REVIEW: Dunkin’ Toasted White Chocolate Signature Latte

Dunkin Toasted White Chocolate Signature Latte Iced and Hot

My relationship with coffee can best be described as a fairweather friend; when things are light and sweet, I’m the biggest fan, but the second it gets dark and bitter, I’m out of there.

For fellow lovers of milky, sugary, frilly coffees, I’m glad to report that Dunkin’s new Toasted White Chocolate Signature Latte is a dream come true. This review was the first time I’ve had both hot and iced variants of a latte simultaneously, and I was pleasantly surprised that their tastes were as distinct as their temperatures.

Dunkin Toasted White Chocolate Signature Latte Iced

To celebrate an unseasonably warm day in late fall, I started with the iced version. On a sweetness scale from “plain cold brew” to “milkshake,” it fell solidly at “Frappuccino” level (that is to say, pretty dang sweet). Alongside the pure richness and creaminess of the white chocolate flavor, which was matched by the pure richness and creaminess of the thick, dense whipped cream on top, the “toasted” aspect of the name shined, accentuated by the cinnamon sugar dusting. The drink’s topping also contained a caramel drizzle, but as syrups tend to do, it quickly melted into the whipped cream in an indistinguishable blob, so it didn’t impact the flavor much for me.

As a white chocolate aficionado, I often lament its relegation to seasonal status, but I’ve got to say that this blissful combination of sweet and smokey was as perfect a winter treat as lounging by the fireplace on a snowy day. Bonus points for living up to the image on the poster about as faithfully as possible under the confines of the whipped-cream-smushing lid.

Dunkin Toasted White Chocolate Signature Latte Poster

Dunkin Toasted White Chocolate Signature Latte Hot

Interestingly, my hot latte was reminiscent of a different iconic winter flavor: gingerbread. After consulting the label to make sure I hadn’t picked up the wrong order, I started to suspect this had to do with the coffee-to-mouth pipeline. Sipping the iced latte from a straw allowed me to skip the whip and get right to the heart of the drink, but since I was swigging the hot latte directly from the opening in the lid, the whipped cream and its accoutrements were the first things that rose to meet me. The heated combination of whipped cream richness, white chocolate toastiness, and the light bite of cinnamon all at once gave the hot version its zesty, cookie-esque character (I found the caramel didn’t make much of a mark in this version, either). Once I slurped past the wintry mix on top, I was met with a beverage as sweet, full-bodied, and comforting as a cup of cocoa.

I couldn’t detect even the faintest hint of acrid coffee taste in either version, which suited me just fine. Ultimately, I might recommend the hot latte over the iced just because it isn’t subject to the same “melting ice diluting the flavor” issue that can plague a cold drink that isn’t chugged quickly enough. But honestly, as long as you don’t mind a serious sugar rush, either variant is so delicious that you just might want to drink it as quickly as possible regardless.

Purchased Price: $4.56
Size: Small
Rating: 9 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 300 calories, 11 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium (hot) or 135 milligrams of sodium (iced), 42 grams of total carbohydrates, 38 grams of total sugars, 0 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Triple Bacon Pizza

Papa John s Triple Bacon Pizza Whole

What’s meatier than a Shaq-a-Roni, more novel than a Papadia, and able to clog three times as many arteries in a single bound? Papa John’s new Triple Bacon Pizza! Its claim to fame is containing three types of bacon: crumbles, julienne-cut pieces of Canadian bacon, and good old-fashioned strips.

At first glance, the strips were the most noticeable part of my pie. The chunky juliennes stood out as well, but were more prone to being submerged under cheese (this often made for a nice mid-bite surprise). The crumbles were the shrinking violets of the trio, with their smaller size, denser texture, and deeper color, making them surprisingly hard to tell apart from the dark dots of cheese. The lattice of varying shapes, textures, and shades of red made the pie look almost like a piece of avant-garde art—so like any good art connoisseur would, I immediately ripped it apart with my teeth.

The strips were, well, typical bacon strips, though I particularly enjoyed the variations in texture, with some bites lean and burnt and others fatty and chewy. On the other hand, the juliennes were consistently thick and tender, and since they were Canadian bacon, they had a slightly sweeter, meatier taste. I’m finding it harder to sum up the crumbles, whose standout feature seemed to be that they were just the strips, only torn into pieces. Papa John’s website specifically describes the crumbles as “smokey,” but for me the bulk of the smokey flavor came from the sheer surface area covered by the strips. While the strips were large enough that each one tended to have representation of both crispness and meatiness (even if they weren’t evenly distributed), each crumble typically only captured one of those flavors, which meant they didn’t contribute distinctly to the overall taste.

Papa John s Triple Bacon Pizza Slice

While I deeply appreciated the audacity of laying down full bacon strips across the entire pie, the flavorful juliennes with their perfectly pluckable shape were my favorite of the three types. Hearty enough to stand alongside the slice instead of just blending in, they had a similar appeal to the classic meatball or sausage pizza toppings, while the thin strips meshed with the cheese and sauce as smoothly as pepperoni. I’m not sure exactly what the advantage of the crumbles was. They felt like they were just tacked on as a cheap way to get a third selling point for this new menu item, and I suspect the two star students would shine better without them.

Papa John s Triple Bacon Pizza Bpx

All in all, the savory saltiness of these three breeds of bacon was a great, if not exactly world-shattering, pairing for Papa John’s dense cheese and sweet sauce. It made me wonder how this classic breakfast topping would hold up on a slice eaten cold the next morning, but my household demolished our box too quickly to tell. Fortunately, this meaty marvel is good enough that I don’t mind having an excuse to get it again some time and find out.

Purchased Price: $13 (that’s for the basic Triple Bacon pie, though I splurged an additional $3 to add stuffed crust)
Size: Large
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: Information not available on website.

REVIEW: Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream Pint

What is Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream?

Per the carton, “Two family-owned brands, Little Debbie and Hudsonville®, have come together to craft this cold and creamy Christmas Tree Cake® inspired ice cream, making holiday moments even sweeter.”

It features ice cream, red icing, green sugar sprinkles, and pieces of pound cake.

Oh, and it’s exclusive to Walmart.

How is it?

It’s so festive that I have to remind myself that it’s not going to taste like peppermint.

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream Scoop

The red icing has a nice flavor, definitely better than the waxy coating on Little Debbie cakes. I also like the cake pieces mixed in with the ice cream. They are soft enough that the two elements work together nicely.

You know when you have cake and ice cream at a birthday party, and you mix the leftover ice cream with the cake crumbs on your plate? This ice cream is like that. In fact, swap out the colors, and this could be a birthday cake ice cream.

Anything else you need to know?

There are basically two things I don’t like:

  • The green sprinkles. They are fine on the actual cakes, but the gritty texture clashes with the soft ice cream and cake. I can see how some people might like the textural contrast, but I don’t. They’re not a deal-breaker, but I do wish they weren’t there.
  • This product is good, but it’s just kind of boring. It’s basically vanilla ice cream flavored like vanilla cakes.

Conclusion:

Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream with Cake

I like Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes Ice Cream more than I like actual Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. The flavor might not be very exciting, but visually, the ice cream screams Christmas, and the cake provides a pleasing texture.

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (2/3 cup) 230 calories, 10 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 75 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 26 grams of sugar, 21 grams of added sugar, and 3 grams of protein.

REVIEW: McDonald’s McRib (2021)

McDonald s McRib  2021 Sandwich

I have had a McRib. In fact, I have had more than one McRib. If I had to guess, I’d wager that I’ve had somewhere between three and five McRibs. Each fall, there are some immutable truths: your brother-in-law will attempt to persuade you to let him take you deer hunting, people will spend the week after the time change complaining about how early it gets dark, and McDonald’s will act like they are doing the world no small favor by bringing back everyone’s favorite processed pork-parts patty.

And every three or four years, I go, “Do I like a McRib? People go nuts for these things. But I can’t remember…” And so I eat one and then go right back to forgetting. But now that I am committing my thoughts to the Internet — and provided the domain fees for this site continue to be paid — I will never again forget how I feel about this annual porkwich.

Here’s how I feel: I probably don’t need to eat another one of these again in my life.

That’s not to say this sandwich is aggressively bad or that it is an affront to my gastric sensibilities; it’s fine. But “fine” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, and the fact of the matter is this: there are 15 better menu items you can order from McDonald’s.

Furthermore, if you have an unyielding hankering for a pork-patty sandwich, you can probably get a cheaper and more delicious one somewhere else. QuikTrip, a multi-region chain of convenience stores, sells a much better and cheaper BBQ pork riblet sandwich. I mean, sure, you have to microwave it yourself, but it’s a small trade-off for a vastly superior product.

So, what is it about the McRib that keeps me from — ba-da-ba-ba-ba — loving it?

The pork patty itself is perfectly okay. It’s meaty and chewy, and what one probably expects from “restructured meat” composed primarily of pork shoulder. It’s inoffensive (if uninspired). There are no “subtle undertones” or “complex nuances” to be had; it is chewy, and identifiably meat, and that’s pretty much it.

McDonald s McRib  2021 Onions

The same can be said of the pickles, which are McD’s standard, flimsy sour discs, and the onions, which are respectably crunchy and tangy. The bun is a bland (but again, just fine) homestyle roll that is dusted with some sort of seed. (Nearly everything on the Internet identifies it as a sesame seed bun, but this isn’t true. The ones on the McRib bun are tiny and round and yellow, like a poppy seed, but not. I think this is called “corn dusted”?)

Anyway, what I think really ruins the McRib is the bath of sweet sauce the patty receives. The sauce is tart and pungently tangy, like ketchup that has gone south, and the sandwich is absolutely SWIMMING in it. You cannot take a bite of this thing without splurting or dripping the sticky red goo everywhere. It is a slasher-film of a lunch.

McDonald s McRib  2021 Side

In the end, I think this sandwich thrives off of two things: 1) nostalgia and 2) limited availability. I’d be genuinely surprised if many people try one for the first time this November and instantly begin a countdown clock until its sloppy return.

Purchased Price: $5.29
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 520 calories, 28 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 890 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 24 grams of protein.

(Editor’s Note: Last year, I decided we would review the McRib every time it returns, and each time it would be a different writer. I’m doing it mostly for funsies, but I also want to read different takes on this sandwich. If you’re interested, here’s our review from 2020.)

REVIEW: 7UP Pomegranate (2021)

Pomegranate 7 Up  2021 Bottle

What is 7UP Pomegranate?

First introduced in 2007, and not seen on shelves since 2016, this limited edition product makes its return just in time for the winter season. Bright red, this soda combines pomegranate flavor with the standard 7UP lemon-lime.??

How is it?

Holiday themed sodas are easily one of my favorite things about the dark, cold months ahead. Drinks that are normally cloyingly sweet affairs now have an edge to them that makes them extremely enjoyable.

Pomegranate 7 Up  2021 Top

7UP Pomegranate, however, falls short of impressing me. Instead of the pomegranate hitting first, it’s overwhelmingly the standard lemon lime taste. The red fruit comes towards the end, but not the way I was hoping for. It’s very subtle and seems to dull the sweetness associated with lemon lime soda more than add a new flavor profile. It’s definitely not like the pomegranate-flavored Red Bull I tried a few weeks ago.

Pomegranate is just a hard flavor to execute, but I do applaud 7UP for at least swerving left when most companies swerve right (cranberry) when it comes to adding holiday tastes to their products.

Anything else you need to know?

This site did a review of it when it first came out in 2007. I avoided reading it until I had finished my own review. Apparently the pomegranate wasn’t strong then either. You’d think they’d have tweaked it a bit in the last 14 years.

Conclusion:

Pomegranate 7 Up  2021 Label

While a perfectly drinkable item, it fails to deliver the pomegranate flavor in any meaningful way. It tastes more like a slightly less sweet, bright red 7UP than a whole new variety.

Purchased Price: $1.25
Size: 2 Liter
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (12oz) 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 38 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.