REVIEW: Limited Edition Firework Oreo

I’m no stranger to the junk food industry and our consumer-based society in general launching my tastebuds and wallet well into the future when it comes to holidays.  I’ve grown accustomed to seeing Valentine’s candy and cards pop up the day after Christmas, pumpkin-on-my-everything starting in August, and Christmas beginning on November 1st, but the latest Oreo release had me asking myself, “is it summer already?”.  The packaging, adorned with explosions and patriotic colors, stirred up memories of poorly lit bottle rockets, cheap beer, and the sweet scent of charcoal, aka, the Fourth of July.  Since we’ve only had six weeks of spring, the middle of summer seemed like a stretch, but then I realized, I’m a dummy, and for once, the cookie-peddlers have gotten their timing right – Memorial Day is May 29!  Just in time to pay our respects to the men and women serving our country, Nabisco have released Limited Edition Firework Oreo, which add explosive popping candy to the iconic chocolate creme sandwich.

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Opening the package reveals the slightly bittersweet and creamy smell you know and love from Oreo, with cookies that fit the smell-bill and look identical to the original except for little red and blue dots in the creme.  Biting in is exactly what you would expect – crunch, squish, and chocolate, but then right as the creme hits my tongue the party begins – POP.  The popping candy starts to sizzle via saliva activation, and I’ve gotta be honest it’s pretty damn fun.  The more you chew the more they dance, with continual bacon-in-a-skillet sound effects even after I swallow.

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The popping candy doesn’t change the flavor at all.  There is no strawberry or blueberry flavor added to the rocks, and the effect here is purely an experience rather than a taste.  It’s kind of impressive that they were able to present a product that looks and feels different but has the exact same flavor profile as the cookie that has been leading the pack for over 100 years.  While an additional candy flavor would have been fun, I suspect it might have come off as cloying, although I wouldn’t mind if they added a crazy flavor like grape to really funk the experience up.

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I’m kind of stumped how to rate this cookie.  The firework-spin doesn’t take away from the original Oreo at all, and in some ways even enhances it – just not with taste.  It also doesn’t really add anything particularly ground breaking that makes me feel like people HAVE to try this, but it’s got a serious fun factor that I can’t deny.  Since Oreo are my favorite grocery cookie of all time and they nailed the execution, I’ve gotta give them the benefit of a doubt with a solid thumbs up. While I think I would still take the Double Stuf over these for general munching, I wouldn’t mind seeing them pop up every Memorial Day for a fun-filled snack attack.

Rating: 8.5/10
Found at: Safeway ($2.99)

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REVIEW: The Peanut Principle’s “Going Green” Pistachio Butter

I’m a nut butter nut, and when it comes to creamy, fatty, crave able jars of spreadable protein I’m always down to try something new.  I’ve had many types of pulverized nuts in my days, including Trader Joes’ great Mixed Nut version, but never have I had or seen a pistachio butter…and the times, they are a changin’.  The Peanut Principle are a gourmet nut butter company from New York, making buttery goodness out of nearly every kind of nut from plain and flavored peanut to hazelnut, walnut, macadamia, pumpkin seed, and lots more.  I ordered a huge sampling of peanut butters last year and was overall very impressed, so when they announced pistachio I had to jump on the opportunity.  Going Green is a creamy pistachio butter that’s as basic as it gets, with the lone ingredient being organic dry roasted pistachios – no salt, no sugar, no BS.

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The taste of this butter is everything the look of the jar promised – pure, rich, thick, intense pistachio.  It’s a very unique-to-the-green-nut-flavor that is deep and roasty, slightly sweet, and cleanly fatty.  The texture is insanely thick but less lip-smackingly mouth-drying than peanut butter tends to be, which I think might be due to the lack of salt.  Despite the absence of saltiness there’s no lack of pop, as the nuts themselves pack a big wallop of flavor that needs little help to be incredibly robust and huge.

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On toast the flavor becomes a bit more subdued and blends in with the bread well.  Some of the richness mellows but the sweet flavor of the pistachio stays intact.  As good as that flavor is, I didn’t think the butter offered as much as a traditional peanut butter or salted butter so I tried it with cinnamon and sugar, which still was just okay, and then strawberries, which also were just alright.  I could see this being tasty spread on some pancakes, dolloped onto some vanilla ice cream, or used in conjunction with some pistachio pieces to make a killer stuffed french toast.

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Make no mistake, this is a premium product, and at $11.99 for an eight ounce jar it’s four times the cost of a regular peanut butter, even from a gourmet company like Peanut Principle, whose sixteen ounce jar of regular PB goes for $5.99.  It may be expensive, but it absolutely delivers on what it set out to do, and packs the punch of what feels like hundreds of pistachio’s into a small glass jar.  Pistachio’s aren’t one of my favorite nuts, but if you’re a fiend for the little green guys, this stuff will send your morning bread into hyperdrive, or be a perfect pick-me-up straight from the jar, without the hassle of shells.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: http://www.peanutprinciple.com ($11.99)

Quick Nutrition: 2 Tbsp. – 160 cals – 13g fat – 3mg sodium – 8g carbs – 2g fiber – 2g sugar – 6g protein

REVIEW: Blue Bunny Mint Cookie Crunch

Blue Bunny have expanded their line of ice cream flavors, and I hope that means they’re expanding their distribution too.  While they have distro-deals in place with major retailers like Walmart, for whatever reason, in the Bay Area with our lack of Wally World’s, Blue Bunny is kind of hard to find.  Many grocery stores carry the novelty items like the mini cones, but quarts and pints of the Bunny are hard to come across.  Growing up in Nebraska where Blue Bunny was much more common, I was super stoked to find a fresh new flavor at a local discount grocery store.  Mint Cookie Crunch combines mint ice cream with fudge swirls and mint chocolate cookie chunks.

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The mint base is light and creamy with a refreshing minty-ness that steers clear of any dominant peppermint flavor.  It’s a pleasant and genuine base that isn’t too sweet or too powerful in any way.  The fudge swirl has a very distinct Hershey’s chocolate syrup kind of flavor with just a bit more thickness than the stuff that pours from the brown bottle.  It’s a little light milk chocolatey for what I would commonly associate with fudge, but it seems fitting for a swirl swimming in glowing green cream.

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The cookie “chunks” pop up in the form of little balls that have a big satisfying crunch and haven’t lost any of their bold cookie texture.  This crunchy-preservation is achieved by coating the balls in chocolate so the actual cookie never makes contact with the melty dairy.  It’s a clever move very similar to the cookies in Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Peppermint Crunch (RIP) and they work just as well here as they did in that more chocolate heavy pint.  It’s a very different experience than a mint cookies and cream, and I appreciate the crunch factor that adds extra depth and excitement to the ice cream.  The flavor isn’t as mint-forward as the heralded Girl Scouts Thin Mint, but the cookies definitely have a minty-ness that let’s me know it isn’t just a chocolate cookie.

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When you get all of the components together in one bite they work together seamlessly with a lovely balance of mint, chocolate, and smooth dairy.  Blue Bunny have put together a really solid product that isn’t as intense or fatty as a super premium ice cream but tastes of significantly higher quality and less gum-filler-y than Dreyers or Breyers.  A fantastic middle-of-the-road scoop that’s a great bang for your buck.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Grocery Outlet ($2.99)

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REVIEW: Limited Edition Waffles & Syrup Oreo

Maple is one of my favorite flavors, but let’s be real, when most of us say we like maple we mean a flavor covering some kind of indulgent carbohydrate.  Maple syrup smothering a stack of pancakes or the cavernous crevices of a crispy waffle.  Sickly sweet icing on top of a beautiful fluffy doughnut.  Lusciously whipped frosting inside of a layered walnut cake…you get my drift.  Maple is a sweet vessel we use to coat other sweet things and create straight up deliciousness.  In a move that seems like it should have been done three years ago, Nabisco are finally giving us maple-heads what we want with the Waffles & Syrup Oreo.

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Eagerly ripping into the package unleashes a pleasant, but very slight, maple aroma.  The smell is actually much more reminiscent of graham crackers than it is waffles and syrup, but there is some lovely buttery notes floating out.  While I love me some buttery golden graham, I expected more from the nose on a package that has tantalizing drips of runny syrup on it.  

Biting into the cookie as a whole is more of the same, but even less maple-y than I got from inhaling the Oreo perfume.  Much like the smell, the flavor takes me to graham crackers, with just a touch of maple and smidge of golden butteriness but no bread-y waffle notes.  There is some maple there, but it is incredibly subtle with a soft finish that is mostly vanilla and sweet, but tastes deeper than the regular white filling, kind of like the difference between white and brown sugar. 

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Isolating the creme on its own also doesn’t give much of a maple vibe.  The creme is two-toned, mostly white with a brown circle in the middle, but there is no discernible flavor difference between the two, and they both taste mostly like slightly less sweet vanilla Oreo creme.  Again, there is a tinge of maple presence on the finish, but if I didn’t read the title on the package I never would have guessed these were supposed to be waffles and syrup.  Interestingly, though, when I eat the side of the wafer with the creme on it, open faced style, I get a little bit of a smoky bacon flavor, and it’s probably the closest to breakfast the cookies have tasted.

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These Oreo’s taste good, and they certainly won’t be finding their way into my trashcan, but for something that could have been so delicious they’re ultimately a miss in execution. Have the people at Nabisco never had a maple leaf cookie?  That seems like a good place to start when doing research on a waffle sandwich but I guess they just opted to revert to their already made golden wafer and fill it with a subdued creme. 

To my buds the Waffles & Syrup Oreo are have the reverse effect of the Candy Corn and Peeps variety, which taste just like Golden but sweeter.  When I saw the two-toned creme I thought there would be a different texture like the Filled Cupcake, with a more liquid-y maple center surrounded by buttery flavored creme but…nope.  I never expected these to TRULY taste like warm waffles, but I at least wanted them to taste like a chug of Log Cabin, and really they’re just a maple-kissed vanilla Oreo.

Rating: 7.5/10
Found at: Safeway ($4.29)

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REVIEW: Baskin Robbins Mom’s Makin’ Cookies

Who doesn’t love a freshly baked cookie?  Apparently no one, because for the third year in a row Baskin Robbin’s are bringing back Mom’s Makin’ Cookies as their May flavor of the month.  Actually, to be honest, I think cookies are best once they’ve fully cooled, all the buttery flavors have settled, and the melted chips are no longer a high grade risk for burning my tongue.  Personal preferences aside, paying homage to one of a mother’s classic displays of affection is fitting for mother’s day this weekend, and I’m certainly not upset to see this fully cooked and cooled creation making a return.  Mom’s Makin’ Cookies combines brown sugar flavored ice cream with chocolate chip cookie pieces, chocolate flavored chips, and a cookie dough batter ribbon.

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The brown sugar base is rich and sweet with a golden caramelized flavor that is unique to brown sugar and hints at molasses.  It really does taste like the uncooked base of cookie dough without the gritty chew.  I like this base ice cream a lot, and it’s surprisingly one of the better brown sugar ones I’ve had, with a much deeper flavor and pronounced sweetness than you find in standard vanilla or sweet cream.  I enjoy this slight change so much I’m realizing all cookie dough ice creams should be made with brown sugar bases.

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The chocolate chips are very small but come through with a mini crunch and nice burst of chocolatey flavor that has a touch of bitterness but nothing that stands out too strong.  The ribbon isn’t as prominent as I would like, but it incorporates itself seamlessly with the brown sugar ice cream to give a constant boosted freshly baked cookie experience.

Much different than the usual gritty gobs of dough in a typical CCCD, the chocolate chip cookie pieces have softened in the mix and absorbed some of the lovely milky texture from the ice cream.  They feel and taste like cookies that have been dunked in milk and add a lovely buttery baked component that give a different depth to the chew.

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Through and through Mom’s Makin’ Cookies IS cookie dough ice cream, as opposed to ice cream that has cookie dough IN it.  It doesn’t deliver the same kind of un-cooked chunks of naughty indulgence that the usual cookie dough flavors deliver but it totally nails the experience of eating cookie dough if it were frozen and churned.  If you’re like me and one of the best parts about baking cookies is taking a spoon to the bowl when you’re done, you’re definitely gonna want to scoop this flavor.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Baskin Robbins ($2.99 for a single scoop)

REVIEW: Little G’s Going to the Circus

Growing up with my parents I always loved taking a trip to the grocery store.  Drifting off from my mom at Safeway to look at the toy aisle and peruse all the latest snacks that I probably couldn’t convince her to buy was always a thrill, but on the best days I got to sneak away and go next door to Rite Aid.  No, I wasn’t looking to fill a a prescription or look at their bigger, better toy aisle, but rather, peer into the icy glass case of the Thrifty ice cream counter.  Massive, cheap, oddly shaped scoops from big, sometimes freezer-burnt tubs of ice cream was the best pre-dinner treat, and among my favorite flavors was Circus Animal Cookie.  That childhood classic flavor combined pink and white cookie batter ice cream and chunks of real Mother’s Circus Animal cookies.  It wasn’t the highest quality ice cream, but it was good, and as my childhood nostalgia savior, Little G released the limited time Going To The Circus, which mixes animal cracker ice cream with frosted animal cracker pieces, buttercream frosting, and sprinkles.

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This ice cream is an absolute alley oop slam dunk and-one. The colors are assertive and pop with a childlike aura than translates perfectly to the flavor. The base of the ice cream actually has crumbled up Circus Animal cookies in it, and as with many Little G flavors, the mix in density is crazy.  The base is a bit hard to taste on its own, but the frosted cracker flavor is there and it is big. The combination of the animal cracker base, buttercream, and abundant sprinkles makes this flavor taste not only like Circus Animals, but like the most fun, joyous ice cream birthday cake I’ve ever consumed.

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Speaking of cake, the frosted animal cracker pieces have softened in the ice cream and lost their usual crunch, making them feel a bit more like sponge cake than cookies. This isn’t a bad thing, as they still have a good chew and the chunks are big enough that when paired up with the sprinkles there’s still lots of crunch factor compared to a normal ice cream. Cookie chunks and sprinkles and frosting all swimming in a pool of sweet sweet cream is on another level of childhood indulgence.

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Simply put, eating this ice cream is fun. It’s intense and it’s sweet but completely channels the feeling and after school nostalgia of Circus Animal cookies to a tee.  When I rate an ice cream I think about a number of factors, but ultimately it comes down to did I enjoy eating it and does it deliver on what it set out to do.  The answer to both of those questions with this pint is a resounding yes, and I can’t think of a single thing I would change to make it a sturdier mission accomplished.

Rating: 10/10
Found at: http://www.goldbely.com (use code seanpancake0 to get $25 off your first order!)

REVIEW: Coolhaus Bananas Foster

Coolhaus are a small “architecturally inspired” Los Angeles based gourmet ice cream company founded on making big, craft ice cream cookie sandwiches, or, “cool houses”.  While their sandwiches are the main attraction, their pints have started popping up in Northern California grocery stores, and are now getting distribution in 4,000 stores across the United States, Asia, and the Middle East.  They are a quickly growing company that are simply too hot to ignore, and I was excited to find some of their flavors at my local Safeway.  After perusing all of the options I decided to make my first foray into Coolhaus with something you don’t see too often – Bananas Foster – which combines banana ice cream with a rum-spiked dulce de leche swirl.

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The banana base is great – smooth and creamy with a light but very authentic banana flavor that tastes natural and absolutely nothing like a banana Laffy Taffy.  It isn’t over the top sweet and leaves some room for pleasant vanilla undertones to come through and round out a lovely tropical flavor.  The problem is the flavor is almost so subtle that after a couple spoonfuls it fades away and I’m left with more of a clean vanilla or sweet cream taste than the banana I started with.  The texture is still on point but the dwindling flavor makes it less enticing to want to eat more.

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The rum spiked dulce de leche swirl is also tasty but lacking in some execution as well.  What I like about it is that the texture is nice and thick like a condensed milk, differentiating it as a dulce de leche rather than just a caramel.  It isn’t too sweet but there is also almost no rum flavor whatsoever.  Maybe the rum is tempering the sweetness, but I was hoping for at least some amount of boozy kick and I’m just not finding it.  The swirl also isn’t incorporated very much into the ice cream, predominantly running down the sides, which means I have to dig and scrape the sticky stuff rather than encounter it while eating and that takes a little bit of the fun away.

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Both elements in this pint are of high quality with great texture and subtle restraint, but just missing the mark to give that wow factor I was hoping for.  There’s no doubt Coolhaus makes a solid product, but this flavor needs some kind of crunchy textural element like brûlée-d sugar  and/or more swirl to really take it to the next level.

Rating: 6.5/10