple, though, can it? Maybe these are blood orange or something. Plain old orange would be a serious missed opportunity.

Finally, Mystery Flavor #3 of 3.

Smelling these I got fruitiness again but distinctly a lemon-lime scent. Eating them, yep, lemon-lime was coming in very strong with sour notes, too. However, the flakes are yellow and green, which seems way too easy, unless that was on purpose to trick us? Brand mashups are all the rage recently, so maybe these are in fact sour Sprite flavored. Let’s go with that!

(Nutrition Facts – 5 chicks – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 32 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.19 each
Size: 3 oz./10 chicks
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10 (#1 of 3)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (#2 of 3)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (#3 of 3)
Pros: The fun that mystery flavors bring. Colored flakes upping the confusion factor. Sugary outsides and marshmallow insides joining together in perfect harmony.
Cons: Two-thirds of the flavors seem to be fruit based. Not finding my buttered popcorn successor. The agony that will take place until the flavors are officially revealed.

REVIEW: Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Cinnamon Pebbles Cereal

Churros existed before I discovered them in 2009, or so I’m told. But that fateful March afternoon in a Barcelona café was a personal turning point. As in – I turn my head any time I hear the word now. “Did someone say churros?” I ask, more a plea than a question.

When Cinnamon Pebbles cereal was announced last month, it was immediately linked with churros. Blog posts breathlessly asked if the breakfast flakes would taste like them. News articles suggested making Cinnamon Pebbles-covered churros.

My churro buds were aching when I ripped open the box of Cinnamon Pebbles. The scent was definitely cinnamon, but not churro-y. It was familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it reminded me of.

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I threw a dry handful into my mouth. The size, weight and texture are the same as the classic Pebbles varieties. Then the taste revealed itself. These were not Churro Pebbles. They were the simple cinnamon sugar of my youth.

I instantly flashed back to 8 years old, finding an ancient shaker of Domino’s “Sugar ‘n Cinnamon” in the back of the kitchen cabinet. I started dumping clumps of cinna-sugar (emphasis on the sugar) over my plain Rice Chex cereal. That is precisely the taste of Cinnamon Pebbles.

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The cereal absorbed milk quickly, in typical Pebbles (and most rice cereal) fashion. The flavor stayed pretty true wet or dry, which makes me think it’s really baked in, not just a coating. It did impart some cinnamon-sweetness and a beige tint to the leftover milk, but visually not the party of brown flecks I expected.

While I loved the cinna-sugar/rice cereal combo in 1984, and eating it now was a bit of fun nostalgia, it’s 2017 and tastes have changed. Flavors have gotten more complex, exotic and sometimes silly. Hence, I can’t say that this cereal was exciting or “new.” It needed a hook to make it more modern.

Cinnamon Pebbles might have been greatly improved by adding a dash of red pepper, so I set out to do just that. I spread a layer of the cereal on a cookie sheet, sprinkled a mixture of water, ground cayenne and roasted Saigon cinnamon on top and gave it a quick toast in the oven (250 degrees, 5 minutes or so).

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The results were beyond my expectations. The extra cinnamon knocked down the overwhelming sugar and the red pepper brought a delayed warmth that hit just as I was ready to take the next spoonful. This was a cereal worth buying again.

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I also tried using the Cinnamon Pebbles as a pie crust. Filled with devil’s food instant pudding and a bit of cayenne, it was an easy and decent approximation of churros and chocolate.

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(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.69
Size: 11 oz. box
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Yep, they’re Pebbles alright! Pleasant throwback cinna-sugar flavor.
Cons: Too simple for novelty-seekers. Needs something to offset or amp up the cinnamon.

REVIEW: Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch

Doritos Blazin' Buffalo & Ranch

Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch is like a ghosting ex-boyfriend/girlfriend – the one that keeps popping in and out of your life at inopportune moments.

It all started back on that fateful day several years ago when the baby blue packaging caught my eye. I thought to myself, “Wow, who dares rock baby blue that’s not Lay’s Sea Salt & Vinegar. Bold, I like it.”

After just one taste I was hooked, but just as quickly as it appeared, Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch disappeared. And, it clearly had many mistresses because everyone has been looking. There’s even a petition going around to try to lock Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch in permanently. Other chips have come and gone in my life, like Doritos JACKED Ranch Dipped Hot Wings Chips, but it just isn’t the same.

But, hindsight is always 20/20 – memories of past relationships always seem a little rosier than they actually were. And that’s exactly how I felt when we were finally reunited. Overall, I don’t think Frito Lay/Doritos did anything differently, I just grew up.

I spotted the baby blue bag at the way, way bottom of the towering chips shelf. As I crouched down to pick it up, my heart skipped a beat. Ugh, why now?! Just as I was getting over Doritos and moving onto other better-for-me options.

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On the outside, it looked the same – that same baby blue. Packaging off, it looked better than I remembered. Unlike its previous seasoning splotches, the chips were generously coated with red seasoning. It made it look very similar to its brother, the Nacho Cheese flavor.

The first crunch was like sweet, sweet revenge. But, I quickly realized it really just tasted like Cool Ranch Doritos. As I continued enjoying, I got a small kick reminiscent of Doritos Salsa Verde.

But that’s about it.

Buffalo flavor? Non-existent.

Blazin’? Nope.

There was a spicy afterglow but again no more than the kick from Doritos’ other “spicy” flavors.

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Of course, I should’ve also suspected that the generous seasoning would leave a mess after. My fingers were covered in red powder like I had been hanging out with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. After cleaning my fingers off, I proceeded to chug 16 ounces of water at record speed. It tasted extra salty even though the sodium contents are about in-line with other Doritos flavors. Odd.

Doritos Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch, it’s been real but I won’t be signing the petition to get you permanent status any time soon. There are plenty of other fish – or in this case, chips – in the sea.

(Nutrition Facts – 11 chips – 150 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 1 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Well-seasoned compared to previous batches – beyond that, Frito Lay/Doritos kept it true to the original.
Cons: Really just tastes like Cool Ranch + Salsa Verde. No buffalo flavor. Not blazin’. Messy – fingers covered in red powder.

REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Nutty Cocoa Ring

Krispy Kreme Nutty Cocoa Ring

As a kid, whenever Krispy Kreme doughnuts were around, my mom would make up some probable lie about how a single doughnut had the fat content of seven strips of bacon, so I wouldn’t go too ham on the doughnuts. In practice I usually just used this piece of wisdom to justify eating way too much bacon. (Ten strips? That’s less than two doughnuts worth!)

While I’m sure the seven strip to one doughnut formula isn’t accurate, one things is for sure: Krispy Kreme doughnuts are always bombs of oil and sugar. Even someone like me, who may or may not have eaten two full Symphony bars the day I got them in my Christmas stocking, can only handle one or two of the plain glazed doughnuts before my stomach taps out.

Of course if you’ve ever had Krispy Kreme before, you know that essentially all of their doughnuts are glazed. The Nutty Cocoa Ring doughnut, Krispy Kreme’s latest offering, is no different. It features one of their classic glazed doughnuts as a base, topped with a generous helping of Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread. Half of the doughnut is covered in chopped hazelnuts. I’m definitely a Nutella fan, and I think chocolate-hazelnut is S-tier as far as chocolate nut combinations go, so I didn’t think this item could possibly be a miss for me.

Krispy Kreme thought otherwise.

Before taking a bite into the doughnut, I sampled some of the Nutella spread with my finger and it is indeed delicious, standard Nutella. However the problem comes when combining the topping with its glazed doughnut base. Upon taking a bite, the Nutella was almost indistinguishable from the standard Krispy Kreme.

The taste of the Krispy Kreme itself was just far too strong to be a base for the more subtly flavored Nutella. I had to eat the doughnut upside-down, mashing the Nutella to my tongue to get even a whisper of its flavor.

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The half of the doughnut covered in chopped hazelnuts was slightly better just because the chopped nuts created an interesting texture variety that you don’t normally get in a doughnut. The hazelnuts were even densely packed enough that I could almost taste them if I closed my eyes and wished for it. The problem is that only half the doughnut has hazelnuts, and the other half is essentially a regular glazed doughnut with extra calories from the Nutella.

(Nutrition Facts – 270 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: The bacon/doughnut guilt formula. Crunchy hazelnuts. I got to taste some Nutella with my fingertip.
Cons: The bacon/doughnut guilt formula. Half of a good doughnut. I would have given this a 7 if the whole thing was covered in the chopped hazelnuts.?