REVIEW: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios Cereal

Pumpkin spice presents an existential crisis for the creative writer.

There is only so much that can said about it. What there is to say has been said before, said again, and then said in a different way. Chances are the same trite expression about pushing autumn in August, or the long litany of pumpkin spice products now available to us, is currently being wrestled onto the page of another food blog. We, the pumpkin spice addicts of America, have long since typed our love affair with the orange gourd and its seminal flavors into a monotony of clichés.

This is a damn shame, because when done right, pumpkin spice should not be reduced to a cliché.

Take the new Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

This is limited edition cereal to end all limited edition cereals; the kind of product that’s worth stocking up on from the beginning of August and then rationing out through the polar onslaught of December and humid days of July.

To be fair, we should have expected this much. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios were announced back in the spring when Strawberry Cheerios came out, and given the success of the spring flavor, Cheerios let us know they’re not doing this LTO thing half-ass.

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Case in point, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios don’t taste like cinnamon. The flavor isn’t the cheap heavy note of cassia, nor is it the honey or brown sugar sweetness that often comes along for the pumpkin spice ride. Likewise, this is not the repackaged taste of Honey Nut Cheerios or Apple Cinnamon Cheerios. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are pumpkin spice Cheerios. There’s the sweet fragrant note of nutmeg, the aromatic warmth of clove, and, yes, the flavors of cinnamon and ginger.

Lest you think this is just a pumpkin spice flavor, there is some serious sweet pumpkin flavor going on in each of those oat rings. The addition of real pumpkin in the ingredients makes a world of difference when eating the cereal in milk, where the sublime essence of pumpkin desserts comes to life.

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Yes, sublime essence. Think of it as that moment when crust component, pumpkin component, and dairy meet. Here the warming and exotic notes of spices co-mingle with the sweetened taste of pumpkin and the richness of milk. A hearty crunch filled with sweetened dairy and a bit of milkfat greets eats spoonful, and in that moment the eater relives everything that is right about the cool breeze of October and the multicolored leaves that drift to the ground.

I may have chomped down on my first bite on a 95-degree day in west Texas, but if I would have closed my eyes and blasted a fan in my face then I’m pretty sure I could have fooled myself into believing it was autumn. It sure tasted that way.

Based on the rapidly growing list of pumpkin spice cereals entering the market, we’ll soon have the proverbial cornucopia to choose from. I don’t doubt many of these cereals will be good, but few, I’m willing to bet, will be able to match the appeal of Pumpkin Spice Cheerios.

(Nutrition Facts – 28 grams – 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 mg of cholesterol, 120 mg of sodium, 22 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugars, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.98
Size: 21 oz box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Outstanding representation of the complexity of pumpkin spices that exceeds the dull and heavy cinnamon flavor sometimes assigned to pumpkin spice. Sweet, hearty taste of oat base. Wonderful rich flavor in milk that tastes like the edge of a pumpkin pie or bar.
Cons: Could be a tad sweeter and have a “glaze” like Honey Nut Cheerios. The creative struggle to explain the appeal of pumpkin spice.

REVIEW: Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog

Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog

I like almond milk. It gives me a break from soy milk, which gives me a break from regular cow milk, which gives me a break from soda, which gives me a break from water, which gives me a break from food, which gives me a break from having a conversation with someone who won’t shut up about The Walking Dead. I’m sure it’s a wonderful TV show, but I’m not going to watch it. So you don’t need to convince me.

I also like pumpkin spice and am not sick of everything being pumpkin spice-ified. So seeing my two likes together in one carton made me as excited as a Walking Dead fan minutes before a new season starts.

Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog isn’t the first pumpkin spice product from the brand. It has a pumpkin spice soy milk, which I enjoy and have purchased a few times. Since Silk has added pumpkin spice to their almond milk, it wouldn’t be surprising if we see the autumn spices with their coconut milk, cashew milk, and whatever nut milk Silk develops in the future. My money is on Brazilian nut.

Silk’s Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog has wonderful scent. When I pulled back the safety ring and took a whiff, it was like what I imagine motorboarding two pumpkin pies would smell like. It has an orange tint that looks like the result of a Creamsicle that’s been completely melted into a puddle mixed with the tears of a child who’s crying because he or she dropped that Creamsicle. Its texture is about the same as almond milk, not as creamy as soy milk, but not as thin as skim milk.

But its texture is also a bit weird and I’m not sure how to describe it. I guess it has an artificial creaminess to it. Actually, now that I think about it, all Silk products, thanks to thickening agents and emulsifiers, have an artificial creaminess, but this nog seems different than the other products.

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While the beverage’s aroma reminds me of the Thanksgiving dessert staple, its flavor does not. The spices are there — with cinnamon being the strongest, followed by ginger and nutmeg — but instead of pumpkin pie, its taste reminds me of cinnamon pancakes drowning in Mrs. Butterworth’s or Aunt Jemima. Yes, that does sound tasty but not at all what I was hoping for and I did not enjoy it much.

Also, I don’t know if many people care about this, but this beverage is nutritionally empty. A cup of Silk’s almond milk has 45 percent of your recommended calcium and 50 percent of your recommended vitamin E. A half-cup of this provides no calcium or vitamin E. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, so how could it not have any vitamin E?

If you need a non-dairy pumpkin spice beverage fix, there are other options. I know there’s Almond Dream pumpkin spice-flavored milk and Califia Farms has a pumpkin spice latte with almond milk, but I haven’t had them so I can’t compare. But I can compare it with the Silk Pumpkin Spice soy milk and I think the soy milk version is much better tasting.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 50 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Silk Pumpkin Spice Almond Nog
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Free of soy, dairy, gluten, lactose, cholesterol, eggs, casein, and carrageenan. Smells nice. The Walking Dead (so everyone says).
Cons: Free of decent flavor. Provides no vitamin E, which is weird because it’s made with almond milk. Not as good as Silk’s pumpkin spice soy milk. Weird texture.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes

Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes

There are no pumpkin spice jokes left to be made, are there? Yes, it’s everywhere. Yes, people have found some preposterous things to infuse with it. But who cares? It’s popular because it’s a delicious signifier of autumn’s arrival. You may have already come across 57,346,922 pumpkin spice junk food items this season, but let’s enter this review with an open mind free of cynicism!

When I read that Hostess had introduced Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes this year, I was pretty jazzed. Much like the back-to-school/Halloween/Thanksgiving season in general, Hostess snacks inspire a sense of comfort and nostalgia in me. (Plus I’d recently experienced a renewed interest in Hostess products last year after their shameless, but effective, product placement with X-Men: Days of Future Past. Darn you, bizarre marketing tie-ins.)

After failing to locate them at nearby grocery stores, I eventually discovered the cupcakes in the seasonal section at Target. When I finally got them home and tried them out, I found that my expectations remained generally undashed.

To begin, I don’t want to say that their smell is overpowering, but it’s certainly bold, and it permeates the room from the moment you open the box (even though each cake is sealed in an airtight wrapper!). I’m talking Glade-levels of scent here, which, if you truly enjoy the aroma of clove and nutmeg, then yay!

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Visually, the cakes were slightly disappointing. The lot I got was sort of pathetically misshapen, tinier than one might anticipate, and they featured a meager number of sprinkles on each cake. The fondant-style icing was also kind of brittle, but I suppose that’s to be expected when you’re dealing with factory-produced pastries.

Before fully biting in, I sampled each separate component (icing, cake, sprinkle, filling) so I that I could taste their flavors individually before experiencing how they worked together. Turns out that fastidiousness was all in vain; as indicated by their scent, these things are pumpkin spice cherry bombs with a flavor so, um, robust that it’s impossible to discern the various tastes because the pumpkin spice overrides them all.

What’s more, these cupcakes are rich. Like, really rich. I couldn’t even finish two of them, and I’m somebody who has no problem polishing off a pint of ice cream in mere minutes. Don’t think of the “one cake” serving size listed in the nutrition facts as a suggestion – consider it a prescription dosage to be observed for your personal welfare.

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Still, the cakes aren’t bad, just dangerously potent. And there’s plenty of positive things to say about them: They’re surprisingly, almost logic-defyingly moist, and the creme filling has that trademark Hostess velvety whip feel to it which complements the pumpkin spice flavor quite well. Also, the crunchy sprinkles, crisp icing, and pillowy cake work well together to create an enjoyable combination of textures. So long as you don’t overindulge, these cakes are actually quite good.

To the diehard pumpkin spice junk food fanatics, these bad boys should be very close to, if not right up, your alley. There’s no nuanced flavor here – just pure, uncorrupted autumnal essence. I may have struggled with them, but the truth is that they’re nothing more and nothing less than what I’d imagined when I read the words “pumpkin,” “spice,” and “Hostess” together in one product description. Enjoy in moderation – and with moderate expectations – and they’re unlikely to disappoint.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 160 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Cup Cakes
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 8 cakes
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Consistent Hostess quality. One box should last you a while. Limited edition seasonal foods are just plain old fun.
Cons: Likely too sweet and pumpkin spice-y for some. Easy to overindulge. Smells like a Yankee Candle.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts

Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts

“I just don’t know what’s wrong with me, Doc.”

She stared at me through horn-rimmed glasses. I’d seen the look before on psychologists, and knew I’d better continue.

“I just have no enthusiasm anymore. Worse yet, I’m completely ravenous. Nothing seems to satiate me.”

“Interesting. What have you been eating?”

“Eh, I guess the question is what haven’t I been eating. It’s fall, you know, and pumpkin spice is my jam. Actually it’s more like by butter, because I’ve never heard of pumpkin jam. But anyways…just this morning I stopped and picked up a bag on Hostess Donettes Pumpkin Spice Donuts.”

She blinked rapidly. “And tell me, how did those make you feel?”

I thought about it for a moment. I’d been anxious to pick them up; each glazed orange cake donut calling my name. I’d loved Donettes as a kid, and now that Hostess had built a pumpkin spice version, life seemed complete. Yet here I was, mere hours after mindlessly eating the entire bag, feeling so…incomplete.

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“Horrible,” I blurted out, the memories suddenly coming to the forefront of my mind. Then every lackluster pumpkin spice product I’d ever eaten entered my stream of conscious, overflowing in a river of confectioner’s sugar glaze and a mere trace (trace, mind you) of cinnamon. I’d been holding the memories back, repressing the thoughts of pumpkin spice rolls that tasted instead of Twinkies and pumpkin spice M&M’s that tasted of, well, M&M’s.

“That’s what I thought,” she said. “I’ve seen the case many times, with increasing frequency. What you seem to have is MPSFS”

“Misspsfs? Say what?”

“MPSFS. Mediocre Pumpkin Spice Fatigue Syndrome. Tell me, were cinnamon, ginger, and allspice listed in the ingredients of these donuts? How about pumpkin puree?”

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I thought back to the ingredient list, remembering I had seen cinnamon and pumpkin. But then I remembered where they were listed. The dreaded “less than 2%” section, with pumpkin puree coming in dead last, even behind “Blue 2 Lake.” I kid you not, you can’t make this stuff up.

I hung my head in disappointment, more memories materializing. Each donut had the presence of cinnamon, but nothing more. Something between just the aroma and a slight taste of something slightly spicy, the cinnamon flavor had been fake and one-note, like a Red Hot candy without the heat. No other spices rounded it out, and despite the orange hue, pumpkin had never registered on my taste buds. (Thankfully, neither had Blue Lake 2.) A decent packaged donut, cloying glaze and all, but nothing more.

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I looked back up at the doc, my eyes beginning to water up in shame. How could I have been so duped? And by Hostess, no less!

She must have noticed my shame, saying, “There’s a cure, you know. But you’ll have to give up cheap imitations of pumpkin spice—including the Donettes.”

That was fine by me. After the Donettes, I was ready to leave anything pumpkin spice behind, even the memories of great pumpkin spice products. I got up to leave, ready to embrace whatever it is people embrace when they decide to forsake an entire season’s worth of flavors. That’s when she stopped me.

“You’ll find something someday that will remind you of why you love pumpkin spice. Don’t let a few bad apples, um, pumpkins, ruin what pumpkin spice should be.”

With that I smiled, knowing lackluster Donettes couldn’t be the last word on pumpkin spice.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 mini donuts – 210 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 1 grams of protein..)

Item: Hostess Limited Edition Donettes Pumpkin Spice Mini Donuts
Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 10.5 oz bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Light crumb and cakey interior. Crispy, sweet glaze. Possible dual use as an air freshener.
Cons: Overly artificial “fall spice” flavor. Cloyingly sweet. Too dry to be a really good cake donut, but not airy like a yeast donut. A lifetime of repressed pumpkin spice disappointment.

REVIEW: Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies

Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies

Let it be known that if you come over to my apartment at 7:30 with a voracious appetite, an empty plate, and a demand to be filled with a joy that surpasses that of a ghost hunter finding the apparition of Aristotle at the back of a gas station, then you are liable to get dished a plate of cookies for dinner.

If you like spice cake, crunchy things, and a dauntingly bountiful amount of orange-checkered packaging, you probably wouldn’t mind if you came over today.

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Before chomping in, let us admire the contrasting aesthetics of the Fudge Stripe: the parallel lines, the perfect ring shape, the little geometric bibbelty-bobs that pock the surface.

It’s a pattern that could rival the most intricate of doilies and possibly compete for the world’s best cross-stitching design, although I’m not 100 percent certain of that last statement. The only time I tried cross-stitching, I ended up with a “scarf” that looked like a beach towel gnawed off by Godzilla.

What I do know is that, after over 30 years, Ernie Keebler still knows how to make a mighty fine stripe cookie. Never one to hold back on the sugar intake, the cookie’s been generously shoveled with three variants of the sweet stuff, highlighting the earthy molasses against all the varieties of fructose. Combine that woodsy taste with a crunchy base, some sweet, mildly flavored white fudge stripes, and a zip of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and this bugger might as well be the perfect pumpkin pie crust.

But heed my warning, fellow pumpkin maniacs: there is no actual pumpkin here. I was a little bummed out before acknowledging that, as with all goods of the “Pumpkin Spice” ilk, I am only promised spices, not necessarily squash, and, with a cookie so fine and limited in its presence, how can I complain? (I can’t.)

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Welp, that was a fine dinner. If you fall head over heels for the warm spices of autumn and enjoy a depth of sweetness with your spice, these are worth picking up, if only to test them out on your own taste buds. Could the cookie be crispier? Could the soft, sweet fudge benefit from less hydrogenated oil and more vanilla? Could the Keebler elfin army deliver these to my door, equipped with complimentary magical talking woodland creatures?

Sure, but, far above these idealistic visions, my need for cookies reigns. As it always should.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 140 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 gram of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 18 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Keebler Limited Batch Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripe Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 11.5 oz
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy cookie. Just enough molasses. Zippy ginger. Fudge is everywhere. Geometry! The experience of using “bibbelty-bob” in a sentence. Finding the ghost of Aristotle at the back of a gas station.
Cons: No pumpkin involved. Fudge could use more vanilla. Hydrogenated oils crush dreams. Not delivered by a magical elfin army. Failed cross-stitching projects that look like they were gnawed off by an overgrown prehistoric lizard.