REVIEW: Market Pantry’s Unicorn Magic Ice Cream

From limited run Frappucino’s to breakfast cereal to e-cig vapor juice to the frightening My Little Pony fan boys known as Bronie’s, it’s undeniable how prevalent the unicorn is in our society today. As fun as all of that stuff is, none of it really matters that much to me, but when the uni steps into the ice cream world it officially becomes skillet business. Building off of the relentless hype of the rainbow horse, Target’s Market Pantry brand have delivered Unicorn Magic, which combines a pink fruity ice cream with a sour blue raspberry swirl, frosting swirl, and glitter candy bits.

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REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Glampfire Trail Mix

Until today I had no idea what “glamping” was, and there’s a decent chance you don’t either, so I’ll get ya up to speed. Glamping is short for “glamour camping” and is the hybrid of the lovely outdoor freshness of traditional camping and more posh resort-style hotel amenities of regular vacationing. It truly is the hypothetical best of both world’s, where you can go on a long mind-clearing hike and take a poop into something that flushes before roasting some marshmallows over an easy-to-ignite outdoor fire pit. Speaking of marshmallows, and similarly to my lack of knowledge about glamping, I had no clue Target was getting a new exclusive flavor from Ben & Jerry’s, and was stopped in my tracks when doing my daily perusing of the frozen aisle at my favorite red-clad establishment. Apparently inspired by faux-camping and uber decadent hiking snacks, Glampfire Trail Mix combines chocolate ice cream with crunchy pretzel swirls, marshmallow swirls, and fudge-covered almonds.

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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 Keep Caramel and Cookie On

Malted milk powder is a combination of barley malt, wheat flour, milk powder, and salt. Somehow that combination, originally developed as an infant formula in the early 1900’s, makes for one helluva tasty marriage with lusciously sweet ice cream. Although not seen too often in grocery store pints, the allure and boom of malt has outlasted its soda jerk peak of the 1940’s and still finds ways to sneak into our creamy fantasies every so often. Brand new for 2017, Ben & Jerry’s are inviting us all to chill the eff out with Keep Caramel and Cookie On, which combines a malted caramel ice cream with shortbread cookies, fudge flakes, and a caramel swirl.

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When I think about malt I think about a roast-y funk and when I think about caramel I think about sweet, and this malted caramel base has a nice balance of the two. There’s a noticeable wheat-y funkiness that cuts through the usual hyper-sweet intensity of caramel and creates a flavor very similar to a sweet cream with a little extra pizazz. The malt is less heavy than the vanilla malt in B&J’s Chubby Hubby but more interesting than your standard variety vanilla or B&J’s regular caramel base. I like it, it’s smooth, creamy, fun, and not too sweet, which leaves room for the real caramel to do its purely sugary job with authority.

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The caramel and fudge flakes both serve their purpose – bringing sweetness, texture, and overall variety to the predominantly tan pint. The caramel is straight forward – no salty or burnt notes to be found – integrating itself in thin wispiness throughout the container, and the fudge flakes are in perfect ratio with the other components. Some of the recent flavors from B&J’s have had way too many flakes for their own good, but here they are slightly smaller and less prominent and their melty semi-sweet cocoa presence is very welcome to the equation.

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My favorite component of this calming ice cream are the shortbread cookies. While they don’t stand out as particularly shortbread-y, aka crumbly and slightly firm, they have a great buttery, flour-forward semi-salty flavor with softened baked texture that goes really well with the double caramel profile. The pieces could honestly be sugar cookies or even cake with the way they’ve interacted with the cream, but I’m a sucker for both cake and cookies in frozen form and their mellow flavor really works.

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This is another release from Ben & Jerry’s that’s pretty safe but overall very enjoyable. It isn’t breaking any boundaries but it isn’t disappointing either. The malt in the base adds a bit of intrigue and the balance between all the components, at least in my pint, were spot on. At the very least it’s a far superior flavor to the other Target exclusive it replaced – A Swirled of Difference.

Rating: 8/10
Found at: Target ($4.49)

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REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Frosted Strawberry Donettes

There’s something appealing about mini things. Mini cupcakes, mini peanut butter cups, personal pizzas, sneaky baby bottles of booze…and, donuts, or, Donettes, as Hostess appropriately calls them. These miniature tire-esque circles of sugary delight have always tempted me, and what better time to be lured by temptation than the season of love? To help get our love juices flowing, Hostess have injected their already aphrodisiac-laden chocolate Donettes with another aphro-treat – strawberry, for a fiery start to your Valentine’s Day morning.

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Biting in there is a predominantly sweet but slightly tart strawberry flavor that breaks through the chocolate and stands out pretty powerfully on its own. The two flavors compliment each other well, with the bite beginning on chocolate and gradually transforming to berry, leaving a distinctly artificial strawberry presence on the tongue.  While the taste is artificial and candy-like in nature it isn’t too overwhelmingly sweet, which would have made it difficult to eat more than one or two (not a problem).  Fake strawberry tends to be more agreeable and easily executed than cherry, and these little dough balls are no exception.

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The strongest element of this Donette is its texture. The outside, while still having that classic Hostess waxy element to it, is incredibly soft and thin, giving an airy snap when chewing.  That outer coating is a very distinct texture that for whatever reason works better on mini donuts than any other kind of snack cake.  The inside is very moist, and may be the freshest tasting Donette I’ve ever had from Hostess.  This could be the seasonal advantage of buying a limited item close to its release, as the expiration is still six weeks away and I’m reaping the benefits, or it could just be the luck of the draw with this particular batch.

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Is this a better junky nosh than the classic chocolate frosted Donette with the yellow inside? Nope, not for me; but it is a solid limited release that is much more worthy of burning your calories than even some of the standard editions, like Glazed. It’s got that breakfast cereal-y, Sunday morning strawberry pop that you will find either nostalgic or gross, but for $2 on sale at Target it’s hard to go wrong if you find the plump little fake chocolate ‘nuts as comforting and strangely delicious as I do.

Rating: 7/10

REVIEW: “Sweet Salty” Birthday Cake Popcorn

I love popcorn. I also love cake (see earlier Nuts ‘N More post). When I saw this plainly labeled small red bag of popcorn that boldly read BIRTHDAY CAKE at Target I immediately took a step back and had a greater appreciation for food science. Yes, a lot of folks will say the birthday cake flavor trend is old news but I still get down with it and I am hooked on the crunch of the corn, so I grabbed a bag (or three) and went in with realistic expectations.

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Immediately the bag hits you with a soft vanilla aroma that floats with the springiness of spongecake. It isn’t extremely sharp and harsh like a vanilla extract nor is it too artificial or overly sweet. Although not as strong, the aroma isn’t too far off from marshmallows, but closer to the kind you would find in Lucky Charms than a big bag of Jet-Puffed. The popcorn looks mainly plain and white with occasional small specks of color that are probably supposed to give a nod to sprinkles.

Popcorn is naturally fluffy so the texture play here actually works really well. Initially the difference between popcorn and cake seems gigantic, but when you have them together the fluffiness of the kernels and the sweetness of the seasoning does actually register “cake” with my tastebuds. The cereal-esque marshmallow smell definitely comes to life in the flavor with a dominant sweet vanilla powderiness that is pleasant for repeated crunching.

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I’m sure something like this has been done before, but most likely in a higher sugar coated kind of popcorn, more like a caramel corn or “drizzle corn”. Those things are good but I like my popcorn as more of an abundance snack than rich hyper intense dessert. Although not the strongest birthday cake flavor, the subtle sweet powdered execution on Target’s “Sweet Salty” brand birthday cake popcorn is a win for me; something that works well on its own or mixed with a salty crunch buddy like Skinny Pop, Smartfood, or Boom Chicka Pop – my three faves.

Rating: 7/10