REVIEW: Mountain Dew Holiday Brew

Mtn Dew Holiday Brew

I, for one, hope this holiday-themed Dew trend continues. Hot on the heels of the oh-so-patriotic DEW.S.A. from earlier this summer, PepsiCo’s now hoisting Mountain Dew Holiday Brew on us, which could be the tip of the iceberg.

Why not release a special Dew variation for President’s Day called Grape-raham Lincoln? Or a special edition Mountain Dew Rosh Hashanah Raspberry while they’re at it? (I can see the tagline already – “you’ll want to Yom Kippur another one.”)

While we’re probably a few years away from that Thanksgiving tie-in Pecan Pie Mountain Dew or a special Saint Paddy’s brew (might I suggest the namesake Dew-U-I?), we can all take solace in the fact this year’s Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s/Wright Brothers Day-themed beverage ain’t too shabby.

Mtn Dew Holiday Brew 2

As the product name and hue would lead you to believe, this special edition Holiday Brew is apparently one half Mountain Dew Code Red and one half regular old Dew. The beverage looks a little pinker than Code Red, though, and it doesn’t smell that much like either variation of Mountain Dew (I personally got a pureed cake batter vibe from mine, but your olfactory glands may detect something else.)

But taste-wise is where things get very interesting. As soon as the beverage hits your tongue, the taste is unmistakable – this stuff is Code Red Mountain Dew, straight up, with no additional flavorings. BUT when the aftertaste hits you, WHAM! It’s unmistakably the traditional green Dew flavor we’ve been slurping on forever. So we’ve got this downright bizarre mouthfeel thing going on where every five seconds or so, the flavor of the beverage shifts from Code Red to traditional Dew.

I can’t recall ever tasting a soda that did that, not even the aforementioned DEW.S.A. Whereas that tri-branded brew created a new synthesized flavor, the divergent flavors of Holiday Brew are pretty much locked in gustatory mortal combat – and that one-of-a-kind sensation might be worth purchasing the newfangled soda all by its lonesome.

Of course, if you never cared for either permutations of Dew in the past, I guess the prospects of Code Red Dew and normal Dew having a liquid kung fu fight on your tongue probably won’t convert you as a consumer.

I can’t say that Dew and Code Red Dew combined results in a better product than either as stand-alone beverages, but as far as Franken-sodas go, it’s still quite flavorful. That, and it opens the floodgates for even wackier novelty sodas in the future. Come on, Pepsi – you know you want to combine Pitch Black and LiveWire as All Hallow’s Eve Dew. You just KNOW you do. Or is that dew?

(Nutrition Facts – 20 ounces – 290 calories, 0 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 77 grams of total carbohydrates, 77 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Circle K
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: The alternating citrus/cherry flavor is unlike anything you’ve probably tried before. It’s a very thick and filling beverage. The packaging is festive.
Cons: It really doesn’t taste any better than Code Red or regular Dew. The cross-pollinated flavors aren’t as harmonious as DEW.S.A. Wondering which two brands Pepsi’s going to merge together for the inevitable Bastille Day Berry.

REVIEW: Burger King Spicy Nuggets

Burger King Spicy Nuggets

It’s beginning to look a lot like Chicken Season.

Fresh off the heels of Wendy’s and McDonald’s new chicken tender options, Burger King has once again dipped their toes into the “spicy” chicken pool, this time in the form of nuggets.

I say it every time I review their food, but Burger King is smart. I always find myself fighting on their behalf. They’ve embraced the weird “Taco Bell” style menu niche, and they’re the only ones really doing it in the burger world. No matter what they add to their vast menu, it seems to pique my interest.

This isn’t the first time they’ve filled in the fast food blank either. I still don’t understand why Wendy’s took Spicy Nuggets off their menu, but Burger King is attempting to swoop in and corner that market.

Good on them, but are they actually good?

Well, it depends on your definition of good.

I won’t sit here and pretend this is high-class cuisine. Then again, I think you’re all smart enough to realize that at 15 cents a nugget, you probably shouldn’t be expecting that.

Burger King Spicy Nuggets 2

First and foremost, I’m a fan of BK’s nuggets. I’m not only a fan of the ridiculously cheap price point, but I think they’re pretty tasty. They aren’t the best nugget on the market, but they still always provide a nice tender bite of white meat chicken, and you can buy them in bulk.

The spicy nuggets have a darker orange hue to them, with some speckled bits of pepper – that’s the universal sign you’re about to eat breaded chicken branded as “spicy.”

Burger King Spicy Nuggets 3

Upon the first couple bites, they taste like the regular nuggets. Once you chew a few seconds, the slight heat kicks in. Sorry to say Spiceheads, but it’s slight. These aren’t even as spicy as Wendy’s nuggets were.

Getting 10 nuggets (I actually got 11 – bonus nugget!) for less than two bucks is a gift and a curse. After you eat about three or four, you start to notice that they are really salty. As the heat dries your mouth a bit, it amplifies the saltiness. You might think you need a drink for the burn, but you really need it for the salt.

Burger King Spicy Nuggets 4

Still, I find these pretty damn satisfying and they would pair nicely with one of BK’s cereal shakes.

Like the other restaurants, BK didn’t offer any fancy new dipping sauces, but honey mustard worked well for me. No complaints there.

The nuggets also had a solid afterburn. They didn’t give me agita, but I knew I had something “spicy” for a little while. There was nothing unpleasant about the aftertaste.

So look, these aren’t gourmet, but for $1.49 you could knock out a ridiculously cheap meal one night.

I’m hoping this gets McDonald’s to attempt a spicy nugget next.

(Nutrition Facts – 10 nuggets – 530 calories, 37 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, milligrams of cholesterol, 1420 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 10 nuggets (11 for me!)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Very tender white meat (I hope.) Cheap as hell. Filling a Fast Food void. Two free dipping sauces. Bonus nugget!
Cons: Definitely could be spicier. Increasingly salty. Not as good as Wendy’s Spicy Nuggets. Price makes you want to order more stuff.

REVIEW: Salted Caramel Pepsi

Salted Caramel Pepsi

Most seasonal flavors stay in their section of the calendar.

Pumpkin spice and candy corn products show up during fall. Candy cane and egg nog products are around for Christmas. Carrot cake is a spring flavor. But salted caramel (and sea salt caramel) gets shoehorned into being a fall flavor, even though many brands have offered salted caramel products earlier in the year. What does salted caramel have to do with fall?

Maybe caramel’s brown color brings thoughts of fall leaves or turkey gravy. Maybe the salt represents the salty tears of sadness you’ll cry at your annual dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinner.

Whatever it is, Pepsi is also getting into the holiday spirit of releasing a salted caramel product in the fall with their latest flavor.

Salted Caramel Pepsi sounds like a unique flavor, but it’s not Pepsi’s first rodeo with a caramel-flavored cola. A decade ago, there was Diet Pepsi Jazz Caramel Cream. The flavor in it did a great job at hiding the Diet Pepsi-ness of the drink at chilled temperatures. But this new flavor, while it has artificial sweeteners, isn’t a diet soda thanks to the high fructose corn syrup.

Like Toucan Sam’s nose following the scent of Froot Loops or the noses on Carmen Miranda cosplayers, my nose detects a fruitiness with this soda. The aroma is familiar and I’ve been racking my brain over why that is. And its flavor doesn’t help either because it tastes like something I’ve had before. Is it from my childhood? Is it another limited edition Pepsi flavor? Did I experience it in another life? Another dimension? I don’t know.

But what I do know is Salted Caramel Pepsi has a flavor I enjoy. It’s fruity at first, which is odd, but the salt and artificial caramel hit my taste buds a bit later and lingers for a while. The saltiness enhances the flavor of the caramel, which I like, but at the same time, a salty soda might turn off some drinkers. I mean, it’s not like drinking ocean water, but sodas are sweet 99 percent of the time, so it might be strange for some.

Every year, I wait with bated breath for the return of Holiday Spice Pepsi, a seasonal cola variety I enjoyed over a decade ago. But every year I release that breath with a sigh because it doesn’t come back. I let out another sigh this year, but Salted Caramel Pepsi softened my annual disappointment. It’s a nice seasonal flavor, although unusual for a soda. But I’m attracted to unusual, like moths to a flame or Toucan Sam’s nose to a box of Froot Loops.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 oz. – 170 calories, 0 grams of fat, 105 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 44 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Not gross. Pleasant seasonal flavor. Lower sugar levels due to the sucralose and ace-k. Artificial sweeteners not too noticeable. If you know who Carmen Miranda is.
Cons: Might be too unusual for some. Might be too salty for some. It smells and tastes like something, but I can’t recall what it is. Not Holiday Spice Pepsi. Sighs.

REVIEW: Coca-Cola Coffee Plus (Japan)

Coca Cola Coffee Plus

Coffee and Coke sounds like the morning ritual of an 80’s Wall Street banker. It’s also the combination found in a new beverage in Japan that’s exclusively available at vending machines — Coca-Cola Coffee Plus.

For those of you who were in diapers a decade ago, Coke did offer a coffee-flavored cola called Coke Blãk. If you’re wondering if it was Coke Blech, I thought it was pretty good. But the rest of America didn’t think so because it wasn’t around for very long.

Since being discontinued, I could’ve easily and cheaply make a Coke Blãk-like beverage by combining the Coke and coffee already in my kitchen. But, nope, I did it the hard way by purchasing a can of Coca-Cola Coffee Plus from eBay for a ridiculous price plus international shipping from a seller in Japan, which would take two weeks to arrive.

But the thing about Coca-Cola Coffee Plus is that it’s not made by combining two liquids. It gets it coffee in the form of an extract powder. The cola and coffee combo gives the can’s contents 34 milligrams of caffeine, which is not a lot in this day of caffeine-filled espressos and energy drinks. But, granted, the can is a wee one. It holds about 6.5 ounces, which makes spending about $15 for a can a bit silly.

The beverage’s aroma is a bit weird. At times, it smells like coffee. Other times it’s coffee with cola spices. But that’s not why its weird. That’s expected. What’s odd is that sometimes, while finding out if my nose could pick out the coffee and cola, there were moments when I thought I smelled Japanese curry.

Coca Cola Coffee Plus 2

As for its flavor, it tastes better than what I remember Coke Blãk was like. The coffee flavor hits my tongue first. It’s not bold, like drinking black coffee. It’s mild and goes well with the cola spices. From what I can taste, it doesn’t seem to have artificial sweeteners like Coke Blãk did, which is why I enjoy it more. It’s tasty enough that I’m sad it didn’t come in a larger can or bottle. Also, that would’ve meant more sweet, sweet caffeine.

So is Coca-Cola Coffee Plus worth picking up? If you’re in Japan and in front of a vending machine that offers it, then absocoffeely. If you’re a former 80’s Wall Street banker with lots of money because you quit cocaine early in your career, then go ahead and burn some cash.

But if you’re a normal person in front of your computer’s monitor looking at an online Japanese snack store or eBay seller that offers it for 10 times its regular price with shipping, then NOke-NOla. As much as I like it, its can size alone makes it not worth it.

(Nutrition Facts – 100 ml – 22 kcal, 0 grams of protein, 5.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 0.02 grams of sodium.)

Purchased Price: $5.49 + $9.99 shipping
Size: 190 ml can
Purchased at: eBay
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pleasant combination of coffee and cola spices. Worth a try if you’re standing in front of a Japanese vending machine that offers it. Coffee and Coke.
Cons: Not worth $15. Wish it came in a larger can or bottle. Spending $15 to get a 6.5-ounce beverage from Japan. At times, it smells like Japanese curry.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Twinkies

Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Twinkies

Who’s got a bandana that’s long and white? Twinkie’s got a bandana that’s long and white!

Who’s got a creme that’s mint instead? Twinkie’s got a creme that’s mint instead!

Mint instead, cake of red,

Bandana that’s white, winter delight,

Must be Twinkie, must be Twinkie, must be Twinkie, Twinkie Mint!

When I open up a package of these Hostess Peppermint Twinkies, I smell two distinct scents.

The first is a minty, Christmassy scent. For some reason, it reminds me of the first few hours after school on the last day before holiday break, eating the requisite candy cane they gave us at the school sing-along.

The second is the familiar odor of Twinkie sponge cake. If you’ve ever had a Twinkie, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve never had a Twinkie, it doesn’t matter, because you don’t exist anyway.

The Twinkies are described as “peppermint cake with creamy filling,” but I wonder if they got it backwards, and it’s supposed to be “peppermint creamy filling with cake.” When I try to isolate the components, I don’t detect any peppermint in the red-colored cake, but I do in the filling. Some weird kind of cross-contamination of flavors, maybe?

But maybe it’s in both because when I eat the cake like a normal person, it’s mintier than either part on its own. The textures are what you’d expect -— a soft, spongy cake with a light, airy filling. The minty flavor gives the humble Twinkie a nice festive upgrade. It’s not as minty as a mint-thusiast like me would like, but it works, and I suspect that even mint-averse folks could get on board with this candy-cane-esque cake.

Hostess Limited Edition Peppermint Twinkies 2

Considering that it’s a Twinkie, I have no complaints. It’s not a gourmet, decadent dessert, but it never claimed to be. It just claimed to be a limited edition suitable for the month of December (or November, apparently). I like this better than last year’s White Peppermint Twinkies or last spring’s Shamrock CupCakes.

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Homer wanted to gain weight so he could go on disability? Dr. Nick advised him to eat from the neglected food groups: “Remember, if you’re not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain.” Well, I got that greasy spot on my paper towel. So if you’ve been asked to play Santa Claus at your office Christmas party, these Twinkies are a tasty way to become your new jolly self.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes – 230 calories, 70 calories from fat, 8 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 30 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 13.58 oz. box/10 cakes
Purchased at: Dick’s Market
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Nothing to complain about. Might appeal to people who don’t like mint. Festive upgrade to a classic standby. Coining the term “mint-thusiast.”
Cons: Not as minty as some would like. Leaves grease stains. The beginning of holiday weight gain.