REVIEW: Polar Unicorn Kisses Seltzer

Polar Unicorn Kisses Seltzer

When I was a kid, I often remember visiting a drive-thru wild animal park with my parents. Aside from the fact that the monkeys would wildly flail about while removing the piping from our minivan’s windows, it was a great place to go to take in the wonders of the savannah (albeit the Canadian savannah, but I digress).

We’d usually close our trip with a stopover at the petting zoo, my hands full of vending machine pellets ready to feed Larry the Llama and Gary the Goat. My three-year-old self was shocked at the vigor at which the animal’s tongue attacked the food in my hand – an image I still can’t forget. Regrettably, this is my only frame of reference for understanding the concept of “unicorn kisses.”

Thankfully, Polar Seltzer’s Unicorn Kisses is not a bottle of magical glitter pony saliva, but instead an April Fools’ flavor designed to elicit giggles in the grocery aisle. Polar is known for its unorthodox flavors (like eggnog and mint chocolate), but you typically have an idea of what they’ll taste like before you open them. Unicorn Kisses gives you no such advance warning.

Polar Unicorn Kisses Seltzer 2

Prepping for the worst, I set off on a quest to find a bottle. Polar released only 5,000 cases of Unicorn Kisses into the wild, so I had a difficult time finding a store that had any in stock. I felt like Dora the Explorer (minus the anthropomorphic monkey), walking from supermarket to supermarket trying to find a bottle. After what felt like countless days of searching, I finally picked some up at my local Star Market.

Upon opening, I half expected the bottle to explode into rainbows, but instead I was greeted with the scent of green apple and cotton candy. While Polar prides itself on its “all natural” label, this smell was all artificial, like a liquid Jolly Rancher. Based on my nose alone, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to drink a sip, let alone an entire glass, but I queued up “Charlie the Unicorn” for support and dove in.

Polar Unicorn Kisses Seltzer 3

Other blogs have tried to place the flavor of Unicorn Kisses, with suggestions ranging from melon to soap, but the only thing I could taste was candy necklaces. Surprisingly, the flavor wasn’t as pronounced as the smell – it actually took me some time to figure out that this seltzer tasted like penny candy. Because it was so cloyingly sweet, I couldn’t finish a whole glass, leading me to feel like I wasn’t respecting the countless unicorns who worked so hard on this product.

In the end, the takeaways from this review are as follows: Unicorn Kisses is a fun diversion but is gross to drink, and you should stay far, far, far away from Candy Mountain.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 fluid ounces – 0 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.29
Size: 1 liter
Purchased at: Star Market
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Double rainbow. No calories. Revisiting childhood memories. Alliterative animal names.
Cons:Swiper, no swiping.” Llama tongue. Overly sweet and artificial. Vintage candy.

REVIEW: Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk

Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk

Green, yellow, brown: there are three distinct stages in the life cycle of an edible banana, and each tastes different.

Young, green bananas are tropical, wild, and a little too immature to be useful. Yellows are in the prime of their life; from fondue to Mario Kart weapons, their potential is limitless. Finally, old and ripened brown bananas become progressively softer and sweeter, but they eventually reach the point where they must be mashed, pureed, and baked into banana bread.

I would say that this parallels the aging process of humans, but if I did, I’d probably receive a restraining order from every retirement home in the country.

The reason I’m pondering elderly bananas (please don’t arrest me) is the glass of Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk that sits before me. The Sir Bananas line of milk claims to use real bananas, so I’m left wondering which of those three banana types it will taste like.

Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk 2

As I take my first sip of the light brown milk, I’m happy to say that the flavor, too, is mostly “brown banana.” Much more rich, ripe, and darkly sweet than it is fruity, the banana taste here is authentic to its namesake without being overwhelming.

Strangely, though, the milk’s aftertaste does have a bit of a tropical bite. So either Sir Bananas used an 80:20 mix of brown and green bananas for their milk, or every old banana they used was a hip and youthful Betty White banana.

Hmm, on second sip, that aftertaste really lingers. Maybe there were some crankier “Where’s the Beef?” bananas in there.

As for the chocolate flavor, it’s much closer to a sugary milk chocolate (think Nesquik and M&M’s) than it is to a decadent Dutch chocolate or bitter dark chocolate. I would have appreciated a more complex cocoa sensation, but I don’t think Sir Bananas the cartoon monkey was trying to appeal to the “99% Pure Dark Midnight Cacao Organic Whole Foods Artisanal Holland Death By Chocolate” audience anyway. 99% of kids will love this stuff.

Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk 3

All in all, the combo of banana, chocolate, and vanilla reduced-fat milk ironically produces a very tasty and unique whole. It’s pretty much a liquefied loaf of Grandma’s buttery frosted chocolate chip banana bread (note: I mean bread made by Grandma, not made from Grandma).

However, this Bananamilk does suffer from what I like to call the “Cookie Butter Paradox.” Sure, it’s good, but like a jar of cookie butter, what the hell are you supposed to do with all of it? If you don’t want to end up crying over spoiled milk, you’ll need to get creative.

Being the cereal geek that I am, I couldn’t resist using my Bananamilk to dabble in cereal mixology. 1 bowl of Froot Loops + 1/2 cup Bananamilk = 1 Banana Split Cereal, coming right up. Call me crazy, but after I defibrillated my sugar-shocked heart, I thought it tasted pretty good.

Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk 4

For the adventurous, this milk is ripe (whoops, Freudian slip) with possibilities. If you buy Sir Bananas other, plain Bananamilk variety, pour it over Peanut Butter Crunch to make Elvis Cereal. If you want caffeine and potassium, spike your morning coffee with Bananamilk. Or just hook yourself up to an IV drip of it and die happy.

So if you buy this banana-flavored cow liquid, let it be a canvas for your imagination. Go ahead…

…wait for it…

…you knew this was coming…

…last chance to close your browser window…

…go bananas!

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 170 calories, 35 calories from fat, 3.5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 1010 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 24 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: Sir Bananas Chocolate Bananamilk
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 64 oz. carton
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Liquefied frosted chocolate chip banana bread IV drips. Banana Nesquik’s spiritual successor. My future career as a cereal bartender. A banana product without any Minions on it.
Cons: The “Cookie Butter Paradox.” Wishing for a near-death (by chocolate) experience. My impossible dream of “M&M’s milk.” Freudian slipping on a banana peel.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink

NOTE: This review was posted in 2015 when it was a Costco exclusive. In 2016, it’s no longer exclusive to Costco and is available in individual bottles.

If you want to hoard Starbucks Pumpkin Spice drinks so you can enjoy them year round, you either have to freeze Pumpkin Spice Lattes and then later warm them up in the microwave or hit the black market for expired Starbucks pumpkin spice syrup pumps. But this year there’s a third way and it’s available at Costco.

The Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink may not be handmade by a Starbucks Barista who wrote PSL on the side of the cup, but because it’s Costco, it’s available in bulk. It’s 12 bottles to be exact. So if you buy a pallet of them, you’ll have enough to last you until next pumpkin spice latte season.

Unlike a pumpkin spice latte you can purchase at a Starbucks location, this version has no pumpkin in it. But it does have an ingredient list short enough that I could type it here to slightly boost the word count of this review: Brewed Starbucks Coffee, Reduced-Fat Milk, Sugar, Skim Milk, Maltodextrin, Cream, Natural Flavors, and Pectin. Mmm…pectin.

At first, I thought the ginger flavor stood out a bit too much for my tastes. I think the coffee makes the spice stand out more. But, since I purchased 12 bottles of the stuff, I’ve had to drink a lot of it. And the more I drink it the more I like it. Perhaps I’m getting Pumpkin Spiceholm Syndrome.

There’s also a little nutmeg, a bit of cinnamon, and a whole lot of sugar in each sip, which makes the beverage really sweet. There’s also a lot of milk too, but it’s not whole milk so it has a thin texture. While I could see it being too sweet for some people, me and my future cavities are fine with it.

The bottle suggests to serve it chilled or over ice, but since I’m a rebel (and have 12 bottles of the stuff), I did some experimenting and warmed up a mug of it in the microwave for 30 seconds. It was wonderful and it reminded me of a pumpkin spice latte. Actually, I think I might prefer it heated over chilled.

A question some of you might be asking is if it’s an adequate replacement for when the Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino is erased from the boards from Starbucks locations for the year. No, of course not. These bottled Frappuccinos are no match flavor-wise for those handmade, wonderful, blended, sweet, and brain freeze-inducing beverages that have a nutritional bio similar to many fast food burgers. But if you’re jonesing for a pumpkin spice coffee drink in February, this’ll do.

(Nutrition Facts – 210 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 32 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, and 25% calcium.)

Item: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Starbucks Frappuccino Coffee Drink
Purchased Price: ???
Size: 12 pack/9.5 oz bottles
Purchased at: Costco
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes good chilled or warmed up. Hoardable. Better nutritional bio than a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino you can get at Starbucks locations.
Cons: Ginger flavor might be a bit strong for some. Might be too sweet for some. Available in 12 packs, so if you don’t like it, you’ve got 11 more bottles to go through. Not as delicious as a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino you can get at Starbucks locations.

REVIEW: International Delight Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream Iced Coffee

International Delight Hershey's Cookies 'n' Cream Iced Coffee

If you were to hack into the databases that contain my Safeway and Target purchases, you’d know I buy a lot of International Delight Iced Coffee…and Pepto Bismol. However, because I buy IDIC regularly (yes, I’m too lazy to type its name out, but not lazy enough to type an aside that says I’m too lazy to type its name out), I’ve gotten a little tired of the flavors they have — original, mocha, vanilla, and caramel macchiato.

The overcaffienated folks at International Delight (ID) have a long history of teaming up with other brands to make a variety of coffee creamers that’ll make any burnt office coffee (Except yours, Brad!) taste so much better, like Almond Joy, Cinnabon, Heath, York Peppermint Patty, Cold Stone Creamery, and Hershey’s. And now the jittery employees at ID have done the same with their iced coffee, creating International Delight Cold Stone Creamery Sweet Cream Iced Coffee and Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Iced Coffee.

The latter combines iced coffee with the flavor of Hershey’s I-Want-To-Say-They’re-Popular-But-I’ve-Never-Seen-Anyone-Buy-Them Cookies ’n’ Creme candy bar. If you’re one of those people who has never purchased a Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Creme bar, it’s made with white chocolate and tiny chocolate cookie balls. Although I’ve never seen anyone else buy it, I do purchase it on occasion and prefer it over a regular milk chocolate Hershey’s bar because of its flavor and it’s like a bizarro Nestle Crunch bar.

In previous IDIC reviews, I mentioned how the coffee flavor is heavily masked by the cream, sugar, and flavoring, but it’s somewhat noticeable. Well, with International Delight’s Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme Iced Coffee it’s almost nonexistent, getting lost within the chocolate cookie balls flavoring. This causes the creamy beverage to taste more like a cookies ’n’ creme-flavored milk. This will be a problem for those who enjoy the flavor of coffee, but it appears it hasn’t been an issue for me because I’ve purchased three cartons so far. Actually, I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired of the other flavors, but this flavor is now my favorite.

What I like most about International Delight’s Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Creme Iced Coffee is how they nailed the flavor of the chocolate cookie balls from the candy bar. It’s as if they went the cereal milk route and dumped a bunch of chocolate cookie balls into an iced coffee with a lot of milk and then strained the liquid. The creme doesn’t taste like white chocolate, which is a good thing because I don’t think white chocolate milk would be pleasing.

International Delight’s Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Creme Iced Coffee is creamy and thick (Thanks cream and carrageenan!) and has a unique flavor that makes it taste like a fancy chocolate milk. A caffeinated fancy chocolate milk, I might add (76 milligrams of caffeine per cup). I’ll definitely be purchasing more with my Pepto Bismol.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – 150 calories, 25 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 23 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, and 15% calcium..)

Item: International Delight Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream Iced Coffee
Purchased Price: $4.99 (on sale)
Size: Half gallon
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: My favorite International Delight Iced Coffee flavor. International Delight nailed the chocolatey cookie flavor and it’s the most dominant flavor. Thick and creamy (Thanks cream and carrageenan). If it’s like their other flavors, it has 76 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine. Getting to type “chocolate cookie balls” several times in a review.
Cons: Drink something else or add more coffee to this if you love the flavor of coffee, because it’s like drinking Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme milk. Still no caffeine content listed on carton.

REVIEW: Natrel Maple Milk (Canada)

Natrel Maple Milk

I’ve heard of chocolate milk. Everyone has. And strawberry milk, and vanilla milk, and any number of flavoured milks. But maple milk? I can’t say it was an idea that had even occurred to me before this product came into my life. And yet it seems so obvious, in retrospect. Maple syrup + milk. Of course! Seriously: how did I not come up with this idea myself?

I know there’s that old cliche that all Canadians love maple syrup, but isn’t that kind of like saying that all Canadians love kittens and rainbows? What I’m trying to say here is that maple syrup is the best and if you don’t like it there is something intrinsically wrong with your character; you’re damaged goods. Tell me to my face that there’s something better than maple syrup on a pancake, and you and me are going to have to bare knuckle box.

So yeah, I guess you could say that I like maple syrup.

I knew I was probably going to like this milk, though a quick gander at the ingredients reveals no actual maple syrup, which did concern me a bit (it does have “natural maple flavour,” whatever that is). I was afraid there might be off flavours here, or a strange aftertaste; happily, neither was the case.

It tastes good. It has a clean, very pronounced maple syrup flavour. Basically, it tastes exactly how you’d think it would taste, which is definitely a good thing.

Natrel Maple Milk Closeup

It’s very, very sweet, however. I wouldn’t say it’s too sweet, but it’s definitely right on the border. It’s also extremely maple-y, so if you’re one of those maniacs who isn’t crazy about maple syrup, give this one a pass. This isn’t milk with a subtle tinge of maple; it’s a full-out maple syrup assault.

I think my biggest problem here is the same problem I have with all Canadian flavoured milks: it’s only available in one percent. I don’t know who decided that every flavoured milk sold here should be one percent and one percent only, but it makes me sad. Anything lower than two percent is a bit watery for my tastes, and for stuff like chocolate milk, I really think that the richness of whole milk is where it’s at. Sure, it’s not super healthy, but there’s nothing wrong with an occasional (or perhaps not-so-occasional) indulgence, right? Right?? Hey, you’re reading a junk food blog, don’t judge me!

Anyway, it’s a moot point (or moo-t, I should say — again, please don’t judge me) because unless you want to make your own, there’s no choice in the matter.

It’s not like this maple milk has no richness whatsoever, I just wish we had the option. But it’s fine. I’m just glad that it exists. Seriously, why hasn’t this been around for my entire life?

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup (250ml) – 160 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.1 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 390 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 25 grams of sugars, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: Natrel Maple Milk
Purchased Price: $2.49 CAN
Size: 1 Liter
Purchased at: Sobeys
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strong maple flavour. No weird aftertaste. The ability to consume maple syrup in a new format.
Cons: Only available in thin one percent milk. Might be too sweet for some people. Off-putting absence of maple syrup in the ingredients list.

REVIEW: Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte

I have personally ordered maybe four different things at a Starbucks in my lifetime. This is not because I never go to Starbucks, but because I find myself with a crippling stammer and irrational fear every time I approach the register.

My method was usually to ask a friend to order for me, and then order whatever they gave me for the next three years if it was good. I am consistently tempted to ask for a mocha-chocalata-yaya and see what comes out. Forget the “secret menu” guides all over the Internet. I need a manual for navigating the printed one.

The problem is, I can’t really bring myself to like black coffee. I love the smell. I love the energy. I love the idea of permanently staining my teeth in rebellion against my body at a young age. But every time I have a cup I cringe a little and leave most of it sitting there. And, being an ignorant novice coffee drinker, I don’t know how to make anything but black coffee. I’m not sophisticated enough to like the coffee I can make at home, but I’m too afraid to learn how to order anything I might actually like.

I dreamed that these Starbucks Via Lattes would fill this void. I could finally learn to drink a morning coffee like a real adult without having to embarrass myself in front of a barista. The idea of not having to put on pants to get said morning coffee was equally appealing.

I purchased an individual trial pack at Starbucks for a dollar, choosing to try the vanilla over the mocha. I was first shocked by the size of these. They are not your normal instant coffee packet, but probably four times larger.

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte Instructions

The instructions are pretty minimal, but include a little infographic that tells you what to do. It seemed pretty straight forward, and I do have a high school diploma, so I assumed I had it under control. I made a cup of hot water with a Keurig machine, dumped the packet in, and stirred. It was not until I finished making it that I realized I was not supposed to pour the powder into the boiling water. So maybe words would’ve been helpful.

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte Powder

I was then surprised by the color. There did not appear to be any coffee granules at all in this pouch. Instead, there was an endless stream of a powdery white substance. Although many do refer to coffee as their crack, so maybe this makes some sense.

Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte Closeup

This drink was really sweet. And not in the good way of “hot chocolate sweet” or “vanilla milkshake sweet.” It was like a cup of hot, watery milk with six packets of sugar. I was even hoping some more coffee taste would come through, but it was nonexistent. Since the ingredients list both dairy powder and sugar before coffee, I probably should have expected this. But if even I am wishing for some stronger coffee flavor, you know you’ve taken it too far.

I could not finish this. It was intolerably sweet, and this is coming from the girl who will treat frosting as a cookie dip and add extra Oreos to cookies and cream ice cream. Maybe if iced and blended this could make a decent at home Frappuccino? But that seems like far too much work for something coming from an instant package.

This did not solve my coffee dilemmas. My only hope at this point is that Starbucks starts up a delivery service with a tracker like Domino’s so I can order my coffee online without human interaction and know when to put my pants on before it arrives. Until then, you will find me drinking one of my four safe things at Starbucks, dreaming of the day I can join the elite ranks of the people who know how to order drinks with names that take a full minute to say.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 packet – 130 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Starbucks Via Latte Vanilla Latte
Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: 1 packet
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: At home convenience. Simple assembly. Generous serving. Not any more sugar than most Starbucks drinks. Confusing baristas with Moulin Rouge references. Good movie stunt double for cocaine. Potential for fancier at home drinks. No pants, still service.
Cons: Sickly sweet. Impossible to drink whole cup. Minimal coffee taste. All powdered milk and sugar. Not being able to read picture instructions as an adult. Lack of coffee aroma. Domino’s Pizza Tracker not expanding to other businesses.