REVIEW: S’mores Crispy M&M’s

S'mores Crispy M&M's

Crispy M&M’s are one of those snacks you’ll find on many lists on the internet with titles like “20 Foods You’ll Never Eat Again” or “19 90s Snacks Your Taste Buds Will Never Experience Once More.” But those writers didn’t heed the wise words of Justin Bieber, “Never Say Never.”

The creamy and crispy candy came back with the might of a multi-million dollar promotional campaign about two years ago. And now there are flavored varieties. Meet S’mores Crispy M&M’s.

S'mores Crispy M&M's 2

If Skittles is “Taste the Rainbow,” then these would be “Taste the Neutral Color Palette in a Home Depot Paint Department.” The candy pieces come colors that I will describe using names one might find in a Home Depot paint section: Vancouver Snow, Orange Moss, and Ghana Cocoa.

While their colors might not be exciting, the smell that comes out of their bag every time I open it is an aromatic come-hither. I imagine it’s similar to what the original Ghostbusters had to smell for days after getting drenched with Stay Puft Marshmallow Man goo, a toasted eau de mallow, if you will. It’s an artificial exaggerated marshmallow aroma, but it’s still a scent I enjoy. Hey, Glade! Bottle it or turn it into a candle.

The artificial marshmallow flavor is as strong as the artificial marshmallow aroma and it has an equally strong chocolate flavor, but it’s hard to taste the graham. They don’t taste exactly like those messy treats I used to eat sitting around the campfire I had to make and later extinguish in order to earn my Fire Safety Merit Badge, but they’re s’mores-ish enough for me.

S'mores Crispy M&M's 3

All the flavor is in the chocolate. I thought the rice crispy center might have some flavor, but after letting a piece dissolve in my mouth, it turns out it’s blander than Rice Krispies Cereal. However, it does give each candy a graham cracker-like crunch. Oh, that crunch! That wonderful crunch that was one of the reasons why I liked a Facebook page called “Bring Back Crispy M&M’s.”

I really like S’mores Crispy M&M’s. But that’s not surprising since they have the same marshmallow flavor that’s in those great Hot Chocolate M&M’s that came out last year. I do wish the graham was a bit stronger, but I’d still recommend them. So if you see these crispy s’mores-flavored M&M’s on a store shelf, go Taste the Neutral Color Palette in a Home Depot Paint Department.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 ounces – 200 calories, 70 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 8 oz bag
Purchased at: Cub Foods
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: S’mores-ish. Artificial marshmallow aroma and flavor are pleasant. The crunch of Crispy M&M’s. Crispy M&M’s still live!
Cons: Hard to taste the graham. Rice crisp center is flavorless. Using the word “never” in your discontinued foods list.

REVIEW: Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M’s (M&M’s Flavor Vote)

Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M's (M&M's Flavor Vote)

Let’s get one thing straight: Peanut M&M’s are the best.

Well, technically, Peanut Butter M&M’s are the best, but the classic whole-roasted peanut M&M’s, represented by the overly optimistic, decidedly plump yellow guy, are right behind them.

Don’t agree? Sorry, you’re in the minority. Pretty much anyone with a computer and a sweet tooth will rank either Peanut Butter or Peanut M&M’s at the top of the M&M’s kingdom, which if you ask me is a not to be overlooked accomplishment given that Mars has mostly been focusing flavor additions more in the white chocolate and milk chocolate spectrum.

Well, Mr. Yellow Guy is finally getting the last laugh, because M&M’s has introduced three new Peanut flavors that America will get to choose from before the winner gets rushed into the regular M&M’s rotation. And by last laugh, I mean literally last. He is, after all, about to get eaten.

Coffee Nut M&M's 1

First up is the Coffee M&M’s. As anyone from Canada knows, coffee and candy just belong together (Dear Canadians: I live in Texas, please mail Coffee Crisp.) These are really awesome, and get my vote for the next Peanut flavor.

Coffee Nut M&M's 2

While I was hoping for an earthy, robust roasted coffee finish that gradually overtakes the sweetness (like you might get in a chocolate-covered expresso bean), I can’t complain about the mocha vibe that resonates as soon as the shell begins to dissolve, even if it is a mocha vibe with seven extra pumps of vanilla syrup and four Splendas. Come to think of it, these taste a lot like coffee Jelly Belly beans, except with a peanut. Frankly, that makes them all the better.  

Honey Nut M&M's

Moving right along, I imagine the idea for Honey Nut M&M’s came into being at the weekly golf outing of yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople. Given the natural friendliness of both the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and the Yellow M&M’s guy, this flavor combination was bound to happen. I was also bound to like the flavor given the fact that Honey Nut Chex is in my Top 10 cereals of ALL TIME, but unfortunately the M&M’s didn’t live up to expectations. The characteristic almond flavor of Honey Nut Cheerios is definitely present as soon as you get at the chocolate, but a weird and distracting artificial sweetness comes with it.

I was hoping, if nothing else, the peanut would have the salty and caramelized texture of a honey roasted peanut, but this wasn’t to be. Not that a whole peanut in a milk chocolate shell is that much of a disappointment, but Honey Nut M&M’s weren’t nearly as good as they should have been.

Chili Nut M&M's

Finally, Chili Nut M&M’s push M&M’s into new territory, namely the somewhat fading food trend of pairing chocolate with spicy food. These are interesting; they’re not fireballs by any mean, but there’s an initial cinnamon red hots flavor that enters your mouth as soon as the shell starts to dissolve. A tingling backheat resonates through the milk chocolate, and then really comes on strong once you crunch through the peanut. The last sensation you get is cayenne burn that lasts for a couple of seconds after you’ve finished. I know its tantamount to declaring the wuss card, but I’ll admit it: I needed to grab a glass of water after eating these. All in all, it’s an interesting combination if you’re a heat seeker, although more of a mild annoyance if you’re just a standard M&M’s eater.

Adding to the Peanut M&M’s lineup was long overdue, but I’d be lying if I said any of the new flavors catapulted to the top of the M&M’s flavor list. While Coffee Nut is a welcome addition, the other two flavors taste more like novelties than anything else. And even though I don’t think any of them take a lot away from the smooth milk chocolate and crunchy roasted peanut taste of our adorable yellow friend, I will say there’s something about the classic that’s just hard to improve on.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pack or 49 grams – 250 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: 88 cents each
Size: 1.75 oz.
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Coffee Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Honey Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Chili Nut)
Pros: Coffee Nut flavor has lasting notes of coffee and vanilla. Familiar crunchy shell roasted peanut, and smooth milk chocolate of Peanut M&M’s. Yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople golf outings.
Cons: None of the flavors beat the classic Peanut M&M’s. Not an overly robust coffee finish. Honey Nut flavor has cloying artificiality. No honey roasted peanut. Chili Nut M&M’s only brings heat, not additional flavor.

REVIEW: Easter Sundae M&M’s

Easter Sundae M&M's

Easter Sundays hold a special place in my heart. So many memories of floofy dresses bought just for that day. Sleeping with my hair in rollers to get those special curls the next morning. Socks with little bows on them, and saddle shoes or Mary Janes.

That was a shoe before it was a term for weed, guys. Just a heads up.

The point being, I loved–oh, wait, no, I hated Easter Sunday. I hated wearing dresses. The curlers pinched my scalp. Bows are for girls who don’t play in the mud and try to catch lizards. Church was boring and too early.

Okay, it wasn’t all bad. After church we got to go to The Original Pancake House, where they put bacon in pancakes before putting bacon in everything was cool. We had an Easter egg hunt at home, and got to open our baskets full of sweet, delicious candy. It was a fantastic reward for my sore head and sleepy morning.

What we didn’t have was Easter Sundaes. That’s probably because they didn’t exist until M&M’s decided to use some easy wordplay for their latest in a line of many flavors. Look at Red up there, acting like bunny ears and sundaes go together like Halloween and candy corn.

I’d also like to address the flavor itself, which is described on the bag as “White center surrounded by Milk Chocolate.” I know it’s a controversial stance, but White Center has been and always will be my favorite flavor. Good ol’ White Center.

Easter Sundae M&M's 2

M&M’s idea of Easter Sundae colors is apparently bright blue, bright pink and what some guy in the paint department of Home Depot would describe as ecru. These feel more like “baby shower gifts when the parents are keeping the gender a secret” more than either Easter or sundaes. Also, for some reason my bag had approximately four times as many blues as pinks, so…I guess it’s a boy?

Easter Sundae M&M's 3

Of course, White Center is actually white chocolate, the proof of which is that white chocolate is the first ingredient listed on the back of the bag. It’s the predominant chocolate inside the larger-than-usual M&M, surrounded by a thinner later of milk chocolate.

The taste of Easter Sundae M&M’s is both pleasant and almost oppressively boring. That’s a weird sentence, but it’s 100% true. The white chocolate center dominates as a flavor, while the surrounding milk chocolate plays a nice backup role.

But that’s it; that’s all there is to it. White chocolate and milk chocolate, together at last, or for the 100th time. One of those two. If they really were going for the taste of a sundae, they failed to hit the marks of ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, cherries, and…well yeah, that’s entirely what comprises a sundae.

If you like to eat white chocolate and milk chocolate together, then you’ll enjoy Easter Sundae M&M’s. But don’t be fooled by the name; there’s no new flavors, no unique experience. Just chocolate.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 ounces — 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable mixture of white and milk chocolate. Easter egg hunts. The candy shells are cheerily colored.
Cons: A boring combination of flavors. Trying to force Easter and sundaes together. Candies taste absolutely nothing like sundaes. Floofy dresses.

REVIEW: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s

Eat your fruit. It’s good for you, they say. It gives you antioxidants, they say. It turns you into an Animorph and lets you shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs, they say. (They actually only say two of these. I’ll let you choose which.)

But sometimes, you don’t want fruit. Not fresh, dried, packaged or plain. Sometimes you want dye-colored, artificially-enhanced pretend fruit in all its sucrose-filled glory. BUT just because it’s pretend doesn’t mean we lower our standards. We want funky grapes, sweet-tart lemons, and a strawberry so balanced and sweet, it makes umami disappear. Who shall take up the reins and harken to our plea for a strawberry-inspired white chocolate? Who shall deliver it in morsel form??

Well, M&M’s gave it a shot.

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 2

The multi-colored morsels tumble out of the bag, bumbling about in their charming, misshapen way. Indeed, M&M’s could start a Home Depot paint line with as many colors as they shroud their candies in these days. This time around, Mars stuck with a white, light pink, and beige color palette, or, as the paint-namers say, “Minced Onion, Palace Rose, and Vanilla Clay.”

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 3

The bits smell distinctly of the brightness that comes from opening a bag of Skittles, and, indeed, the first bite reminds me of a Strawberry Skittle, with its sweet, floral strawberry flavor and crunchy outer shell. The shell immediately crumbles, leaving the white chocolate center to melt into goo, coating your mouth with a light, Starburst-like strawberry sweetness.

The chocolate’s not nuanced or particularly high quality, but, if my eyes don’t deceive, the ingredients list includes cocoa-butter-filled white chocolate rather than, “White Confection,” which might be better described as, “Nefarious, sweetened Vasoline born to create destruction.”

And using that white chocolate pays off. With a hint of vanilla and sugar-filled creaminess, the elements come together just enough to remind me of the strawberry and whipped topping (think: Cool Whip from the tub) often found in strawberry shortcake. Okay, so it’s missing the whole “Shortbread Biscuit” thing, but I enjoy my strawberry-shortcake-inspired bits nonetheless, reveling in the fact that I didn’t even have to open an oven to achieve such joy. Laziness, for the win.

White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s 4

Life is fraught with dangers, both real and imagined. Strawberry-shortcake-flavored candy should not be one of them. M&M’s knows this. They made a sweet, strawberry morsel that harkens back to a Strawberry Skittle (my favorite flavor) enmeshed with their fudgy white chocolate.

Sure, it’s a bit sweet, not the best quality chocolate, doesn’t include a shortcake biscuit, and won’t replace your everyday fruits (remember: you need that fruit so you can shoot laser beams out of your eyeballs), but, for 2016, I hear many folks hope to do more of what they love. Hypothesizing that M&M’s likes cranking out a whole bunch of seasonally flavored morsels, it looks like M&M’s plans to do that, too. If this is how doing more of what you love tastes, I have hope.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz – 210 calories, 100 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: White Strawberry Shortcake M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Strawberry Skittles. Crunchy shell. Creamy center. Actual white chocolate. Cool Whip from the tub. Laziness, for the win. Fruit that turns you into an Animorph.
Cons: Where’s the shortcake? Will not appeal to those who are Strawberry Starbursts/Skittles haters. Not the best quality white chocolate. Life is fraught with dangers. Being faced with too many paint colors.

REVIEW: Milk Chocolate Cafe Mocha M&M’s

Cafe Mocha Milk Chocolate M&M's

According to the Café Mocha M&M’s packaging, “The Holidays are better with M.”

That’s a fair statement in this reviewer’s opinion. Unless we’re talking plain M&M’s.

Plain M&M’s stink. They stink!

There, I said it. Who needs ’em?

I think they’re the 43rd best candy in the candy aisle. They’re a cookie ingredient. They exist to be customized and given out as expensive party favors. Plain M&M’s are co-stars in a good trail mix at best. They’re raisins. You can keep ’em.

Phew! Sorry folks, but that mini rant felt good. You know Vin always brings those controversial opinions. You can’t spell “controversial” without “Vin”…if you eliminate a bunch of letters and then rearrange them for some reason.

Now that I got that off my chest, I should say I actually do enjoy most other M&M’s variations. Whether it’s the ol’ reliable Peanut or the Greatest of All Time Peanut Butter; from Crispy to Pretzel to Peppermint; and all the way down to Almond and Candy Corn, M&M’s usually brings it with their other flavors. So I was genuinely excited to try the new Café Mocha M&M’s.

First, the sniff test. This was a major bummer. The bag smells like a standard bag of M&M’s. I was hoping it would have a coffee scent because I find few smells better than a freshly opened bag of coffee beans.

Cafe Mocha Milk Chocolate M&M's 2

Next, the eye test. As you can see they come in the classic green and red holiday colors. In terms of size, they’re about the same diameter of a Peanut Butter M&M and they’re bigger than a regular, but smaller than a peanut.

Last but not least, the taste test. At first it tastes like a plain M&M whose recipe went awry. It’s almost like I’m eating semi-sweet mini M&Ms made specifically for baking. The mocha is there, but the “café” takes a few seconds to recognize. Once you get the slightly bitter coffee element, it levels out and becomes a successful enough piece of candy. These are milk chocolate based, but I might have guessed dark.

If you scoop a handful of these at a holiday party, you might not even know what the flavor is. If I didn’t have the bag in front of me, I would have probably taken a couple minutes to figure it out.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re pretty good, but I think they should have had more coffee flavor. If you’ve ever had a chocolate covered espresso bean, the taste is similar. These don’t pack as much flavor intensity as any chocolate espresso bean I’ve had, but they’re definitely in the ballpark.

Café Mocha M&M’s probably aren’t going to become one of your holiday staples, but they’re definitely worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 5 grams of cholesterol, 30 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Milk Chocolate Café Mocha M&M’s
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Better than plain M&M’s. Flavor is similar to chocolate espresso beans. Decent seasonal candy option.
Cons: Coffee/espresso flavor isn’t strong enough. There are better M&M’s choices. Bag doesn’t smell like fresh coffee beans. Raisins.

REVIEW: Hot Chocolate M&M’s made with Dark Chocolate

Hot Chocolate M&M's Made with Dark Chocolate

Whenever I drink hot chocolate and look down into my mug, I think about dirty storm water. And when I see the brown water in flooded streams and rivers, I think about hot chocolate. It’s a shame they look similar.

Of course, Hot Chocolate M&M’s made with Dark Chocolate doesn’t taste like dirty and/or sewage-y like I imagine storm water does, but it also doesn’t taste like hot chocolate.

But then again, my experience with hot cocoa involves dumping a packet of Swiss Miss powdered hot cocoa mix into a mug, pouring hot water into said mug, stirring it until it looks like storm drain water, taking a sip, burning my mouth, waiting a few minutes to let it cool, taking another sip, and then thinking why I made all this effort to make chocolate flavored water. (I know I could use milk, but it would ruin the transition to the next paragraph. But then again, this aside probably ruined the transition.)

But these M&M’s don’t taste like chocolate flavored water. They taste better.

Each bag comes with three colors of candies: black, white, and off-white. I guess the black represents chocolate, white represents milk, and off-white represents marshmallows, even though marshmallows are as white as milk.

Cutting them in half reveals…ACK!

Hot Chocolate M&M's Made with Dark Chocolate 3

They’re like chocolatey evil horizontal cats eyes looking at me! Those eyes are following me around! I promise to do your bidding, chocolate cat eyes! Just stop staring at me!

The iris of the chocolatey evil horizontal cats eyes appears to be the dark chocolate and the pupil looks like milk chocolate. I could be wrong, but I’m too scared to look directly at them again.

When popping the candy into my mouth, the first thing I notice is a coconut flavor, which is strange, but it’s fleeting. Once I took a bite into them, that coconut was replaced by the chocolate and an artificial marshmallow flavor. Yeah, I know artificial marshmallow flavor sounds bad, but it’s surprisingly tasty in this candy and I’d take it over Swiss Miss mixed with water any day. But I could see others not enjoying the artificial flavor.

Hot Chocolate M&M's Made with Dark Chocolate 2

I’m not sure if the marshmallow flavoring comes from the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, both, or if the chocolatey evil horizontal cats eyes have hypnotized me into thinking there’s marshmallow, but the tiny dots in the milk chocolate make me think it’s coming from it. The overall chocolate flavor leans slightly towards the dark, but I think the combination of the two chocolates, plus the artificial marshmallow flavor, does create a flavor that can be recognized as hot cocoa. I’m not talking chocolate flavored water hot cocoa, I’m talking chocolate flavored milk hot cocoa with lots of marshmallows.

As a whole, these Hot Chocolate M&M’s are wonderful. There doesn’t seem to be a difference in flavor between the three colors, but who cares because they’re awesome. But, damn, why did the bag have to be smaller than previous M&M’s flavors. It’s almost 20 percent smaller and around the same price as previous flavors. That makes me want to throw a hot cup of Swiss Miss at the person who decided to sell it in a smaller bag.

So if you’ve got on your ugly holiday sweater and want some hot chocolate, don’t settle for some storm runoff-looking Swiss Miss. Instead, pick up a bag of these Hot Chocolate M&M’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 oz. – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 2% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Hot Chocolate M&M’s made with Dark Chocolate
Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than chocolate flavored hot water. Artificial marshmallow flavor is surprisingly nice.
Cons: 20 percent smaller bag than other flavors. When split in half the candy center looks like evil eyes. Artificial marshmallow flavoring might not appeal to some.