NEWS: Winners of My Oreo Creation Announced

The winners of the first ever My Oreo Creation contest were announced today via the cookies’ Facebook, and here they are!

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Well, I guess no one at Nabisco HQ liked my predictable but delicious Peanut Butter Banana idea…better luck next time Sean E. Here are my initial thoughts on these battle-ready cookies:

Kettle Corn – this to me is without a doubt the strongest of the bunch. If they pull it off it should be a sweet and salty symphony with a touch of butteriness. Kettle corn is absolutely delicious, and the aroma of it makes it almost an automatic buy anytime it’s being cooked at farmers markets and outdoor events. There’s a reason they’re always giving away samples, and I’m hoping this Oreo goes down as one of the best of 2018.

Cherry Cola – a lot of people are going to find this odd, and possibly disgusting, but I have high hopes for it being a potential dark horse delicious flavor mashup. Yes, the cherry flavor could seal the deal on its destined-for-doom fate, BUT, I love cola gummies more than I even like real cola, so if the sweet caramel notes come harder than medicinal cherry, it could be pretty good. Still, high risk for failure.

Pina Colada – these will be good. This is the most straight forward and easily executed flavor of them all, and despite this year’s Coconut Thins being kind of lackluster, the golden wafer and pineapple notes should make it a pretty successful cookie.

Which one are you looking most forward to? Which idea did you submit that didn’t make it?

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REVIEW: Baskin Robbins’ YORK Peppermint Pattie

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…to overdose on mint. While winter is the perfect time to let the chill in the air become the chill in your mouth, there’s one candy that reps the cooling effect year round like no other – YORK Peppermint Pattie’s. Thick, dense, chewy, and intensely minty, it’s the kind of candy you either love or hate, and fortunately for me I get down with the choco-mint overload. Continuing their tradition of collaborating with all of the biggest candy brands, Baskin Robbins have brought back the aptly titled YORK Peppermint Pattie for December, which combines mini YORK peppermint patties and a rich dark chocolate mint ribbon swirled in mint ice cream.

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Let it be known before going into this tingly wonderland that if you don’t like your mint served with a side of mint, dipped in some mint, and garnished with a minty bow – you might want to steer clear of this scoop. However, if you generally like mint in your dessert, this one is very well balanced. The mint ice cream, while definitely minty, is actually pretty calm and soothing in the grand scheme of this flavor. It’s dense and creamy with a minty-ness more akin to a smooth after dinner mint that melts in your mouth than a hard peppermint candy. On its own it’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a great backdrop to the more aggressive minty elements in the rest of the scoop.

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The mini YORK patties snap with a lovely dark chocolate crunch and come across much more cocoa heavy than they do mint. Their smaller size means less dense peppermint filling, and while there’s definitely some mint ooze on the inside of the choco-discs it doesn’t slap you in the face like toothpaste – which is a good thing. Bigger chunks of crushed up full-sized patties might have brought a more rich intensity, but I appreciate the bittersweet chocolate pop that the mini’s bring to the peppermint party.

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My favorite part of this flavor, and surprisingly the most mint-dominant, is the dark chocolate mint ribbon. It has a distinctly sharp peppermint zing and wonderful rich creamy texture that dissolves on my tongue like a thin fudge, tying everything together beautifully. It provides the mouth-cooling effect that I want from a YORK-branded product and works in tandem with the base to produce an ideal ice cream version of the silver-clad candy. A bite with a nice slab of ribbon and mini pattie gets the Christmas chorus singing and everything feels truly comfy cozy.

Rating: 8/10

Found at: Baskin Robbins ($2.99)

REVIEW: Ample Hills’ No Sleep Til Pumpkin

It wasn’t until 2003, with Starbucks’ introduction of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, that the two very different but very popular world’s of coffee and pumpkin pie would collide to create one of the most iconic and polarizing drinks of the last fifteen years. It’s hard to imagine a time when the two flavors didn’t coexist, and with everything from M&M’s to Peeps to Bath & Body Works body wash emulating the cafe concotion, it’s fitting that ice cream is no stranger to the coveted combination. As their sole pumpkin offering for 2017, Ample Hills brought back No Sleep Til Pumpkin, which is dark coffee ice cream with pieces of pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake.

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The dark coffee base is very bold. Incredibly thick and dense in the way that only a custard can be, its intense richness is a wonderful textural backdrop for the strong coffee notes at play. The use of both coffee extract and espresso powder give the ice cream an authentic and big coffee flavor that is bitter but beautifully balanced by the sugar and cream to create a very palatable and delectable profile. I like my coffee dark, and apparently I like my coffee ice cream dark too, because this one doesn’t beat around the bush at all and I love how deep yet sweet the overall flavor comes across. As the flavor evolves the bitter notes channel chocolate and I get a bit of a mellow mocha vibe, which is tasty and a very natural progression.

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With only one mix-in there’s a lot of pressure on the pumpkin gooey butter cake pieces to bring some big time pumpkin vibes, and they really came to do their job with conviction. Somehow the complex spicy notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove cut through the rich coffee in the base and come through clear as an autumn day into the cake pieces. Ample Hills’ gooey butter cake is one of the most dangerously delicious baked goods ever put into ice cream and all of its wonderful dense, buttery texture remains intact here, with the added bonus of a sprinkling of spices. Chewy, gooey, succulent, and autumnal, I can’t imagine AH executing the cake any better.

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My only qualm with this pint is the density of the experience as a whole. While the cake pieces are amazing, I wish there were more of them, and that overall they were bigger. AH’s original take on butter cake usually has more sizable chunks, and here they’re a bit more petite. When the two paths collide they are a wonderful combination, but when the cake disappears for many bites at a time it’s just a really good coffee custard.

Rating: 8.5/10

Found at: http://www.amplehills.com

 

REVIEW: Hershey’s Gold Peanut & Pretzel

I can still remember the triumphant day that Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Creme arrived in my junk food universe. It was the mid-90’s and I was a wee lad, looking for something to mix up the brown-dominant palate of the candy aisle. Everything seemed to be chocolate based, and out of nowhere appeared a snowy beacon of hope. The white-chocolate-meets-wafer cookies bar was a revelation, and I fell in love right then and there, in 1995, and it has been one of my favorite Hershey’s branded products ever since. Fast forward 22 years later and Hershey’s are aiming to change the game yet again, and this time they’re adding a whole new dimension. Welcome to the world, the fourth member of the Hershey’s universe – it’s not milk, it’s not dark, it’s not white, it’s GOLD.

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Hershey’s Gold is a caramelized crème “chocolate” mixed with bits of peanut and pretzel; aka, a sweet and salty symphony. Hershey’s aren’t just getting wild with the flavor of the bar, they got mad experimental with its layout too, looking more like Tetris-in-motion than your average chocolate snack. I like that they switched it up, but these things do not hold together. Almost every single one was broken in the store, and the couple that were solid came home with me and arrived in pieces as well. But as always, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?

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The aroma is straight up peanut butter, like sticking your face in a jar of sweet and creamy Skippy, with some nuanced hints of caramel. The flavor, however, is much less peanut butter and much more peanut brittle. The caramelized crunch with smooth creamy undertones is like a soft, melty brittle, and it is delicious. The peanuts blend with the crème more than they standout, creating something akin to a very mellow peanut butter fudge. The sweetness is very much in the foreground but kept in check by lovely pops of saltiness from the pretzel bits, and on some bites I can even taste the distinct yeasty crunch of the pretzel through the sweet buttery base.

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This is Hershey’s first permanent bar sporting their name with zero chocolate in it, and I’ve got to applaud them for releasing something truly different. It’s sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, and unlike anything else you’ll find in the convenience store. If I had to fault it in anyway, it could use a touch more crunch, perhaps from a few whole peanuts or bigger pretzel chunks to deliver a bit more textural depth like in Hershey’s with Almonds. It’s a minor gripe though, and Gold certainly lives up to its name, right up there with Cookies ‘n Creme atop the snacking podium with the best the company has to offer.

Rating: 9/10

Found at: Walgreens ($1.29)

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REVIEW: Coolhaus’ Street Cart Churro Dough

Like many people living on the West Coast, my first introduction to churro’s was amid the tasty backdrop of Disneyland’s Main Street. The crispy crunchy combination of fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar became a staple and must-have anytime visiting the Magic Kingdom. Now, living in San Francisco, I often see the more true origin of churro’s, in little push carts in the streets of the Mission district, on a regular basis. While I don’t often indulge in the long sticks of spicy delight while hitting up the mish for some tacos, it’s a flavor combo I still hold dear to my heart, and if you throw that shit in some ice cream I’m on it like an abandoned twenty dollar bill. Coolhaus’ Street Cart Churro Dough combines brown butter ice cream with cinnamon sugar churro dough and a chocolate chip swirl.

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When I initially read the description of this flavor my eyes lit up with excitement over the brown butter ice cream, which is one of my favorites, and I’m happy to report that Coolhaus delivered big time with its execution. It’s velvety smooth and creamy with an unmistakable browned butter flavor that accentuates the richness of the high quality dairy perfectly. The butter is incredibly authentic, and even leaves a slick on my tongue like I just put pack multiple handfuls of freshly popped movie theater popcorn. It’s a subtle spin on your average vanilla or sweet cream that elevates ice cream’s decadence to new heights when it’s done well, and this one is exceptional.

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The pieces of churro dough are also really good. They’re small gritty balls of cinnamon sugar delight very reminiscent of the mix-in from Ben & Jerry’s Cinnamon Buns with a bit more crunch and salty shine. While their overall flavor is definitely sweet, there’s an undercurrent of saltiness that really drives the dough-y component home. The cinnamon pops strong against the brown butter base and the two work together perfectly.

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Calling the chocolate chips a swirl is pretty accurate, as they’re more integrated specks of chocolate throughout than actual chunks of chocolate. The pieces remind me a lot of the shavings in Baskin Robbins’ Chocolate Chip, and they bring more gentle crunch than actual chocolate flavor. The integration of flecks of chocolate rather than B&J’s style chunks or flakes is awesome as it allows the buttery cinnamon flavors to be the star of the show, and I’m never taken out of the creamy churro fantasy.

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This flavor is currently only available to be ordered through Coolhaus’ online shop, but when it makes its way into grocery stores early next year it will be a standout offering in the frozen section for those lucky enough to have it. Brown butter ice cream is very rare in more mainstream outlets and hopefully this one sparks a change, because the extra depth and richness is terrific.
Rating: 9/10

Found at: Coolhaus online shop.

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REVIEW: Peanut Brrr-ittle M&M’s

Picking up right where they left off, creating new seasonal candies based on cute puns rather than flavor and holiday history, Mars have given birth to Peanut Brrr-ittle M&M’s. After autumn’s (moderate) success of Cookies and Screeem M&M’s, winter is getting a boost with some much needed shine to the superior peanut line of the classic candy that melts (and freezes?) in your mouth and not in your hand.

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The festive M&M’s come exclusively in green and red, so automatically the Christmas vibes are fully intact, even if peanut brittle isn’t a holiday profile I’m too accustomed to. The only connection I can draw to brittle and Christmas is that toffee-y things remind me of Grandma’s, and I always see my Grandma on Christmas. But Gma is more of straight up chocolate kind of gal, so brittle doesn’t really ring any jingle bells for my tastebuds.

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The actual flavor of the M&M’s is kind of weird. Peanut brittle is generally identifiable by a rich buttery toffee, and these taste more like a caramel flavoring, sans the butter. The caramel flavor hinges on being too artificial, and while there is some natural fatty flavor from the peanut, it doesn’t register like brittle as much as it does non-gooey caramel. I’m missing some of that rich, deep, brown sugar magic that comes from a real slab of brittle. I guess I could go so far as to say these definitely remind me of brittle, just moreso the kind from the dollar store than one I would actually want to chomp into with excitement.

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The other issue with this execution is that chocolate also isn’t really part of the peanut brittle flavor experience. The usual chocolate layer of the M&M is still very prominent, and the peanut isn’t actually caramelized in any kind of way, just flavored to taste like it. There’s no more crunch than a regular Peanut M&M, and the already near-perfect balance of the original is a bit thrown off. These aren’t a bad seasonal release, but not one I would feel inclined to buy again, especially when the regular offerings of Peanut, Peanut Butter, and Almond are all simpler, stronger, and less-artificial offerings.

Rating: 6.5/10

Found at: Target ($3.29)

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Special Stash Marshmallow Moon

The craft ice cream scene is so hot right now that the innovators and grocery store ice cream game changers are coming out of retirement. Ben & Jerry’s, the now Unilever-owned company that created Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and put creative life into the freezer section of your favorite supermarket are beginning to unleash their Special Stash; a super limited run of pints only available online and in small quantities at their scoop shops. The series begins with a third collaboration with Jimmy Fallon, in an apparent ode to MoonPie. Marshmallow Moon is vanilla ice cream with marshmallow and graham swirls and fudge chunks.

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Let’s start off with the good – the graham cracker swirl is phenomenal. It’s salty, buttery, and bursting with golden graham flavor that rivals any elementary school’s snack time dunk contest. It’s the same swirl from Pumpkin Cheesecake and One Love but in much bigger, thicker quantity, which makes it automatically better. The grittiness and slight crunch of the swirl is hands down the best part of this pint and to be honest, kind of its saving grace.

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Now, onto the weakest part of the this flavor, and it’s a big one – the base. Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream is fine, it’s just not really that great, and within the context of this profile it falls pretty flat. Yes, it’s rich and creamy, but the vanilla notes aren’t very pronounced and I don’t get any kind of intriguing pop at all. This vanilla ice cream NEEDS big gobs and chunks of mix-ins for it to work, and while it works well in tandem with the graham, it does a major disservice to the marshmallow by being bland and washing out the subtle nuances of the fun and fluffy ‘mallow. I was very excited to see nice amounts of the marshmallow swirl throughout my pint, but I never got to fully enjoy them. Aside from the textural and temperature differences, it was hard to distinguish the gooey stuff from the base.

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The fudge chunks are big and snappy and tasty but ultimately kind of boring. Again, vanilla and chocolate are such standard fair that unless I got a good amount of the graham this just felt like chocolate chip ice cream with really big chips and relatively average vanilla.

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I love the idea of Ben & Jerry’s doing an ongoing Special Stash series, but this first entry is too safe and an average introduction into something that has a lot more potential than this pint shows. A simple change in base to peanut butter, caramel, malt, or hell, even a vanilla bean with more robust flavor, could have made this a much more solid ice cream. The Special Stash line also comes with a higher price, and at double the cost I usually pay for B&J’s it starts to inch towards the more gourmet small batch stuff. If they want to play that game they’ve gotta put their thinking caps on to push the envelop a little farther and earn my hard earned ice cream dollars.

Rating: 7/10
Found at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop ($6.50)

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