Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sprite Cranberry

Years after cranberry sodas have graced holiday store shelves, Sprite finally threw its hat into the ring. But, much like the Apple corporation, their "me too" products are often not to be ignored.

I myself am not a big fan of Sprite, but any time Sprite makes a variation, I stand up and take note. See: Sprite Remix Aruba Jam.

The aroma begins in typical sprite fashion, but with a clear addition of tartness, which could perhaps be guessed as cranberry.  The sip isn't tart, though.  It's sweet, but not as sweet as original sprite.  A simple and subtle cranberry flavor forms on the tongue, which soon becomes a generic red berry, which then becomes a generic fruitiness.  And that's about it.  It's a short experience, but it's complex and balanced.

Why can't there be more versions of Sprite?

By the way, just like this and this, Sprite Cranberry goes well with this.

Sprite Cranberry:- Outstanding
Original Sprite(for comparison):- Good

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash

Aside from being included in just about everything in the months between September in January, cranberry is a flavor that is often injected into sodas in particular for this time of year.

Last year I wrote about Canada Dry's Cranberry variety, which has been gracing autumn and winter shelves for years now. Also years old now is Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash, but is still only seasonal.

Sprite reigns king of the lemon lime sodas in the US and has done so for a long time, but in 1999 Pepsico realized that Slice really wasn't cutting it as competition. 7 Up might be a worthy opponent, but Pepsi does not own the rights to 7 UP in the US.

And so, Pepsi created a new brand to compete on the lemon lime shelves: Sierra Mist. Ever since my first sip, I always knew it was a loser. It just was never as good as Sprite, and I'm pretty sure that its brand performance hasn't been incredible either, though I have no numbers to back that up. A few years ago, Pepsi switched the drink's formulation and called it Sierra Mist Natural.  My verdict remains the same.

Cranberry Splash must be somewhat successful, because it keeps coming out every holiday season.

The Sierra Mist flavor base, in my opinion, is one that is fairly dull and lacks vibrancy.  Despite that it uses sugar over HFCS, it tastes like a mixture of sugar syrup and citric acid.  Luckily, the cranberry makes it better.  It instantly adds a tartness that makes your taste buds stand at attention.  The tartness evolves into an easily detectable cranberry flavor that's quite enjoyable.  But too soon it dissipates into the dead Sierra Mist aftertaste.

It's better than the normal stuff, but not by much.  And, like Canada Dry Cranberry, it looks beautiful in the glass, and tastes better with gin.

Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash:- Good
Original Sierra Mist(for comparison):- Passable

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Skinny Cow Snickerdoodle Sandwich

I don't often delve into "health foods" or anything with reduced calories specifically for pleasure.  However, the lady of the house is a big fan of Skinny Cow products, which are a slightly healthier option for those who enjoy frozen desserts.  As someone whose vices lie more toward chips and corn snacks, I am not a dessert lover.  However, I find myself constantly impressed with Skinny Cow.

Skinny Cow offers tons of different desserts in tons of flavors, but occasionally they'll issue some ephemeral ones as well.  This time they have a Snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich which I'm unable to ignore.

The experience begins in a fashion that's unlike actual snickerdoodles: the teeth sink into the two soft oatmeal cookies which have a deep flavor base of molasses.  Later detectable are brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon.  The ice cream is a simple and very enjoyable vanilla.

But in this case, the snack's "healthy" status is what elevates it.  Because Skinny Cow seeks to use less fat in their ice cream, they employ a more clever use of food gums to increase the cream's viscosity and improve the texture.  The result is a cream that's almost chewy, and it's really a joy to pull away each bite.

Between the ice cream's texture and the cookie's flavor, this snack belongs in the order of its full-fat brethren.  If Skinny Cow actually advertised these as ice cream oatmeal creme pies, which is what they really are, they'd be in 4-NOM territory.

Skinny Cow Snickerdoodle Sandwich:- Great

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jack Links Sriracha Beef Jerky

Jack Link's might be the most widespread brand of jerky.  It's nice to see that they're branching out their varieties a bit.

The initial flavor is very much like your average bite of beef jerky, with perhaps a more savory note that I might call onion-like.  On the chew, chiles make themselves quite apparent, and the heat begins.  It's not until after the swallow that the heat really hits you, and it's substantial.

Overall, a simpler experience than I was hoping for.  To me, sriracha calling cards are heat, sweet, and garlic, and this product really only checks one of those boxes.

Jack Link's Sriracha Beef Jerky:- Good
Original Jack Link's Beef Jerky:- Good

acquired: Walmart

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Milky Way Caramel Apple

Brace yourself for a rare ephemeral nom from Milky Way: a Caramel Apple version that was just in time to be sold in mini size for Halloween!  Red apples seem like a strange pairing with chocolate, but I went in optimistic.

As soon as you open the package, you can detect something slightly different with the aroma of the chocolate coating.  At first bite you'll notice that the candy's nougat has an assertive flavor of apple.  Unfortunately, the apple flavoring is quite reminiscent of the kind used in cheap apple cinnamon tea, which is something I despise.  Along with the apple, you might detect the slightest amount of cinnamon as well.

I hate to admit it, but this combination works.  It's delicious, and in a completely different way than normal Milky Way.  I can't eat too many of these in one sitting, but their complexity and intrigue stand alone.  I'd love to see these next year.

Milky Way Caramel Apple:- Great
Original Milky Way(for comparison):- Great

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Toll House Oatmeal Scotchies

It's not often that "Limited Edition" graces your local store's refrigerated cookie dough case, but here we are.  Nestlé Toll House has issued Oatmeal Scotchies, a curious combination of butterscotch morsels within an oatmeal cookie mix.

There isn't much to this one.  After being baked per the package's directions, these things are good.  The spices within the cookie batter were surprisingly complex, being heavy on the cinnamon and perhaps with some nutmeg as well.  The cookie was so good that the morsels may have even taken away from the experience.  Aside from that, I'm not sure how well butterscotch pairs with the oatmeal batter, anyway.  Overall, really good stuff.

Toll House Oatmeal Scotchies:- Great
Original Toll House Chocolate Chip(for comparison):- Great

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Jam Session

Ben & Jerry's has a line of exclusive flavors that you can only get at Target.  Here's one: Peanut Butter Jam Session.  I'll give you three guesses on what it tries to simulate.

Yes, it's peanut butter and jelly ice cream.  It's this a good idea?  I would answer, "Moderately".  The vanilla ice cream is mixed with swirls of jelly and peanut butter, simply put.  They did one thing right here: the jam used here is raspberry jam, and it just works.  Strawberry would have been more boring, and grape would have been a disaster.  And while I'm biased toward creamy peanut butter, I think Ben & Jerry's use of the crunchy variety adds a texture that isn't entirely welcome here.  And unfortunately, peanut butter, jelly, and cream don't make the most natural of combinations.

It's good stuff, but the little things here detract from the experience.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Butter Jam Session:- Good
Original Ben & Jerry's(Vanilla, for comparison):- Great

acquired: Target

Saturday, November 2, 2013

M&M's Pumpkin Spice

Kudos to M&M's for all of their new limited time flavors that they're testing.  In addition to past years' White Chocolate Candy Corn, we have this Pumpkin Spice to add to this autumn's repertoire, and I even just picked up a new edition for this coming Christmas season!

I'm not really sure what they were thinking when they made these.  Chocolate is such an overwhelming flavor that I feared it would drown any "pumpkin spice", and I was mostly right.  Whether these actually have any pumpkin flavor in them, it's undetectable.  If you try hard, you end up detecting some hints of pumpkin pie spice flavors: mostly allspice, with maybe a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon.  It's pleasant, but barely there, and these candies end up tasting almost identical to the original.

In all fairness, allspice is such a seldom-used ingredient in American cuisine that when an average American tastes it, they might think of pumpkin.

M&M's probably doesn't want to overuse their white chocolate variety as a base for other flavors, but milk chocolate really doesn't sing well with much else.  One thing they did get right: these candies are slightly larger, like most of the ephemeral M&M's varieties.  The larger size increases the amount of chocolate in each candy, thereby decreasing the proportion of candy shell, and it makes it better.  Click here for more discussion of how changing proportions can make a snack even better than the original.

M&M's Pumpkin Spice:- Good

Original M&M's(for comparison):- Good

Monday, October 28, 2013

Candy Corn Oreo

Oreo has been issuing these each Halloween season, and I finally got my hands on them after they eluded me last year.

Simply put, they are Golden Oreos with a dual-sided creme filling, both of which combined are supposed to invoke the flavor of candy corn.  Preliminary tests suggest that the two different colors of creme don't actually taste different, but that is not conclusive.

Sadly, I believe Oreo may have been a bit too heavy handed here with their flavoring.  The first flavor I get is cake, just like Oreo's no-longer-ephemeral Birthday Cake Oreo, except that it tastes more buttery.  A moment later, I am slapped with saccharine butterscotch.  The two go well together, but they're just too strong.  I really can't eat more than one at a time.  A lighter hand in the designing the snack, I believe, would have made it stellar.

Candy Corn Oreo:- Good
Original Golden Oreo(for comparison):- Great

acquired: Target

Sunday, October 13, 2013

NOMinally Ephemeral: Tootsie Roll Vanilla Midgees

I simply call them "vanilla Tootsie Rolls", and they're my favorite.  I always tend to prefer earthy/herbal flavors over chocolate, and I never was a big fan of the original Tootsie Roll candies.

Unfortunately, Vanilla Midgees are almost never sold by themselves; you can really only find them in bags of mixed Midgees of various flavors.  But Tootsie Roll made the genius decision of offering a limited edition packaging of only Vanilla Midgees for Halloween(look in your local store's Halloween candy aisle).  So fundamentally, this isn't really an ephemeral nom, and instead only NOMinally ephemeral.

Midgees have about the same texture as Tootsie Rolls, with perhaps a bit more softness to the chew.  These are immediately discernible as vanilla at first impression.  The vanilla used in the candy must be of high quality, because its depth of flavor reminds me of the kind imparted by real vanilla beans when used in cooking and baking.  The vanilla evolves into a creamy and buttery experience, thanks to the condensed milk used to make the candy.  Surely a more complex experience than the original Tootsie Roll.

These approach a 4-NOM score.  Nab them while you can.  You can always try to wait for the post-Halloween candy sales, but they might be gone by then.

Tootsie Roll Vanilla Midgees:- Great
Original Tootsie Roll(for comparison):- Good

acquired: CVS Pharmacy

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fruity Pebbles Rockin' Xtreme Colors

Boy, am I glad to be eating Fruity Pebbles in its loose cereal form again.

Post has issued a version of their cereal with neon colors, and trust me: the actual cereal is just as brightly colored as depicted on the box.  As mentioned before, aesthetic variations of noms are not reviewed on this site, even if they claim to be ephemeral.  However, this cereal boasts an "amped-up fruity taste", and so here we are.

Simply put, I can't tell the difference between this and the original cereal.  The differences might show themselves when tasted side by side, but I do not feel that I owe that experiment to this product.  The fruity and ever-so-artificial taste is there like it's always been, and that's not a bad thing.

Fruity Pebbles Rockin' Xtreme Colors:- Great
Original Fruity Pebbles(for comparison):- Great

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Heinz Tomato Ketchup Real Jalapeño

It's not often that one sees Heinz ketchup offer a limited time variation.

The moment I heard about it, I dashed to my local store, and I found myself rewarded.

Jalapeño is one of my favorite flavors, though it seems an odd bedfellow for ketchup.  Despite the fact that tomatoes and jalapenos are often paired, my uneasiness regarding their pairing here seems founded.  Why?  Because ketchup tends to trounce whatever flavor to which it's applied.  Its sugary presence leaves no room for nuanced flavors, and I would generally call jalapeño as "nuanced".

As it hits the tongue, the condiment tastes as it usually does, with perhaps the slightest spicy entry along with a more savory debut than the average.  The middle of the experience seems run-of-the-mill, as the sugar of the ketchup mostly cancels out whatever spiciness may have been present on the actual taste buds.  After the swallow, however, the spice returns and burns the throat, and not in an unpleasant way.  Overall, almost no flavor of the actual jalapeño is present.

In the end, it offers and interesting and different way to experience ketchup (and however it is applied to your favorite food), but not quite enough to elevate it.  I welcome more forays such as this from Heinz.

Heinz Tomato Ketcup Real Jalapeño:- Good
Original Heinz Tomato Ketcup(for comparison):- Good

Friday, September 20, 2013

Gatorade Strawberry Lemonade

Gatorade has issued this flavor recently and has been advertising the hell out of it at 7-Eleven locations.

There's really not much to this.  They've taken two flavorings that they use for some of their normal drink varieties and have combined them for a limited edition one.

Admittedly, strawberry and lemonade are a good combination in general, and they're a good combination here.  The sweetness/tartness balance is good, just like in any Gatorade product, and the strawberry does not come across as candy-like and artificial, which is tough to do, in my opinion.

Gatorade Strawberry Lemonade:- Good
Original Gatorade(Orange, for comparison):- Good

acquired: 7-Eleven

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ben & Jerry's Piña Colada

Ben & Jerry's is one of those brands that I really have to commend for keeping things fresh with their product's varieties.  Their stable of flavors is one of the biggest in the ice cream industry, those permanent flavors are always changing every few years, and they often send out "Limited Batches" of flavors to test on America's tongues.

This summery offering caught me off guard.  When I think of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, I think of them as rich and decadent.  Perhaps not as high in fat as something like Häagen-Dazs, but Ben & Jerry's original ice cream has always signified high quality ingredients and flavors that are full and assertive.

The first bite makes it clear that this stuff is not meant to be the rich and hedonistic mix that can soothe sorrows after a tough day or a bad breakup.  No, B&J have gone out of their way to make this Limited Batch light and refreshing.  The first ingredient in the product's Nutrition Facts is indeed cream, but the second is skim milk.  The result is that the mouth feel of this product is more like sherbet than ice cream.  In fact, it's not unlike the fabulous So Delicious coconut milk ice creams, though this product does not use coconut milk.

The "cream" is flavored with both coconut and pineapple that is very well balanced and instantly invokes the Piña Colada.  In addition, folded into the ice cream are small bits of dried coconut and dried pineapple.  Because these bits have sat in a tub of cream since its production in the factory, they end up being slightly rehydrated, and the resulting texture is nicely chewy.

A bowl of this stuff would hit the spot after mowing the lawn, for example.  But in the end, it doesn't quite reach the euphoric experience that defines ice cream as an indulgence.

Ben & Jerry's Piña Colada:- Good
Original Ben & Jerry's(Vanilla, for comparison):- Great

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fudge Covered Ritz

Our final late-summer post about a product from last winter.  Ritz decided to cover their crackers with fudge.  Not a bad idea, right?

Ritz is mostly regarded as a savory product, but because it's really only butter and flour, it can definitely act as a sweet one as well, and that's the tack that Nabisco is trying to take here.  I went in with high hopes, but I ended up disappointed.  The entire draw of Ritz, it's buttery and toasted flavor, are undetectable when paired with the mouthful of chocolate that accompanies it.  In turn, its crunch is more or less dampened by the rubbery snap of the coating as well, which itself is nice, but the two textures don't pair extremely well.  In fact, the texture very much reminds me of LU Petit Écolier cookies, but not quite as good.

For a more interesting take on the potential of sweet Ritz crackers, I would guide you to the Honey Wheat variety, which is sold year round.

Fudge Covered Ritz:- Good
Original Ritz(for comparison):- Great

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

White Fudge Covered Oreo

This past holiday season Oreo issued a seasonal offering which they've been known to offer before: White Fudge Covered Oreo.  If I'm not mistaken, this isn't the only type of Oreo that's been fudge covered, but it's really the only one to which you should pay attention.

The construction is quite simple: it's an Oreo cookie sandwich dipped in white chocolate.  And, while the structural balance of the snack may not be ideal for my tastes, the flavor is quite good.  I've been know to pan Oreo when they neglect the virtue of balance, and despite that this snack is simply an onslaught of sugar on the tongue, it works.  The "fudge" overtop the Oreo sandwich is run-of-the mill white chocolate, so pure that its buttery flavor(mostly pure cocoa fat) doesn't interfere with the flavor of the chocolate cookie or vanilla creme.

I'll say it again, this is a victory on flavor, but not on anything else.  Look toward Oreo's new Fudge Cremes snacks for a lesson in how to balance cookie, creme, and chocolate coatings.

White Fudge Covered Oreo:- Good
Original Oreo(for comparison):- Great

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pringles White Chocolate Peppermint

We're taking a momentary detour for the next three posts, back to last winter.  Pringles took a step on the wild side for a change and offered White Chocolate Peppermint.

Now, chocolate covered potato chips are totally a thing.  And it makes perfect sense that such a snack could just as easily be covered with white chocolate, even some that's been flavored with peppermint.  Such a logical conclusion would lead you astray, in the case of this product.  Indeed, these are Pringles chips that are simply dusted with a flavor powder, just like any other Pringles variety.

How does this one stack up?  Poorly.  I commend Pringles for capturing both white chocolate and peppermint in their seasoning, but in the end, it just doesn't pair well with a salty potato crisp.

As always, I applaud radical experiments, but that doesn't meant it tastes good.

Pringles White Chocolate Peppermint:- Passable
Original Pringles(for comparison):- Good