REVIEW: Dunkin’ Spiced Cookie Coffee

If you’re ready to trade in your pumpkin spice for less squash-themed offerings, Dunkin’s holiday menu is here, and perhaps the least flashy item on it is the new Spiced Cookie Coffee. Available hot or iced, it’s made with a short list of coffee, brown sugar cookie syrup, vanilla syrup, and oat milk. After my recent run-in with the Ice Spice Munchkin Drink, I was ready to scale back and have a coffee that wasn’t buried in whipped cream, caramel, and donuts. Dunkin’ says this one “captures the essence of freshly baked oatmeal cookies in a cup,” which sounds pretty straightforward and cozy. Sometimes you don’t need all the sleigh bells and whistles, you just want your coffee with a hint of holiday cheer.

I went the hot route for my first take on the Spiced Cookie Coffee, thinking it would be best suited to drawing out the flavors of what I assumed would be warming spices. It smelled pleasantly sweet, with brown sugar and buttery notes dominating. After a couple sips, I could definitely taste how this mimics a cookie, mostly due to the brown sugar, vanilla, and buttery flavors. But I think there might be some confusion about what exactly this is supposed to taste like. Around the holidays, “spiced” tends to evoke thoughts of things like cinnamon, ginger, cloves, etc.. When I think of oatmeal cookies, the only spice I usually associate them with is cinnamon, which I’m not convinced is even present here. Maybe Oatmeal Cookie Coffee sounded like too boring of a name?

I liked the flavor and found the level of sweetness enjoyable, not over-the-top. As someone who doesn’t typically drink oat milk, I had no issues with it here. It brought some creamy and nutty qualities to the mix. The coffee itself gets a bit lost, but my only real complaint is that I was expecting more spice. Without it, this drink lacks the holiday vibe I was anticipating.

Being an equal opportunist, I gave this a second go with the iced version. If I thought the holiday spirit was slightly missing from the first one, it’s totally undetectable here. The coffee is more prominent, but gone are the brown sugar, vanilla, and butter notes that put this in the cookie category. The oat milk seems to be a detriment; instead of being creamy, this just tastes watered down. If I didn’t know this was supposed to be flavored like something, I would guess it was just mediocre regular iced coffee.

If you can overlook the missing spice identity crisis this beverage has, the hot version is a nice treat that might remind you of a simple but tasty oatmeal cookie. If you go iced, though, know that what you’re getting won’t be reminiscent of a snack you’d leave for Santa – unless you’re the kind of jerk that leaves him a bowl of unflavored oatmeal.

Purchased Price: (hot) $3.74, (iced) $3.65
Size: Medium
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Hot), 5 out of 10 (Iced)
Nutrition Facts: Hot – 130 calories, 0.5 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein. Iced – 130 calories, 0.5 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 50 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbs, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Loaded Hash Browns

I don’t start thinking about Christmas until coffee shops tell me to start thinking about Christmas.

If I walk into a random store on November 1st and see Christmas decorations? Bah, Humbug! Now, if I walk into Dunkin’ and see its Christmas menu is out, Mariah Carey and her golden pipes appear like an apparition out of thin air, and we dance like no one is watching.

I’ve been asked to leave three Dunkin’ locations and two Starbucks already this month, but I never argued, and they always asked nicely. It must be that holiday spirit Dunkin’ is bringing to the table with festive flavorings such as peppermint, spiced cookie, toasted white chocolate, and, of course, everyone’s favorite yuletide treat… Loaded Hash Browns.

Ok, that’s not exactly a Christmas staple, but if Dunkin’ says it is, who am I to argue? Potatoes, meat, and cheese are kinda Christmassy, and Uncle Kev always gets loaded at the family Christmas party.

Loaded Hash Browns will henceforth be a holiday season tradition. You got a problem with that? Take it up with Dunkin’. Not me. I clearly don’t like confrontation, but I do like these Loaded Hash Browns. I like them a lot, actually.

Your opinion will probably depend on how much you enjoy Dunkin’s hash browns. I think they’re a great little snack to counter their sugary treats, and any time I take advantage of a “Free Coffee with Purchase” deal, I usually order hash browns.

Loaded Hash Browns consist of said hash browns doused with (not much) jalapeño queso and topped with crumbled bacon.

I really enjoy Dunkin’s hash browns because they always have a little zestiness to them. The bacon is actually pretty flavorful as well, and while the jalapeño doesn’t exactly pop much, it does kick that proprietary zest up twofold. That said, these really aren’t spicy at all.

I’ve eaten this three times since its release, and each time the hash browns and bacon have been crisped to perfection. Getting consistently good bacon at any fast food place is rare, so it’s one of the big reasons I’ve kept going back.

On the flip side, the cheese sauce has been pretty lacking each time. That might bother some people, but I actually think it’s the perfect amount. You get a consistently crispy bite from hash brown one to hash brown nine. Dunkin’ advertises nine, but I got ten once. It was a Christmas miracle!

It’s not all perfection though. This little cup of browns is one of the saltiest things I’ve eaten in a while, and I chugged a shaker of salt for dinner last week.

At four bucks, I don’t consider this the best deal in the world, but you get a decent amount of bacon, and it’s a perfect “hold me over” snack that pairs well with a sweet drink. I kinda hope Dunkin’ goes even more “loaded” with the next iteration and crack an egg in there. Maybe that’ll be a Christmas ’24 thing.

My one major complaint is that I didn’t get a Christmas-themed cup once. If that happens again, I’m getting kicked out of another Dunkin’.

Purchased Price: $3.99
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 340 calories, 22 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 mg of cholesterol, 1240 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Starbucks Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte

As readers of a junk food blog may agree, there is nothing quite like buying yourself a little treat, whether you’ve done anything to deserve it or not. When that treat is a beverage, I will choose a chai latte nine times out of ten. I love them so much that I have tested and ranked the chai lattes offered by (almost) every café in my city. When a craving hits, even the low-ranked ones hit the spot. However, my favorites are often an equal measure of tea, milk, sweetness, and spice. Chai spice blend preferences are about as personal as one’s coffee order, but I like a peppery bite as well as a hint of vanilla.

I both love and resent chai lattes for occupying so much of my mental space that could be dedicated to other things, like remembering the names of my colleagues’ kids or establishing a regular dusting schedule.

Again, my priorities were set when I tasted the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte, a new item on Starbucks’ winter menu. The iced beverage base consists of Starbucks’ chai concentrate, chai syrup, and oatmilk. An oatmilk froth flavored with gingerbread syrup tops the drink, along with a sprinkle of pumpkin spice. (Sadly, my order was missing the pumpkin spice. I shouldn’t take it personally. And yet….)

To add gingerbread syrup only to the froth felt like an odd choice. The flavor was noticeable (and at times trickled down into the drink’s base), but I expected it to shine more brightly. Mostly cinnamon and molasses, the gingerbread flavor tasted good, but lacked any real punch of ginger. (Gingerbread fans may wish to try the hot version of the drink, which contains both chai and gingerbread syrups in the base. Share your findings, please!)

The oatmilk in the base was delicious, contributing a thick, creamy richness and subtle nutty flavor. It was very sweet, which I’m not opposed to. The creaminess seemed to dominate, throwing off the spice ratio. As with the froth, the spice in the base seemed very cinnamon-forward. Even though Starbucks’ chai concentrate contains black pepper and ginger, the drink somehow lacked the bite I expect from chai. Generally, it was more reminiscent of pumpkin spice.

Don’t get me wrong, the drink still tasted good — creamy and sweet, with enough sugar, spice, and caffeine to nudge a few dopamine receptors out of bed. However, the Iced Gingerbread Oatmilk Chai Latte oversells the promise of ginger; by confining the gingerbread flavor to the froth, no component fully delivers what could have been vibrant spice. This limited time offering isn’t in my top tier of seasonal beverages or chai lattes, but it will still quell a sweet treat craving.

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Tall – 12 fl oz.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 290 calories, 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 36 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Pie Blizzard

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Pie Blizzard is the November Blizzard of the Month, but it is not really new. It appears to have been available in the U.S. back in 2014 and in Canada sometime last year, but I can’t remember what I ate yesterday, and I haven’t been to Canada lately, so this is new enough to warrant a review. And I’m glad to be the one doing the review.

The standard Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard has always been one of my favorites, and this version adds graham cracker pie crust and whipped topping. Neither the name of this one nor the added ingredients are particularly creative, but who cares if the results are tasty? And they are. The first bite instantly made me think I was eating a pie in ice cream form. It doesn’t taste radically different than the straight-up PB cup version, but it’s different enough to be a pleasant change, and it has a bit more texture and crunch with the pie crust pieces.

The whipped topping, however, did not add much other than a bit of drama when the DQ employee did the signature Blizzard flip before handing me the goods. I swear I saw the topping move a little, but it did manage to stay attached to its ice cream companion. That led me down the rabbit hole of what happens if a Blizzard — or some part of it — spills when it is flipped? The internet claims that you get a free Blizzard if any spillage occurs or if the employee doesn’t flip the Blizzard for you, although those rules seem to be loosely enforced. I spent more time than I care to admit doing “research” on this topic, and it’s safe to say that the new light figure I was planning to install is still sitting in its original box.

This Blizzard is quite good, but it’s akin to having your favorite burger with a pretzel bun instead of a standard roll. So there’s no need to drop everything and race over to your local DQ, but if you like the regular Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard, you are going to want to give this one a try.

Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: Small
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 820 calories, 40 grams of fat, 19 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 410 milligrams of sodium, 100 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 83 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Toasted Breakfast Tacos

I’m not a morning person, so please forgive me that my head was foggy enough that I forgot to grab breakfast salsa packets with these new Taco Bell Toasted Breakfast Tacos. Sure, it was 9:45 in the morning when most people’s brains are functioning somewhat properly, but mine was not.

These new Toasted Breakfast Tacos come in three varieties — bacon, sausage, and potato. Each also comes with fluffy scrambled eggs and shredded cheddar cheese in a toasted tortilla. There isn’t a way to determine which is which by smelling them because they all have a scent similar to everything else with a grilled flour tortilla from Taco Bell. Well, excluding the Grilled Cheese Burrito.

Taco Bell Potato Toasted Breakfast Taco

I purchased all three varieties and was surprised that the taco I liked the most was the potato one. The versions with sausage pellets and bacon bits were fine, but both reminded me of other breakfast burritos I’ve had. Heck, the chain’s Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burritos are similar to these, except they have nacho cheese sauce instead of shredded cheddar cheese and less tortilla origami. I guess having just potatoes instead of meat was a nice change of pace for my taste buds. Or maybe it’s my body telling me that I need to cut back on processed meats.

Taco Bell Sausage Toasted Breakfast Taco

Oh, much like Taco Bell’s regular tacos, eating just one won’t be filling. You’re going to have to order at least two or three. So try all three as I did, or try one with a much more filling Breakfast Crunchwrap. Oh, also, it’s been a minute since I’ve had Taco Bell’s eggs, but they have better flavor and texture than I remember.

Taco Bell Bacon Toasted Breakfast Taco

While I didn’t have Taco Bell’s Breakfast Salsa, I had some McDonald’s Picante Sauce of an unknown age sitting in my fridge because I’m a condiment packet hoarder. Adding it upgraded the tacos’ flavor, but they don’t NEED any breakfast salsa if you have morning brain fog and forget to grab salsa because they’re adequate on their own.

With all that said, I wouldn’t say any of Taco Bell’s new Toasted Breakfast Tacos are outstanding, with or without salsa, even the potato one. They’re very basic products on the breakfast menu at an inexpensive price point, and if you want to make them not-so-basic and a little more expensive, you can customize them to your heart’s content. But I imagine these three are just the foundation for future variations. I could see a steak and egg variety or maybe one with Nacho Fries.

Purchased Price: $1.79 each*
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Bacon and Sausage), 7 out of 10 (Potato)
Nutrition Facts: Sausage – 230 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 9 grams of protein. Bacon – 230 calories, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 11 grams of protein. Potato – 220 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of sugar, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, 8 grams of protein.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.