Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dole Real Fruit Bites: Apple Chunks

Yogurt covered fruit snacks are one of those things I really like, yet never remember to buy. So when the nice PR people behind these Dole snacks sent me a box containing three new varieties, I was pretty excited.

I decided to start with the Apple Chunks because I don't think there are enough apple snacks out there. (The other flavors coming up are Pineapple and Mango) The Apple Chunks Real Fruit Bites are sold in bags of six individually wrapped packets with 90 calories each. (Although if you look at the website, it is listed as 80 calories per packet -- so I don't know what happened there.)

There are roughly a dozen individual bites in a packet. The bites are nicely sized -- about the dimensions (and shape) of chocolate covered peanuts. They're lightly coated in vanilla yogurt, with little speckles of whole grain oats.

Their aroma isn't strong, but it is pleasant. Think of sweet and floral apples, and just a little hint of the vanilla yogurt. (It would make a pretty good Yankee Candle!)

As for the taste? The yogurt gives a slightly tart bite that pairs well with ripe, sweet apple. A truly good combination!

The oat flavor was a lot stronger in some chunks than others. On the strongest pieces, it was like having a mouth full of uncooked, solid apple-flavored oatmeal. I much preferred the pieces that had less oats in them (as I am not a huge fan of oatmeal to begin with). But if you love oatmeal, this would be a definite selling point.

The texture is interesting. While not hard or crunchy at all, at the same time it was not mushy or like a jelly candy. I think the best way to describe it would be to say that the texture is firm and almost papery. Imagine an apple that had been cut and left out long enough that the surface moisture was gone, but had not yet turned brown (and thus mushy). I realize that probably sounds strange -- but it's one of those things where the more you eat them, the more you want to eat them. I could see these being tasty in cereals (hot or cold) and even over ice cream.

Yep, these are really good. If you see them, you ought to give them a try.

Sample from company

90 calories per packet

Contains sulfites, milk and soy. Ingredients processed in a facility that handles tree nuts, wheat, and other cereal grains.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Freeze Dried Ice Cream

This review is admittedly aimed at my eight-year-old self who would have thought freeze dried ice cream was just the shiznit. Well, I am no longer eight, but I still picked up this package of freeze dried ice cream in a NASA-themed gift shop at Houston's George Bush International Airport. Sadly, the shop was almost entirely aimed at kids -- and not big kids like me --- but hey, never let it be said that I let pouting get in the way of a possible review! Doing research on the history of freeze dried ice cream (AKA what can I learn from Wikipedia in three minutes or less), it was interesting to note that all these fantastic little packs of ice cream that can be found at gift shops the world over -- and that all proclaim their contents to be genuine astronaut ice cream -- are really only about as accurate as I am when I tell my nephew that I am in fact cool.

Freeze dried ice cream as we know it was developed for the Apollo missions, but actually it ended up flying only on Apollo 7 in 1968. It apparently wasn't very popular, and by the 1970s they were able to send real ice cream up. So yeah, this is "space ice cream" in the sense that it made one single voyage. Kinda in the same sense that I was considered cool once back in 1996, and that for about five minutes. Obviously, this is not filling me with hope. Is it sad to admit, pre-tasting, that I wish the gift shop hadn't been sold out of the ice cream sandwich? The thing is I never, ever eat Neapolitan ice cream in real life. Blame my parents for being too cheap and/or lazy to buy actual good flavors. It's not that I don't like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry alone; I just don't like them together.

So how was my space treat?

The little brick was surprisingly thick. If you have a small group interested in trying it, there's plenty to be shared. It is also surprisingly lightweight for its size -- and surprisingly fragile. As you can see, it shatters like glass quite easily. The texture reminded me of a very dry, very dense meringue that sort of liquefies on your tongue...and yeah, that effect was kind of cool (although the novelty quickly fades). Obviously the "ice cream" is not as creamy as even the lowest of the bargain brands of ice cream, but it does have a vaguely dairy-like mouthfeel. The three flavors varied, so we will talk about them individually:

Strawberry: Had a pleasant berry flavor that actually came off as natural. However, the dairy notes were just plain funky. It reminded me of milk that had been left out too long but had not quite turned yet.

Vanilla: I think this tasted more like "residue of chocolate" than vanilla. Again, the dairy was just funktastic -- even more noticeably than it was with the strawberry. That's probably because there was no real flavor to mask it.

Chocolate: It tastes like freebasing cheap chocolate syrup. Not bad -- but only in the sense that it was the most edible of the three flavors. The chocolate was strong enough to hide the nasty dairy taste.

Yeah, I think I know why the astronauts held out for the real thing. It was fun to try, although I certainly won't be rushing to try more (or even finish this package).

Random gift shop at George Bush International Airport, Houston, Texas


110 calories per 3/4 ounce package


Friday, April 13, 2012

Pepsi Next

Pepsi's new soda for 2012 -- Pepsi Next -- actually makes me feel like I'm time traveling back to roughly 2004; way back in the earlyish days of the turn of the century. (And now I am making us all feel old...sorry.) Back then both Pepsi and Coke debuted products that were not quite "diet" colas, yet not quite full calorie colas either. Remember those? Their lack of specific gender, if you will, made them strangely androgynous and hermaphroditic in a way -- kind of like what Justin Bieber would be if he were a beverage.

Well, the Pepsi Edge of yesteryear has evolved to become this decade's Pepsi Next. Pepsi Edge had 70 calories per can (or 12 ounces). and was sweetened with a blend of high fructose corn syrup and Sucralose. Its "benefit" was that it was supposed to taste more like regular Pepsi while not having all of the calories and carbs of the regular version. Pepsi Edge was discontinued in 2005 (as was Coke's competing soda, C2 -- and later that year both Pepsi Max and Coke Zero were launched, and are still going strong today). Apparently, sales were sluggish, and the most common comment I remember hearing at the time was "If I wanted a diet soda I would just drink one."

Anyway, here we are in 2012 with Pepsi Next. It has 60 calories per can (or 12 ounces) and has what could be a boy band worth of sweeteners -- four total. HFCS, Sucralose, Aspartame & acesulfame potassium are all combined in the hopes of making it taste more like a full calorie soda, but with less calories and carbs.

At least as far as the numbers go, it succeeds. A 12 ounce serving of regular Pepsi has 150 calories and 41 grams of carbs. The issue is -- how many people will this really appeal to? I am admittedly a diet soda drinker (and when I drink regular Pepsi, it is the Pepsi Throwback...sooo worth the calories!), so I don't mind the flavor of diet sodas. But I have noticed that my friends who only drink "regular" tend to dislike the artificial flavor that sweeteners give. If it gets past the "why?" factor, it will of course be the taste that makes or breaks it.

So how does Pepsi Next taste?

It does seem to have a cola taste that is closer to regular Pepsi than Diet Pepsi. (I haven't had Pepsi Max in so long I can't remember it sizes up). There is also a distinct lemony note, even though no such thing is listed on the label. It's more noticeable than that of Pepsi/Diet Pepsi as a rule, but not as strong a lemon as Pepsi Twist had. (And where can I sign a petition to bring that back?!) On one hand, I like the idea of a lemony cola. What I don't like here is that the lemon note is pleasant at first, and then dissolves into a nasty chemical aftertaste.

The carbonation is also dialed down. (It does make an impressive head when poured into a glass, but that head collapses in literally three seconds.) I know a lot of people will like that, because it makes it easier to guzzle without thunderous elephantine belching like I imagine Kim Kardashian does when the cameras are turned off. (Cease and Desist letter in 3...2...1...) For me this is neither a breaking nor a selling point. It's not a bad soda; it just doesn't rock my world. I could be wrong, but I'll give this a year, tops, on the shelf. I just don't see there being enough of a market for a half-cal option. Personally, I would rather just have a smaller portion of Pepsi Throwback.

Be sure to check out these reviews from The Impulsive Buy and Grub Grade.



100 calories per 20 ounce bottle.

Contains phenylalanine.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Nougat Crunch

Ben & Jerry's is on fire lately. I swear they must be reading my mind, because when it comes to this year's batch of new flavors, absolutely everything has sounded good to me.

Chocolate Nougat Crunch is a sweet cream based ice cream with fudge-covered wafer cookies and a chocolate nougat swirl. I am one of those people who loves nougat; be it the soft, fluffy style that you find in candy bars, or the harder Italian-style that has nuts and/or fruit in it. Admittedly, I like the softer style more (and once again, with my recent jaw surgery, soft is all I can have for a while). So I lucked out, because the soft kind is what is used in this ice cream.

Digging into this pint you'll notice that the sweet cream base is indeed both sweet and creamy (imagine that!), and I like the nice, mellow vanilla-ish flavor it leaves in your mouth. What I don't like about it is that once you have had a few spoonfuls, it gets lost in the stronger nougat flavor. I would have liked the base to have been stronger, but it is still tasty.

What I really loved about this pint was the swirl. The day Ben & Jerry's can't make a kickass swirl is the day I stop eating ice cream...but it looks like that ain't happening anytime soon! The swirl is almost like eating a fluid version of a Milky Way bar. It's chocolately, and not surprisingly, it has a nice sweet thing going on. I think On Second Scoop nailed it perfectly when they said it was sort of like chocolate marshmallow (read their review here). Best of all, out of the several pints I have had, all of them had generous pools of swirl!

As for the fudge covered wafers: First, if you are expecting, say, a 'Nilla wafer -- don't. The cute little fudge covered wafer squares reminded me more of sugar wafers, minus the creme filling. I actually think I prefer this type of wafer over something more cookie-like. The texture of the wafers seemed to vary from really crispy, to some that had softened a bit -- kind of like a cake-style ice cream cone does when you get down to the bottom. The wafers are slightly sweet, but don't really have much flavor of their own.

The fudge: if you've ever read one of my reviews where Ben & Jerry's fudge covered anything, then you know that I am not a fan. I regard it as a necessary evil. I know most people don't mind it, but it has yet to win me over. Apart from that, however, no worries -- this is a really good ice cream overall.

So far this really is a great year for Ben & Jerry. I am really loving the lineup! Be sure to also check out The Impulsive Buy's review here.

Albertsons Supermarket


250 calories per 1/2 cup serving.

Allergy information: fudge covered wafer pieces have been manufactured on shared equipment that also processes peanuts and tree nuts.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oreo Birthday Cake Cookie: Limited Edition

I have to thank Jim for his review of the Oreo Birthday Cake cookies, which sent me out on a multi-store hunt to find my own bag. I finally found them at CVS when picking up my prescriptions. Yeah, drugs and cookies...I feel like I should be watching an episode of Weeds. Once I finally had my cookies in hand, I had one other hurdle to jump: the fact that I am still unable to eat anything other than soft food. But I am a trouper! By golly, I was not about to let a little thing like a messed-up jaw keep me away from cake batter flavored Oreos.

OK, so I cheated a little. I don't like to phone in reviews, even if it is only a small portion -- but in this case I decided there was a loophole I could exploit. You see, it is only the creme of the cookie that is flavored with cake batter...and that's pretty soft, right? The actual wafer of the cookie is the classic chocolate Oreo we all know and love. Yes, the cookie is crispy, chocolaty and just like every other Oreo cookie you have ever eaten in your life. (Except that while one side has the classic Oreo design, the other has a birthday candle and the legend "OREO 100" on it.)

Once you have the bag open, out wafts the wonderful sweet scent of yellow cake batter. Even my cats wanted in that package after they smelled the cookies. (No, I didn't let them!) The inner creme, as mentioned, is the real star here. I opted to try it with both a dry and a milk-soaked run. For the dry run, I twisted the top cookie off and did the classic Oreo cookie lick.

When you twist off the top cookie, you are treated to the sight of the sprinkle dappled cream. I was worried that this was going to be one of those things that smelled better than it tastes -- but once again, Oreo delivered. I loved the slight crunch that the sprinkled added. The sweetness of the hint of vanilla tasted even better to me when I dunked the cookie. (I am one of those people who soak Oreos to soggy deliciousness.) So how was it, you ask?

Well, this is possibly the best Oreo ever! Don't take my word for it; this is a limited edition. Go out and get your own bag while it's still available! (Be sure also to check out reviews 0f these cookies at The Impulsive Buy and Foodette Reviews.)