Kraft Jet-Puffed Pina Colada and German Chocolate Mallow Bites

Every so often I’ll come across a product in a smaller grocery store or market that genuinely looks (and smells) like it hasn’t been moved since the Nixon administration. I kind of expect this to happen at these stores and proceed with caution. But the big box stores? It’s creepy to see something that looks as though they’ve unearthed it from their store archival collection in the basement. Such was the case at my local Target today.

I did not expect to see these marshmallows, clad in a bag that looked like it was straight out of 2005 with flavors that haven’t soared in popularity since their conception. And they were only a dollar apiece! Blasphemy, I tell you. Almost makes up for passing up the Current/Elliott-esque skinny jeans and gym teacher sweats in the clothing section. I’m the classiest of classy ladies. Pina Colada and German Chocolate, though. Wow. And in bite-form nonetheless. 

A little research yielded very few results in the way of reviews outside of my good friend JFG trying the Pina Colada mallows in September. And yet the bag honestly looked and felt like it had been printed in the mid-2000’s. I couldn’t even get the price tag off without risking damage to the package. Either someone cheaped out or got creative with recycling. And there’s a typo on the bag! I ate American-made food with a typo! I feel like I’m going to lose brain cells or suddenly gain the ability to do complex math from that or something. Yikes.

Creepy packaging aside, I came into this with a little bit of a bias- I’m just not that into marshmallows. Sure, I’ll take them if nothing else is around, but when push comes to shove they’re the edible equivalent of a sloppy, drunk hook-up with an ex or old friend over Thanksgiving break. It’s there, and that’s about it. The package designs are adorable- little fuzzy marshmallow viewing windows, drawings of marshmallows and festive beverages and slices of cake all over the place, and some helpful suggestions along the lines of informing the consumer of a whipping aid, always a plus in my book, suggestions of piling marshmallows on cake and such, I don’t know, they don’t pay me to read, and the ever-popular disclaimer that these are alcohol-free. Party hard tonight, Mr. Roboto.

The pina colada marshmallows tasted good and were adequately sunny, with a good balance between sweet and salty. There was a strange aftertaste to them, a predominantly saline one, tasting something like corn starch and baking soda, a little salty and bitter, but not off-putting given the sugary coconut and candy. Strangely chemical and even worse when they were toasted. They mainly tasted like toasted coconut with a little floral, piney fruit kick at the end of each bite. It was difficult to eat too many of them before feeling a little sick from all the sweetness, but I think they were unique and tasty enough that they’d make for a funky throwback ambrosia salad or roasted fruit s’more for a snack.

German chocolate marshmallows? Good idea. Making them look like death’s hairballs? Bad idea. Good thing these were sized to pop right in the mouth- you do not want to bite these open. Who in the world thought that puce-grey-midsize sedan was a good color for a candy?! And they taste and smell blatantly, almost offensively synthetic like a scratch and sniff sticker or some sort of trendy Japanese perfume for teens, like cardboard Tootsie Rolls. The coconut is a little less aggressive here, but no less flaky and dry on the palate. Both made delicious s’mores, but really, that color is just heinous. Still, I wouldn’t kick them out of bed, or my Rice Krispie treats.

Reed’s Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer

I’m not in law school just yet, so I don’t know a lot about copyright law, but one thing I do have under my belt is a damned good sense of practical application of the law in real life. So when I see a soda bottle not even remotely trying to be subtle about tossing around references to butterscotch beer, the Flying Cauldron brewery, and Hogsbreath, England, it gives me a little pause to ponder the implications of screwing over my good friend Sui Generis. Case in point, Reed’s Butterscotch Beer, which whips out its caramel-colored goo and screams, “DEAL WITH IT” on the shelf. Just looking at it makes me feel like an accessory to a white-collar crime.

Where, oh where to begin with this one? Is it the vaguely Celtic-inspired font emblazoned across the bottle, as unique and special as a “mo chuisle” tramp stamp tattoo, or possibly the near-references to Harry Pot- er, Herman Trotter book places and themes? I could also bring up the flavor, the clip-art influenced flying cauldron, or as we eye-bearers call it, “pus-leaking beetle on a flaming H.O. scale rocket launcher.” Yikes. Without being too crass, it looks like a less-than-skilled child designed this after eating a ton of paste in art class. This is the worst violation of intellectual property laws since not-Pixar’s “What’s Up: Balloon to the Rescue.”

But I’m not here to debate the aesthetic merits of the bottle or the many potential legal ramifications of this flagrant asshattery. One cannot be an exceptional student, lover, and secretly embody Simon Schama and Billy Flynn simultaneously. Such are the limitations of men. The real question is, how does this taste? Reed’s markets it for “wizards and unrealized wizards alike.” Way to alienate the entire Muggle population. Suck my Patronus, Reed’s. And America’s, too. Well, through one way or another, this contraband has made it into the hands of a non-wizard FTW. And it tastes absolutely terrible.


Apparently, Slim Reedy just don’t give a fuck. This is what young Squibs get when their wizarding parents hate them. This is what real kids get when they drag their parents to the midnight book premieres. One positive aspect is that this does look a little like beer before you read the non-alcoholic part, so congratulations, you now look as cool as the guy drinking an O’Doul’s next to you at the bar. Also, nice wand. The flavor is sickly and sticks going down and it smells like butter, melted butter, and the candy dishes of old ladies everywhere. I feel like I’m playing an adult version of Candy Land where, when I land on the Sugar Booger Mountains, I have to take a shot of molasses and touch my nose with my foot. It’s barely drinkable. Each burp tastes like I’ve just downed a handful of kettle corn and before I could say Abra Kaglucopyranose, I found myself parched and hopped up on sugar at the same time. As much as I hate to say it, it sounds like a pretty good simulation of going to Universal Studios for a mere George Washington. I still hate this. Why? Because Reed’s is an awesome company. I hold them to a higher standard of performance and this isn’t cutting it.

Birthday Cake Golden Oreo Fudge Cremes

Another month, another birthday celebration. If this is what Oreo does when it turns 100, imagine what it’ll be like when it turns 200! Free cookies, memory implants, and days of leisure from our robot chipmunk overloads for all. I recently got the opportunity to try the second of the new birthday cake Oreo cookie flavors, the Birthday Cake Golden Oreo Fudge Cremes. Like its previous incarnation, the packaging is adorable and clearly celebratory. Oreo is ready to party hard in yellow and blue.
If the Birthday Cake Oreo represented two layer cakes shrunk down to bite size like in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, the Birthday Cake Golden Oreo Fudge Cremes are like a girl who got too drunk at a party and ended up taking her top off and falling in the cake. There’s a lot going on here. I can see what they were going for here, and I think it’s awfully cute that they mimicked the cross-section of a chocolate frosted vanilla birthday cake in the cookie, but the overall effect is a mishmash of flavors and textures, none of which is entirely discernable from another and ends up roughly translating to “sugar overload” in the mouth.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been crazy about the Fudge Creme line. I don’t see the brand as entirely representative of Oreos and if I hadn’t known these weren’t Oreo brand cookies, I definitely wouldn’t have guessed. I had confidence in the birthday cake flavor, but these missed the mark for me. Visually, I felt like these were a little more festive than the Birthday Cake Oreos and I adored the plentiful rainbow sprinkles on top, but the flavor was almost cloying.

In this case, the frosting-flavored cream only contributed in exacerbating my tooth pain instead of distinguishing itself as it had nothing to play off of. The chocolate coating tasted waxy and one-noted and the cookie’s flavor completely disappeared. Regardless, these may be more appreciated by kids celebrating the 100th birthday of Oreo as they have a distinctly more kid-like feel and appeal to them, but personally, I’ll stick to the classics.

Tabasco Buffalo Style Hot Sauce

My life is flaming right now. And I don’t mean in a listening to Elton John more than usual, leather jacket wearing, pompadour sort of way, because that would imply that I hadn’t already been doing those things. Ahem. What I mean is that things are coming together all at once and the hours in the day just aren’t feeling long enough. Cooking, blogging, and overall enjoyment of life have been pushed aside for finals preparation and LSAT cramming, as well as the ensuing therapy that comes with both, and I’ve barely had time to eat a full meal on an honest-to-goodness table, as opposed to the pile of papers that typically serve as my plate, much less prepare one for Miss Love and I. Imagine my joy when the newest sauce from Tabasco came to the house today- Buffalo style, no less. Easy to use and easy to enjoy…or was it?
I was initially skeptical, but then again, due to the aforementioned LSAT prep, I’ve been initially skeptical about everything I’ve been doing lately. Reading traffic signs. Watching television. Even a simple question from Miss Love about dinner will elicit a stern discussion about whether or not her suppressed premise includes not wanting to eat chicken for the sixth night in a row and determine if her argument to do so is structurally flawed.  
So reading on a package that something is “Buffalo style” rather than “Buffalo” in name gets my brain racing. And calorie-free Buffalo to boot- now that’s something to tweet about.

 Luckily, my fears were for naught. While I was initially put off by the scent, a combination of regular Tabasco and an underlying nose of spicy musk, as well as its ability to tattoo the skin with its signature orange brand, a sure sign that tells everyone you see that you’re well on your way to obesity and are proud of it, the flavor carefully mimicked buffalo wings without the usage of butter. Or witchcraft.
It’s less spicy than Tabasco but spicy enough to leave a good tingle on the lips and tasted amazing with our homemade chicken patties. It’s also thicker than regular Tabasco, which makes it easy to toss wings or chicken pieces in and not have to worry about the sauce dripping off. It’s got a good texture and easily adheres. This will definitely be a key player in our dinner condiment lineup.

Spoonable Peppered Orange Caramel Sauce

The older I get, the less I find myself enjoying really sugary food. Used to be that I could walk into a grocery store and, given the choice between a rotisserie chicken and a red velvet cake roll, leave with diabetes and the reassurance that I would never lack for saturated fat again. Now my first reaction to those foods in the bakery section is repulsion, though that could also be because they recently started putting nutrition facts on the labels and I can no longer estimate the caloric value of cream cheese-stuffed black bottom Reese’s frosted cupcakes. Oh well.
If there’s one food I know I love, though, it’s salted caramel sauce. It’s laborious to make and satisfies my inner pyromaniac and allows me to briefly face dangerous splatters and intense heat head on before padding back to the office to write about 18th century French literature. It goes to show, though, that it’s rare for me to find and buy a good caramel sauce in a jar because of how much I like to make it on my own. Recently, I was sent a selection of sauces by Spoonable, a caramel sauce company in Brooklyn, to sample and evaluate.
The packaging on these is gorgeous, with a stamped design and concise label on butcher paper. It seamlessly blends with the glossy, smooth caramel inside. Of the five flavors they sent over, I knew I’d have to try peppered orange first. And who wouldn’t want to try a sauce whose label enthusiastically recommended spooning it over both pancakes and pot roast? While we didn’t break out the carnitas just yet, it is worth noting that the endorsement for slathering Spoonable on everything isn’t just laying it on thick, so to speak.
The sugar, despite being the first ingredient, is masterfully tempered in the caramel, and has a gooey texture with a strong bitterness from the extract. This makes my homemade caramel look like dog crap on a spoon. It’s easy to eat on a cookie, with chocolate, or just out of the jar with a spoon. An amazing example of a versatile, sweet condiment. And a silver SOFI nominee, nonetheless!

Cheetos W Gourmet Corn Potage Soup

“It’s 4/20,” I said to Miss Love, “So I’m going to review this strange flavor of Japanese Cheetos.”
“They’ll like that, right?” I said with the apprehensive tone of a middle-aged father trying to pick out a hip-hop CD for his teenage son’s birthday. “They like bizarre combinations and things that come from Asia, right?” Well, while these contain neither hemp nor any advertisement, subliminal or otherwise, referring to or evoking Bob Marley, they are, like stoners, both fascinating and a hair creepy, so happy 4/20!
These chips came from Japan, sourced by J-List, and are part of the Frito-Lay Japan Cheeto “W” line. Not to be confused with the gourmet line of Cheetos, or the chocolate-covered Cheetos, or the Cheetos released that taste like all the different kinds of Korean cuisine, these double-your (“W”) your flavor by using twice the normal amount of flavor powder. Double your pleasure, double your pun, Japan. No word on whether some ambitious gamer has conducted a quantitative study as to exactly what the normal amount is and whether this is actually doubled, but suffice to say the class action lawsuit settlement alone would be enough to keep you rich in Cheeto dust fingers for your entire life and afterlife.
Oddly enough, the first thing that struck me about these wasn’t so much the powder, but the scent. It smelled like I’d accidentally wandered into a Denny’s or a state fairground, a sweet combination of maple syrup, fresh kettle corn, and oil wafting out of the bag. Not bad, but completely unexpected. Out of the bag, the Cheetos didn’t appear to have any more flavor powder than their standard, naked counterparts, and the powder was subtly colored rather than taking a page from the nuclear ‘merican ones we’ve come to know and love.
The flavor is curious. It tastes like sour cream and onion chips and Corn Pops met under normal circumstances, dated for a while, had some mutual differences that were impossible to overcome (she’s too sweet and cloying, he has an underlying musky scent like he doesn’t bathe) and parted on good terms, resolving to stay friends all the same. Until they met up at their ten-year high school reunion, reconnected, and she popped out these nine months later. They’re neither breakfast nor snack food, but they contain familiar elements of both. The sweet and savory balance is spot-on, and while I couldn’t detect any cheesiness in these, there was a definite heaviness not unlike actual corn potage, combining starchy, rich flavors with other starchy, rich flavors. Perhaps these are better eaten in the winter, or as the bag suggests, atop actual corn potage like a fat kid’s croutons. Either way, I found that despite their perplexing odor, they subtly and masterfully highlighted the base ingredient of Cheetos- corn, and added an extra layer of flavor mimicry to them as well. Best paired with Pink Floyd and more Cheetos, I assume.

Dude, Sweet Chocolate Fois Gras and Bergamot Truffles (Stephan Pyle)

Some people are concert groupies. My little sister is obsessed with One Direction and goes to all their concerts in a 300-mile radius to get a glimpse at their gangly British lust-filled faces. My mom has seen The Killers more times than most self-described “hardcore” college students. And hell, I’ve been known to take off my undershirt for Steely Dan. But I’m not really a concert groupie. I’m a chocolate groupie. My panties have dropped for truffles. I breathlessly moan when an interesting chocolate bar emerges on the scene. For me, it’s just as fascinating of a treat as wine (see my flavonoids post here if you’re curious about the science behind it) but almost better, because while it’s generally frowned upon to add pop rocks, sea salt, and peppercorns to a bottle of ’59 Haut-Brion, you’re practically encouraged to do so with the creme de la creme of single-origin chocolate. And that, for me, is a win-win situation.
I recently got an enormous and varied package from a company I’ve lusted over, Dude, Sweet Chocolate. Based out of Texas, their chocolatier, owner, and mad scientist Kathleen Clapner is someone I’d like to introduce Wylie Dufresne to. Woman knows her pairings. From porcini and pepita toffee to blue cheese and sea salt fudge, this little store is turning a world populated with Hershey bars and Russell Stover samplers upside-down. Case in point? The Stephan Pyle truffle. A man after my own heart, a heart stuffed with foie gras, chocolate, and bergamot.
These go beyond the gaudy trend of stuffing truffle oil, bacon, gold leaf, and pickled leprechaun feet into average-quality ingredients to drive the price and prestige up. These are subtle. You’ll take a bite, absorbing the licorice-bittersweet bite of the bergamot, both floral and spicy, and suddenly, a pause. Was that meat you just tasted? It most certainly was. The bittersweet chocolate recedes, unfolding to reveal a subtle salinity and definite creamy, fatty edge. It’s incredibly smooth, completely integrated with the chocolate ganache, and, were it not for a slightly smoky, steak-like flavor lingering on the palate, could easily be attributed to the dark chocolate itself. I like the subtleties in these, because they both meshed and deviated from the nuances we typically associate with fine dark chocolate. And need I bring up that the packaging appeals to all of my aesthetic values? Industrial butcher paper block lettering for the win.
I need you to buy these. I need everyone to be aware of and feel the utter euphoria that seeps through my body, like a dog receiving a belly rub, when I eat these truffles. I’m not related to the company, my money isn’t tied up in stock, I’m not looking to suck up (though if you need another truffle inspiration, I’m thinking Foodette’s Last Stand would include salted caramel, bacon, smoked jalapenos, and raspberries) but I know a good product when I see it.
It’s a restless, relentless feeling that invades my thoughts and penetrates the nooks and crannies of my mouth, my tastebuds aflame. When you simplify it, it boils down to my core principles of satisfaction: if it entices both the brain and the palate, it can change your life for the better.

Raspberry M&M’s

I’ve got to admit, whenever I go to the grocery store I’m on high alert for any new candies or chocolates to hit the market. I troll the websites pretty frequently and am always making sure that I’m up to date on press releases. Sometimes, things pass me by, though…and that’s where the eagle-eyed Miss Love comes in. Last night, she spotted these M&M’s in the store and said, “Hey, have you reviewed these yet?” Those magical words get me to buy anything. Bonus points if it’s something made by a bigger company, too.
Raspberry M&M’s, I knew, weren’t new, per se, but I’d never personally seen them in stores. A little research yielded very little in the ways of results outside of a 2007 release when raspberry was apparently going through a rebellious urban teen DJ phase, spelled “Razzberry.” Now they’re all grown up and going by their god-given fruit name. And outside of a mommy blogger tested demographic, there was no sign that these existed on the Mars product website or on any part of the internet. And if the internet doesn’t say they exist, they might not. So we snapped these up to review, figuring that if they were awful, we’d bake them into cookies or use them as target practice for our cats when they scratch furniture or something.
Luckily, they’re awesome. Outside of a bizarre package design, apparently the likes of which was subjected to a mandate saying that every flat surface had to be covered in the custom raspberry M&M’s logo and representation by the blue M&M, once known for being a seductive saxophone wailing ladykiller but now proudly cradling two raspberries in his hands like pool balls. Why the blue M&M, Mars? I suppose these could be construed as a late Valentine’s day treat, what with the primarily Valentine color scheme and fruit plus chocolate theme for lazy spouses who can’t be bothered to order an Edible Arrangement ahead of time but it comes off as a little bizarre to have this come-hither look on a guy literally made of chocolate putting the soft touch on what amounts to plush, severed ovaries.
At least they taste good. They’re about one and a half times the size of plain chocolate M&M’s and come in an array of pink and red gradients, with a thicker candy shell and delicate floral sweetness. They really do taste like raspberries as opposed to raspberry jam or raspberry candy. There’s nothing overpowering about it and yet it does maintain a consistent presence within each bite. The dark chocolate, typically terrible in the grand scheme of chocolate, is artfully accentuated by these notes and almost makes it taste like a decent example of a dark chocolate candy. The pieces have an overall creamy feel to them and are substantial enough that a few satisfy. I’m probably going to make some cookies with these to see if the flavor is bold enough in the context of other elements. Overall, though, these were easy to snack on and enjoy and were a quality example of a new flavor.

Chuao ChocoPod Collection

Yeah, I’m not good at giving food gifts. Have you ever found the perfect gift? So perfect that you begin to consider buying a second one for yourself or just…eating the first one? Been there, done that, bought the commemorative t-shirt. Luckily for me, this wasn’t a gift for anyone else. It was a gift for me from Chuao, so I was excited to get it and even more excited to eat it. If it weren’t for the fact that I ignored it for six months so that I wouldn’t have to destroy its colorful beauty, I’d have written about this ages ago.
The Chuao Chocopods are both ingeniously conceived and portion-controlled. They feel more substantial than bite-sized caramel truffles and come in very unique flavors. One pod is fifty calories, and I found that two satisfied me quite a lot. The box had twelve pieces and three of each flavor and the entire presentation was clean, cute, and succinct. I loved the photos of cacao pods on the outside to represent the shape and inspiration of the candies. And the flavors really intrigued me. I liked that there was a unifying factor- chocolate with a caramel filling- to each of the pods, but that each was flavored differently. It just made it a little more exciting than a box of truffles.
The first flavor we tried was Picante, a combination of chipotle and cabernet sauvignon. Because cab can be a little fruit bomb-y if it’s Californian, (and since Chuao is a California-based company I’m quite sure it was) it was pleasant to have a flavor that combined both its fruit-forward nature as well as implement a little heat and smokiness. Combined with the sticky, ooey-gooiness of the caramel, it carried a host of flavors mimicking a California cab but with a little more dessertiness to it. Very pleasant and evocative of some of my favorite characteristics of cab sauvignon.
Passion fruit followed this one. At first, I was like, “ew, this tastes like Brie cheese and old fruit.” But then I was like, “Wait a sec, this actually tastes like passionfruit.” So I guess I’m not crazy about passionfruit but appreciated the congruence between the dark chocolate in this and the fruit caramel. I’m not sure if this was accentuated by the caramel or not, but I ended up enjoying it more after a few bites. Very grape-heavy and floral.
The next caramel was a flavor combination I’ve seen before- strawberry and balsamic, but hadn’t sampled in caramel form. There was a wonderful tanginess to this and a subtle fruit flavor. I liked that the vinegar was front and center as opposed to lingering in the background. A balanced and complex piece of candy.
The last flavor was our unanimous favorite- even for Miss Love, who doesn’t like banana. Banana caramel with brown sugar lent a silky, salty flavor, like compact bananas foster, to the chocolate, even overpowering some of the darker flavors in the chocolate. This was best eaten a little warm, as the caramel oozed out. Perfectly balanced.
I’d get these again…and I might even share them, too.

Brown Butter Cornmeal Cookies with Basil-Lime Glaze

We’re all friends, right? Good. Because I need some intimate advice from you. I know I’m a review site. I know that you come to me, like slightly tubby older men seeking discipline from a ravishing dominatrix or college students flocking to Jackass 3, for a little snark and a laugh at the expense of cookies or soda. Does my posting recipes make you want to punch me in the face? Do you die a little when I wax about my many forms of enchiladas or inwardly cry when you see another angled, bokeh-infused photo of a cake? Discuss, please.
Well, even if you do hate it, I sure don’t. And these cookies should win you over for sure. They’re crumbly, they’re soft, they’re chewy and salty and crispy from the cornmeal like the more sophisticated older sister of Momofuku’s corn cookie. If I loved you enough, I would send each and every one of you a batch of these. But even if I don’t, you can still make them at home! This is one of the first baking recipes I’ve just winged and made from scratch and I’m really pleased with the results.
Brown Butter Cornmeal Cookies with Basil Lime Glaze
Ingredients (makes about 24 cookies)
1 cup of unsalted butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 cup of flour
2 cups of coarse yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of whole milk plus two tablespoons
3 tablespoons of lime zest
2 tablespoons of lime juice
3 tablespoons of minced basil
1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large saucepan, melt and cook the butter on medium-high until the milk solids have cooked and browned at the bottom. When the butter is fragrant and an amber brown color, take it off the heat. Let it cool for about 30 minutes to a few hours or until it’s at room temperature and soft.
2. Cream with the sugars and add eggs and vanilla. Stir vigorously and add dry ingredients. Chill for 30 minutes or until solid to the touch and bake in oven for 12-15 minutes. When the cookies are puffy and slightly brown on top, they’re ready.
3. Combine glaze ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Drizzle over cookies and garnish with extra basil if desired.
Come on, you couldn’t hate these if you tried.