Last year, Kellogg’s trotted out a limited edition Unicorn Cereal. With unicorn off the board, the Big G didn’t want to be left out of the mythical creature cereal category, so here we are with Mermaid Cereal.
There’s no universal consensus to what unicorn products should taste like, but the same can’t be said about mermaid products. All brands that have come out with mermaid food products seem to agree that they should not taste fishy. According to the box, this cereal is naturally fruit flavored sweetened corn puffs with other natural flavors.
Two different pieces swim in the box — pink-colored stars and green-colored mermaid tails. I don’t know if I’ve watched The Little Mermaid, Splash, or the 18th episode of season two of Snorks, “The Littlest Mermaid,” too many times, but it’s a little unnerving to me to be eating mermaid tails. I can almost hear the underwater screams in my head with every chew.
The sizes of the pieces are a lot smaller than I thought they’d be. I know the image on the front of the box is enlarged to show detail, but it skewed my perception of how big they would be. They’re less puffier than most corn puff cereals that I’ve eaten before. I also thought, at first glance, the green pieces were marshmallows. As someone who loves cereal marshmallows, I’m a bit disappointed they’re not.
The flavor of the brightly colored pieces remind me of Trix, but more like Trix Lite, if that existed. So if you want to trick the Trix Rabbit, blindfold him, tell him you’re feeding him Trix, but feed him this. It’s fruity flavored, so he won’t know.
And if you’re super evil, when he takes off his blindfold, laugh like Kawhi Leonard in his face, show him it’s Mermaid Cereal, then say, “Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids!,” and then hand him a carrot.
Mermaid Cereal is an average fruity cereal. It tastes fine and stays crunchy in milk for a decent amount of time, but doesn’t leave behind a fruity milk. There’s nothing mythical, mysterious, or magical about it.
DISCLOSURE: I received a free sample of the product. Doing so did not influence my review in any way.
Purchased Price: FREE Size: 11.4 oz. box Purchased at: Received from General Mills Rating: 6 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (1 cup w/o milk) 150 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.
Can I say that of all the cereal types here-to-now discovered by humanity, stuff-filled cereals by far have the most potential? Yes, I know corn loops, toasted oat rings, whole wheat squares, and (maybe) even sweet seasoned crisped rice all have roles to play in a complete breakfast, but the flavor-stuffed cavities of cereals like Kellogg’s Krave are structurally in another dimension.
Think of them as the chocolate eclairs of the cereal world. Don’t like eclairs? Fine, a creme-filled donut. And thanks to General Mills’ new Fillows cereal, we now have a competitor to Kellogg’s Krave.
Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme
Call me an overly visual taster, but the appearance of chocolate squares with the promise of a creme filling inside made me expect the taste of Oreo cookies. However, I was massively disappointed when, on the first bite, the cloying taste of nothing but vanilla and sugar assaulted my taste buds. With the oh-so-slightest hint of cocoa on the backend, each square felt like a façade, as if I’d been served a veggie burger instead of a bleeding disc of cow. This marked the high point of my cereal disillusionment for the day.
To be fair, Hershey’s do not make Oreo cookies; they make Cookies ‘n’ Crème candy bars. And with that as a baseline, I tried the cereal again and appreciated it more for its unabashed vanilla sweetness. Still, there are some off flavors going on — notably, an artificial marshmallow taste that really seems to come out in milk. They don’t help the cereal stay true to either cookies ‘n’ creme the bar or the flavor.
That, to be honest, might be part of the problem. Cookies ‘n’ Creme Fillows are too sweet to be enjoyed with milk, and probably on the verge of being too sweet for most people as a snack (full disclosure: I’m not like most people). But at least when eaten dry the cocoa becomes a little more rounded, with a mild but enjoyable Cocoa Puffs flavor. It’s lost in milk, though, which makes the cereal a slight disappointment.
Purchased Price: $3.64 Size: 22 oz. box Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 6 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.
Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll
The legacy of bakery-inspired cereals is a mixed bag. While there are some great ones — such as Kellogg’s bygone Cinnabon cereal — more often than not even the good ones don’t really taste like donuts or french toast or cinnamon rolls.
Let me be real with y’all: Pillsbury Cinnamon Roll Fillows legitimately tastes like a cinnamon roll. What’s more, they might even be better than an actual Pillsbury cinnamon roll.
Like the Cookies ‘n’ Creme Fillows, these are overwhelmingly sweet at 19 grams of sugar per 52 grams of cereal. However, the sweetness feels like a match with the concentrated cinnamon flavor. Even eaten dry, there’s a certain richness in each square, mimicking the gooey buttery interior of a cinnamon roll. This flavor heightened in milk, where the squares take on an indulgent churros appeal.
Granted, when you review cereal you learn to write a lot of vague crap, but let me state this unequivocally: This is the best Cinnamon Roll cereal I’ve had in 30 years of eating processed sugar for breakfast. Buy this.
Purchased Price: $3.64 Size: 22 oz. box Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 10 out of 10 Nutrition Facts: (3/4 cup) 230 calories, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.
Overall, it’s good to see General Mills partner with Hershey’s and Pillsbury to join the filled cereal market. While the Cookies ‘n’ Creme flavor doesn’t seem to work in a cereal, they’ve definitely found a winner with the Pillsbury Doughboy. Let’s hope it sticks around.
I used to beg my mom to buy it for me all the time when I was a kid, but I can’t even remember the last time I saw a Dippin’ Dots kiosk. For something that used to tout itself as being the “Ice Cream of the Future,” it sure seems like it hasn’t aged well. Perhaps a reason for its lack of success was that the ice cream had to be stored in ultra-cold super-freezers, which prevented people from buying and eating them at home.
Thankfully for those of us who don’t have freezers that can hold ice cream at -40° F, the kind people over at General Mills lent their breakfast-making prowess to Dippin’ Dots to recreate two of its most popular flavors into a much more easily distributable cereal form.
The Cookies ‘n Cream flavor features tan and brown cereal puffs mixed with clusters of milk chocolate-coated cookie bits. Opening the bag, there was an aroma that reminded me more of Corn Pops mixed with a few crushed Oreo wafers than it did of ice cream.
The corn-heavy smell of the cereal foreshadowed its flavor, which didn’t taste like Cookies ‘n Cream at all. I had hoped the brown and tan puffs would emulate both flavors respectively, but they instead had that generic “corn-y” taste shared by most cereal puffs.
The chocolate cookie clusters were the only element that actually tasted like how they were supposed to, but there weren’t nearly enough of them to go around, and I found they had a tendency to sink to the bottom of my bowl once I added milk.
Banana Split is constructed like the Cookies ‘n Cream version, but the quality here is a different story. I was hesitant to try it at first since banana is a flavor that often oversteps into the territory of being overly artificial. But it turns out it was what this cereal needed to overcome the flavor coming from the corn flour in the puffs.
Every bite I took tasted like authentic, sweet bananas and the banana-flavored white chocolate crunchies brought that creamy element of vanilla that really let this cereal hone in on being an ice cream-inspired flavor.
While I’m on the topic of those crunchies, they’re the best part of the cereal. Dippin’ Dots should consider boxing them up and selling them as candy. But there seemed to be way more of them in my box of Banana Split than in my box of Cookies ‘n Cream.
Both flavors got soggy quickly in milk, but the Banana Split flavor was able to use this to its advantage by getting the dairy to work alongside the white chocolate crunchies to produce a flavor reminiscent of a melting banana split. Cookies ‘n Cream didn’t fare as well. It sopped up the milk and tasted like mushy Corn Pops that had jarring chunks of chocolate coated sandwich cookies in it.
So, has Dippin’ Dots created the Cereal of the Future? Probably not, but it sure is fun to be able to say that you’ve just had a bowl of Dippin’ Dots for breakfast.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup – Cookies ‘n Cream – 120 calories, 15 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of total fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 65 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugars, 15 grams of other carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein. Banana Split – 130 calories, 20 calories from fat, 2.5 grams of total fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 55 milligrams of potassium, 27 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 11 grams of sugars, 15 grams of other carbohydrates, and 2 grams of protein.)
Purchased Price: $3.64 each Size: 18 oz. box Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 3 out of 10 (Cookies ‘n Cream) Rating: 7 out of 10 (Banana Split) Pros: Not needing a super-freezer. Great flavor in the Banana Split version. Awesome crunchies in both flavors! Getting to tell people that you’ve just had Dippin’ Dots for breakfast. Cons: Not enough flavor in the Cookies ‘n Cream variety. Neither one holds up well in milk. Crunchy bits are not available in stand-alone candy form.
I do not like Brussels sprouts. I would not eat them here or there. I would not eat them in a truck. I would not eat them with a duck…-billed platypus.
Am I trying to go all Dr. Seuss on you? I could not, would not. But would I eat Brussels sprouts with cinnamon sugar?
Those are foods (assuming cinnamon sugar counts as a food) that I figured were on opposite ends of the tastiness spectrum. What would cinnamon sugar blasted on Brussels sprouts taste like? Since I’m uncertain where the produce section is at my local store (or what Brussels sprouts look like), I’ll leave that question up to you. As a close substitute, I can tell you what the new Cinnamon Toast Crunch Blasted Shreds taste like.
It was with some trepidation that I picked these up, because I put Cinnamon Toast Crunch (CTC) on the Mount Rushmore of breakfast cereals, while Shredded Wheat would go somewhere in the bowels of hell.
I remember when Cinnamon Toast Crunch came out in the 1980s, during a glorious era of sugar cereals when manufacturers didn’t even try to hide how much of the magic white crystals were in them. Just about every cereal had the word “sugar” in it, and if that wasn’t enough, there was even one called Super Sugar Crisp. Sadly, many cereals now trumpet how they have whole grains, help lower cholesterol, and other such nonsense.
So can a cereal that brings together two extremes taste good? Actually, yeah. Obviously, CTC Blasted Shreds are not as good as the original CTC, but it’s still a tasty cereal with a bonus feeling of eating something that is not completely bad for you.
Upon opening the box, the Shreds did not really have that trademark CTC smell, and they are smaller than I envisioned after seeing an oversized example on the front panel. Even though they’re small, my box contained a good number of conjoined twins that looked more like the larger Shredded Wheat I remember.
I’m just as likely to eat cereal straight from the box as I am with milk, and these Shreds proved to be quite good sans cow juice. They didn’t seem as heavy or dense as I thought they’d be, and the flavor faithfully replicated the original Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal while the Shredded Wheat did nothing to detract from that.
Once you dip them in a milk bath, things get even better. The Shredded Wheat did an admirable job of keeping the milk from making the cereal too soggy while allowing some milk in, resulting in a nice crunch with a hint of softness. The overall texture of the cereal is not as rough as you might expect from Shredded Wheat either, and it still packs a potent sugar punch.
While these don’t quite match the original CTC, they do hit the sweet spot by balancing a tasty sugary cereal with healthy whole grain wheat.
(Nutrition Facts – 2/3 cup – 230 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 5 milligrams of sodium, 160 milligrams of potassium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)
Purchased Price: $2.98 Size: 23.2 oz. box Purchased at: H-E-B Rating: 8 out of 10 Pros: Much more fiber and protein than regular Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Tastes good with or without milk. Allows you to brag to others about eating a healthy breakfast of Shredded Wheat (feel free to omit the cinnamon and sugar blast part). Cons: Not as good as regular Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Doesn’t have the added vitamins and minerals that are typically blasted onto breakfast cereals, which is ironic given the name.
Hear that? That’s the dead echo of all the New Year’s resolutions I’ve fulfilled.
Indeed, aside from taking a multi-vitamin, my plans for non-stop, full-throttle self-improvement don’t seem to always follow through, and what starts in January as, “I’m going to plant a window garden and read Plato’s The Republic and stop a forest fire with my mind!” translates in May to, “Maybe I’ll take out the trash. But it’s raining. So I’ll do it later. Maybe.” What is it that gets my bedraggled mind so trampled in this mellifluous maelstrom of mediocrity?
After decades of research, I have uncovered that its motion begins right here at the breakfast table. Yes, America, it is at this temple of Early Risers and Eager Minds, where caffeine, cholesterol, and morning cohesion come together to form a somewhat put-together portion of myself, and yet I’ve recently cast the breakfast table aside, trading it in for those five extra minutes of sleep before I hop out the door trying to put on my left shoe, looking as coordinated as an intoxicated platypus. But 2014’s a new year and I’m going fuel my brain with more than Nutri-Grain. Just in the nick of time, General Mills is handing out one more Big G cereal for 2013: Chocolate Toast Crunch.
“Naturally flavored chocolate”? Hmmm… sounds shady. I can see we may be headed into precarious territory. We better put on our Danger Pants.
Danger Pants buckled and spoon in-hand, I burst open the bag and am met with a familiar scent. A scent of cocoa power and sugar and cereal-saturated chocolate milks of yore, whispering secrets of Cocoa Puffs into my nostalgia-seeking nose. While I’m a little freaked out that a cereal can whisper, I reach down shovel in the first spoonful.
Starting off on a solid foundation, I’m pleased to find that the texture of these 1/2-inch bites holds the same half-crispy, half-crunchy experience as its Crunch Toast counterparts. The surface of each 4-sided geometric shape is crosshatched with small ridges, allowing for an excellent play on texture while also making your bowl look like its filled with dollhouse-sized textured wallpaper samples.
Fortunately, these taste nothing of wallpaper. Living up to the old slogan, each shrunken bit of toast holds a thick, brown-tinged, sugary crust of “the taste you can see.” The pleasant grit from this cinnamon-cocoa sugar is like an edible hug: full of a cocoa burst and a slightly warm cinnamon end, it harkens back to memories of a cinnamon sugar doughnut, only thinner, crispier, and generously dunked in cocoa. The cocoa is of a lighter, alkali-processed sort. The bitterness from a darker, Dutch cocoa might have added a nice bitter, coffee-ish contrast to the sugar, but to nitpick over what could’ve been is about as useful as making a workout video for Santa Claus. (He has a “bowl full of jelly.” That’s just how it is. Says so in a poem.)
Not only do these crunchy wheat-and-rice bits prove themselves of high quality in their dry form, but they also hold up admirably when saturated with leche, the sugared cocoa generously dispersing itself as it colors the milk with its chocolatey, cerealy-ness while still leaving enough of the coating clinging to the cereal itself. The resulting milk brew has a cocoa level on par with Cocoa Puffs/Pebbles, yet the cereal’s shape is notably sturdier, allowing you to choose whether you want to slurp or spoon the last of your bowl. Either way, you’ll have cocoa to the final gulp.
And that reminds me: since the cocoa isn’t shy here, it has the power to play well with other flavors. Maybe try it with some almond milk, or, if you’re feeling zesty, reach for the strawberry milk or Espresso Gelato. It’s okay. Go wild. You have your Danger Pants on, remember?
On my list of things to improve in the world: diesel fuel, laptop speakers, standard-issue toilet paper. I never imagined cocoa cereal would or could be on this list, let alone that it may stand up against my all-time-favorite, discontinued-in-America Oreo O’s, and yet General Mills, being the daring lunatics they are, gave it their best heave-ho. While not surpassing the O’s, the risk paid off. It may not be the first time I’ve have cocoa for breakfast, but somehow the crunch of the wee little rectangles combined with the cinnamon-cocoa sugar reminds me of a churro and made this one of the more successful pairing of grains and chocolate I’ve had the fortune to scarf down. Some may call the General crazy for bringing out such a fantastic new Toast Crunch on the cusp of the New Year, but what is “crazy”?
Well, if these toasty squares have anything to do with it, it’s a different way to see ourselves, be ourselves, to go out and live in a new and exciting way, and these cocoa-cinnamon squares? They inspire me to do just that.
So, who’s crazy now?
(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup (31 g) – 130 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 130 milligrams of sodium, 85 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: General Mills Chocolate Toast Crunch Cereal Purchased Price: $2.50 Size: 12.7 oz. box Purchased at: Walmart Rating: 8 out of 10 Pros: Crispy-crunchy. Nifty ridges. Crusty cocoa-cinnamon coating. Taste you can see. Churro in cereal form. Makes good chocolatey cereal milk. Encourages breakfast-related resolutions. Reason to eat more gelato. Brave lunatics. Danger Pants. Cons: Reminds me how I miss Oreo O’s. Laptop speakers. Standard-issue toilet paper. Delusions of whispering cereal.