During June and July of last year, Pepperidge Farm allowed Milano fans to vote for a future flavor. The candidates were mango ginger, green tea, and chocolate chili. As you’ve probably figured out from reading the title of this review, chocolate chili won and it probably did so with promises of chocolate with a spicy kick.
But after tasting it, I’m not sure it should’ve been victorious.
On the back of its package it describes the cookie as, “The perfect contrast of rich luxurious chocolate and spicy chili flavor.”
Yeah…about the “spicy chili flavor.”
If you’re a heat head, let me disappoint you by saying your internal Scoville scale won’t register anything while eating these cookies. Not even eating several of them one after another will build up a satisfying heat. There is a tickle of something that lingers, especially at the back of my throat, but I’m not sure most would consider it spicy.
Looking at the ingredients list helps explain the lack of heat. There’s no mention of any kind of chili pepper. Not even the vague “spices” is listed. But there is the even more vague “natural flavors.”
The cookies smell like chocolate cake with a hint of chili pepper. Each cookie has two thin layers of chocolate. After nibbling the chocolate at the edges, it tastes like both layers have chili pepper flavor, but it’s very faint. It becomes more so when the cookie is eaten whole. The light, crispy cookie dampens the flavor.
I’m torn about these cookies.
Even with a hint of chili pepper flavor, these cookies still gave me some delight. They had a spicy cinnamon or Mexican hot chocolate vibe to them. And, they’re frickin’ Milano cookies, for goodness sake!
But, I can’t help but be disappointed with them. Seeing the words “chili” on the front and “spicy” on the back gave me expectations of the cookie reaching a level of heat that gave them a pleasant warmth.
Or, perhaps, I have it wrong about its spiciness.
The Milano is a classy cookie with a European name that’s presented in white paper baking cups. Having a cookie with an almost uncomfortable amount of heat is something the crazy food scientists at Nabisco would probably do with an Oreo cookie.
If the Milano is a reserved white ballgown and the Oreo is a sexy tight black mini dress that’s up for anything, then perhaps a Milano that burns one’s mouth would be unsophisticated.
(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)
Item: Pepperidge Farm Limited Edition Chocolate Chili Milano Cookies Purchased Price: Size: 7 oz. Purchased at: Target Rating: 6 out of 10 Pros: They had a faint spicy cinnamon or Mexican hot chocolate vibe to them. They’re frickin’ Milano cookies! No worries for those who are afraid of burning their mouths. Cons: A bit disappointed they aren’t spicy spicy. Chili pepper flavor could’ve been stronger. Target exclusive.
The Milano cookie has always been something of an enigma for me. With its elegant yet simple design and name conjuring images of the Italian Alps, it was beyond my childhood capacity of appreciation. Later in life, after I had graduated from a packaged cookie diet consisting entirely of Oreos and Chips Ahoy, Milanos still perplexed me. A dense yet slightly chewy crumb and buttery but dark chocolate flavor pointed toward a cookie on its own plane, distinct and unabashedly unique from every other prepackaged treat.
Oh yes, and terribly delicious.
It goes without saying that we expect much from Milano cookies. When you nail the chocolate flavor better than 95 percent of the competitors, I think expectations are a given. Nevertheless I couldn’t help but wonder if that sophisticated edge would translate with the addition of pumpkin spice. It’s one thing to pair mint and raspberry with chocolate, but when you start playing matchmaker with chocolate and the sometimes ambiguous concoction of fall spices, the results aren’t always so endearing.
Examining the bag confirmed my initial skepticism, as there’s no mention of pumpkin or the usual suspects of cinnamon or brown sugar in the ingredients. Nevertheless the orange lip representing pumpkin appeared on each cookie, while an unmistakably pumpkiny aroma danced from the open bag in perfect step with aromas of shortbread and chocolate.
It’s really a scintillating aroma, one with notes of pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin loaf cake supporting the dance. Actually, it’s so great I nearly passed out of asphyxiation due to a prolonged moment of sticking my schnoz right into the bag and failing to breath anything but the glorious smell of autumn.
The orange “cream”—for want of a better word—is thin and slightly viscous, with a texture somewhere between cream cheese on a hot day and the filling they stick inside those stacked wafer cookies. Tasting it from the lip of the cookie, it comes across as a less intense version of Philadelphia Pumpkin Spice Cream Cheese, right on down to a slightly artificial flavor that seems a bit too quiet for fall’s most iconic squash.
Artificial flavor aside, there’s a pleasantly light sweetness and lickable texture that leaves me wanting more. The problem is there really isn’t much more to be had. Even though the chocolate-to-pumpkin filling ratio is about 1:1, the pumpkin finishes a distant third in its impact. The filling and the spice together are enough to let you know we’re talking pumpkin and not just cinnamon-flavored cookies, but the milk chocolate filling and scrumptious cookie base seem unwilling to let the pumpkin intrude on their synergy.
It’s been my experience through a quarter century of pumpkin eating that pumpkin is a very jealous flavor. It just doesn’t like playing second fiddle, much less third string. Yet in the distinct and careful balance of buttery cookie crumb and rich chocolate taste the pumpkin seems an awkward third wheel, attractive enough to want on its own, but not enough for either of the other two elements of the cookie to commit to.
It’s as if the cookie and the chocolate know what they have together, and while tempted by the pumpkin’s autumnal notes, neither flavor wants to commit to the newcomer over its tried and true other half. My God, it now occurs to me as I polish off another cookie, I have just described a twisted escapade of cookie love.
The sophisticated chocolate taste and buttery crumb native to all Milanos make the Pumpkin Spice Milano flavor unique and tasty. Yet for such a trendsetting cookie the pumpkin spice flavor doesn’t come through enough to make it a distinctively pumpkin product, while the hints of an attractive and creamy texture mitigate it to an awkward role player. As for that role, it’s just not cast right, and despite a promising beginning and intoxicating aroma, the Pumpkin Spice Milanos failed to make me fall in love with their take on the seasonal flavor.
(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 130 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)
Item: Pepperidge Farm Pumpkin Spice Milano Cookies Purchased Price: $2.50 Size: 7 ounces Purchased at: Safeway Rating: 5 out of 10 Pros: Quite possibly one of the most enjoyable smelling cookies in creation. Buttery Milano cookie. Rich milk chocolate flavor. Pumpkin flavored “cream” is slightly reminiscent of pumpkin cream cheese. That feeling you get when you buy Milanos. Cons: Too little pumpkin filling. Slightly artificial pumpkin spice “cream.” Third wheel flavors. Death by cookie bag. Nineteenth century packaging of Milano cookies.
List of things hard to improve: the Northern Lights, pens that don’t run out of ink, paper dragons, snack mixes, and Jedi mind tricks.
I once thought that Milano cookies, too, should be on this list. Composed of planks of golden sugar cookies sandwiching a thin layer of semisweet chocolate, original Milano toe the line of perfection, and yet the restless, curious minds at Pepperidge Farm are working to propel the cookie into a new realm of supremacy, having now covered the beloved cookie in a bevy of chocolate. Since I could live the rest of my life with nothing but Netflix, a vat of milk, and a constantly streaming Costco-sized bag of the originals, I couldn’t help but give this new chocolate covered variation its time in the spotlight.
Well, well, what’s this? Seems these bountiful biscuits have ditched the old flimsy fluted cup for a plastic sleeve. A wise choice, not only because fluted cups remind me of past traumatic experiences with Betty Crocker, but also because the plastic separators prevent them from melting and turning into mish-mosh.
And these cookies aren’t mish-mosh.
Some mass-produced chocolate can taste of sugar and vegetable oil, giving the chocolate all the bizarre flatness of a senator reading rap lines. Not so with these sandwiches. The milk chocolate coating is sugary sweet with a finish of light cocoa. It melts pretty fast, which isn’t good for that white shirt you pressed this morning, but quite good for consuming off the nubs of your chocolate-coated fingers.
But where that chocolate really shines is with the cookie itself. Aside from being covered in cocoa solids, these biscuits haven’t changed a bit. Walking the tightrope between crispy and crunchy with just a hint at an artificial buttery end, these planks serve as the perfect palate to showcase the semisweet chocolate insides. This thin inner core of hardened chocolate starts sweet then leaves just a hint of coffee-like bitterness behind. It is here that I realize how much this cookie thrives on contrasts. This sweet, crunchy, gooey, pleasantly bitter experience has all the sporadic eccentricities akin to listening to the playlist of a late night college radio station: one moment, you’re listening to Sinatra, the next, David Bowie, the next, Bob Marley. A whole range of personalities.
And if sandwich cookies had personalities, the Milano would be the intellectual. The deep thinker. The Nietchze reader who enjoys classic cinema and vintage wine and purple silk robes. Thus I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that I shelled out an Abraham Lincoln for the 7 cookies, but I was a little disappointed with the low cookie count.
While the milk chocolate on these is pretty good, the cookie doesn’t quite offer enough specialty or mystery for such a price. However, the box did fulfill my chocolate quota in the time it would take to get my car washed, and all chocolate has antioxidants and antioxidants are good for your ojos, right? Or wait, maybe that’s carrots.
I have a self-imposed superstition that, if you mess with perfection, bad things will happen: your eggs will curdle, your credit card will be debunked, or a clan of vengeful lobsters will arise from the sea and attack you for no apparent reason. Luckily, none of these things happened when these Milano cookies were consumed and, while they were a bit overpriced, these show themselves as a solid example of a chocolate covered cookie.
(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 160 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 40 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.
Item: Limited Edition Pepperidge Farm Milk Chocolate Dipped Milano Cookies Purchased Price: $4.99 Size: 1 box/7 cookies Purchased at: Target Rating: 8 out of 10 Pros: Crispy-crunchy texture. Plenty of chocolate. Chocolate that actually tastes of chocolate. Chocolate is good for your ojos. No obtrusive fluted cups. Paper dragons. Jedi mind tricks. Cons: Some may not enjoy slight artificial butteriness. Chocolate can get messy. Only seven cookies. Traumatic experiences involving Betty Crocker. Being attacked by a clan of vengeful lobsters.
That’s right, world, it’s that glorious time of year when the few, the proud, the scrappy bust out their perforated plastic golf balls and toss up curves for this 1953 riff on baseball, but before you grab your yellow plastic stick and funky white ball, you’ll need to make sure you have a snack to keep you sharp. Something crunchy. Something easy to transport. Something made with smiles and whole grains.
Well, alongside the 15 billion other curious ingredients, Pepperidge Farm seems to have hit the nail on the head, and, knowing that there’s nothing like and a little fake cheese dust to perfect your wiffle curve, they have brought forth their new Goldfish Puffs, here represented in cheddar bacon form.
These little fishies are a specimen of the cheesy poof in a shape reminiscent of Pac-Man if he had a fin, a quality that, had it been on the real Pac-Man, probably would have helped him get away from those ghosts a little easier. The fin also serves as a great handle to carry each poof as you pop it into your mouth.
And are these ever easy to chomp. They don’t quite hold the Styrofoam-peanut texture of classic cheese puffs, nor do they sustain the crunchy-nibby sensation of Crunchy Cheetos, but settle somewhere in between: puffy, but still slightly dense with a crunch that it makes me wonder if these were a cracker sent through Mr. Poofinator [the name of the robotic Cheezy Poof maker].
As with all cheesy poof varietals, it is the cheese dust that ultimately makes or breaks the game, and, boy howdy, is there plenty of that dust here. Opening the bag sends a gust smoky, cheddar-filled powder into the air. You may fear this will eliminate said dust from your eating experience, but fear not! There is plenty of this fine grain to go around, spreading kindly to your fingers during the eating experience so that you may consume it after your poofs have been devoured.
Speaking of devouring, the flavor of these poofs starts out with a sharp cheddar tang, highlighting the nutty/beefy aspects of cheddar. Unlike the original Goldfish cheddar crackers, this cheddar bites back. What’s curious is that, unlike Cheetos, which leaves its poofs in an unflavored cornmeal state, the interior cornmeal of the Goldfish poof is enhanced with cheddar, giving each fish extra cheddar oomph. I dare say it hinges on too much cheddar, but, if I had a craving for a sharp cheddar blast, I might dive for these. What follows after this cheddar barrage is the “bacon” flavor.
I often subscribe to the School of Everything’s Better with Bacon, but, let’s face it: bacon can be an assertive flavor and, if not treated with care, will stomp all over your sandwich, maple-glazed doughnut, or, in this case, cheese puff. Here, the bacon flavor translates to smoke, char, and that jar of artificial bacon bits you’ve been ignoring in your refrigerator for the past seven years.
According to the puff’s rather extraordinary list of ingredients, I’m guessing the culprit to be the “bacon flavored lard,” although it may also be the ferrous sulfate. Now, I could support bacon-flavored lard if it supported the cheddar flavor, but, when it overpowers with a flavor reminiscent of Oscar-Mayer-gone-awry, it’s doing a disservice to an otherwise pretty tasty snack.
Despite the taste flaws, there’s something to be said for a product that’s ambitious: a product that gives a new shape/flavor on an otherwise old timey favorite. These cheddar bacon puffs? Definitely ambitious. They’re made with whole grains, they come in the shape of smiling fishies, and the cheddar flavor is muy fuerte.
Sure, the bacon flavor may not be doing them a service, but I could foresee liking the regular cheddar puff variety if I had a hankerin’ for sharp cheddar. They could use tweaking on the flavor edge, but they’re a bold product. Props for that, Pepperidge Farm.
(Nutrition Facts – 41 pieces – 150 calories, 60 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 0.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)
Item: Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Bacon Goldfish Puffs Purchased Price: $2.99 Size: 7 oz. bag Purchased at: Target Rating: 4 out of 10 Pros: Ambitious. Loads of cheese dust. Sharp cheddar everywhere. Cheddar-enhanced poof. Crunchy-poofy texture. In the shape of happy fishies. Made with whole grains. Mr. Poofinator. Wiffle ball season! Cons: Bacon flavor reminiscent of char and 7-year-old bacon bits. Sharp cheddar gets overwhelming. Realizing cheese dust has similar effect as pollen. Questionable origins of “Bacon-flavored lard.”
There was a time in American history in which tyranny and mayhem ran rampant. A time in which deception and little known, yet long-lasting, wars raged.
Yes, dear readers, there was a time when Pepperidge Farm did not exist.
It was during this time that children acted like princes and ruthless animal crackers trampled the land, stampeding under sofa cushions. It was a time of lawlessness, indeed. Some say residents were forced to flee from their homes, holding tight to their boxes of graham crackers, crumbs flinging willy-nilly as they fled from snack thieves.
The consumers that remained scoured Aisle 9, looking for the one snack that could satisfy an empty pocket of the soul. A pocket that could only be filled by a fish-shaped cracker. And thus, the Goldfish was born.
Since then, the snack battles have subsided as the Goldfish has brought joy in the form of an unassuming, aquatic-inspired treat, and it is in the spirit of this great joy that I grabbed this new Cookies & Cream Graham incarnation of the “snack that smiles back.”
Undoubtedly, Goldfish hold a steady place in the world of American snack history, yet with great familiarity comes great responsibility. Coming from one who has experienced the full line of Goldfish, how do these Cookies and Cream grahams stack up to their ancestors?
Let’s rip open this bag and find out:
These are of the standard goldfish-cracker size and it looks like they put both chocolate and vanilla cookies in the mix, both of which are fairly equally distributed through the bag.
And no doubt these fishies are jolly little crackers. I mean, just look at that smile.
What a happy-dappy little freshwater fish. Happiness is contagious and these little buggers spread it. Happiness alone earns these a full point before I even taste.
In terms of texture, these grahams offer a unique riff off their cheddar cracker cousins. Unlike the crisp features inherent in a Goldfish cracker, the Goldfish graham is an undertaking that highlights the crunchy benefits of density, with the chocolate being slightly more compact than its vanilla counterpart. The chocolate is also the stronger of the two flavors, strutting in with a solid merit of dark chocolate, while the vanilla adds a subtle contrast. If this were an orchestra, the chocolate bangs the bass drum while the vanilla comes in like a violin, softening the chocolate with a hint of shortbread.
Now, it must be noted that one very important element is missing here in the Cookies & Cream Goldfish: cream. Where would this cream be on such a small cookie? I do not know. Perhaps in the center of the graham? Perhaps in the form of a mini cream-filled sandwich? I can’t say for sure, but it seems to have gone astray in the process of research and development and I mourn its absence.
Of course, I could say the vanilla is meant to highlight a “cream,” quality as it adds a lighter, daintier flavor, yet it does not provide the texture contrast that I had so hoped for. Perhaps these are not so much suited “Cookies and Cream” as they are “Chocolate and Vanilla.” Nothing bad about that. Simply different than one might have anticipated.
A peculiar sugar sprinkle seems to reside on the outside of each maritime morsel. After three tastings, I have yet to discover this coating’s function in the realm of taste, although it does add a certain sparkle, which leads me to believe it was intended to help support Goldfish expression. I imagine that, being an inanimate cracker, Goldfish have a difficult time finding opportunities to express themselves. I am pleased to find Pepperidge Farm is taking this into account by equipping Goldfish with a fashion-forward glimmer on their outer graham.
I’m also relieved to find that this thin canopy of glammed-up sparkly coating won’t send me bouncity-bouncing down the highway in a crazed sugar rush. These have only 9 grams of sugar and oodles of whole grain per serving. Oh, did I mention there are 35 graham fishies in one serving? That’s a solid handful (two handfuls for the humans with small hands).
Even without the cream, these are good little grahams. They celebrate diversity within the Goldfish culture and are easily munchable, although, if eaten in rapid abundance, the chocolate can be a bit aggressive on the taste buds (and this is coming from a chocolate fiend).
If you’re brave (and I know you are…), you might consider mixing these with cheddar and pretzel goldfish. It will be a bit of sweet-and-salty fish-shaped magic that goes well with ice cream and provides hours of creative nourishment.
These Goldfish hearken back to a simpler time. A time in which one could sit at a table and color for hours while wearing a wonky crown built of paper maché and drinking from a juice box with a bendy straw, and, like the memory of a fond love affair, these hints of the past always highlight the good. The happy times. The thing that, despite all the goofs and flaws and fumbles, brings you back and begging for more. Will these Cookies and Cream Goldfish, with their vanilla-chocolate-happy crunch, send me back for another bag? I’m not sure, but I do believe they’re good enough to try, offering a simple, modest snack for the quiet child in all of us.
(Warning: opening Goldfish bag may inspire spontaneous desire to craft.)
(Nutrition Facts – 35 pieces – 140 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 1.5 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein)
Item: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams Cookies & Cream Purchased Price: $1.89 (on sale) Size: 6.6 ounces Purchased at: Target Rating: 7 out of 10 Pros: Variety. Crunch. Vanilla like a violin. Fashion-forward. Spontaneous whims to craft. Whole grain. Pairing with ice cream. Equal distribution of vanilla and chocolate. Coloring books. Drinking juice with a bendy straw. Cons: Absence of cream. Tyrannical chocolate Goldfish. Sugary coating without a taste. Life before Pepperidge Farm. Being trampled by an animal cracker.