Thursday, February 13, 2014

Moonlight Motel Guest Reviews: Eric F.'s Old Favorites in New Flavors

Hey folks, Monty Moonlight here! So, it's Valentine's Day, a day I personally detest and resent. I've given my share of glorious gifts on this special day of days over the years, but I have yet to receive one Valentine myself, not including the mandatory ones you get in elementary school. What a joke. But if there are two things Valentine's Day is good for, the first is enjoying it with someone usually in the same boat as me: Charlie Brown. Be sure to tune in for that one tonight on your television set or pop in your DVD. Heck, search for it online if you have to, I'm sure it's here somewhere! Anyway, the second thing Valentine's Day is good for is drowning your sorrows in candy and other goodies, so this is a perfect time to post this guest review from reader and friend of this site, Eric F.

Now, Eric is our Boston correspondent, so to speak, but don't worry, the items he'll be reviewing today are mostly if not all found here in the Austin, TX area too (I know 'cause I seen 'em).  Eric is known to us as a fan of trying all those wacky, limited time flavors of old classics that have been coming out lately! He is particularly fond of testing the newest M&M's and Oreos, though he doesn't stop there! Today, he fills us in on all of such goodies he has been scrutinizing on his palate lately in this first Moonlight Motel guest feature. So, without further ado, I turn you over to Eric F. and his New Flavor Review!

Hello all,

First off, I’d like to take a moment to express my sincere thanks to Monty for inviting me to post a food review to his site as a guest reviewer. He has certainly posted some excellent food reviews here, so I consider it a privilege to have a review of my own among the crowd.

Ok, a little bit about me. My name is Eric F. and, like a lot of people, I like sweets. I wouldn’t consider myself a die-hard candy fanatic, nor do I know all of the candy brands out there by any means. But I’m familiar with most of the common, everyday brands. While I enjoy eating the “regular” types of various candies/chocolates/cookies, I especially like to try out the limited edition flavors. The latter are often Target exclusives, or in some cases Wal-Mart exclusives, so finding them is always a feeling of coming across something special and unique. So, in this review I will briefly give my opinions on limited edition flavors of Oreo cookies, M&M’s, and a few other limited edition/special edition foods I’ve come across recently.

I’ll begin with one of the classic chocolate candies, the one and only M&M’s. One thing to note about these M&M flavor variations is that they are all larger than the regular M&M’s, although I’m not sure why. My first adventure with the recent limited edition flavors began last summer, when I tried out the Target-exclusive White Chocolate. The verdict: awesome, although there isn’t much to say in terms of describing them. They are what they claim to be – good ol’ white chocolate, no more, no less. If you like white chocolate you will like them. If you don’t, you won’t like them. Simple as that. 

Next up is the Target-exclusive White Chocolate Peppermint. The verdict: awesome as well, with just the right amount of mint flavor and aftertaste. Next up, Holiday Mint. Although I bought these at Target, I don't think they're exclusive to there. The Verdict: not bad, but nothing too memorable. 

Next up, the Target-exclusive White Chocolate Candy Corn. The Verdict: good, but coming very close to entering the overly-sweet range. But on the upside, the candy corn taste is very authentic. 

Next up, Coconut. Ok, this isn’t a limited edition (although I believe it was when it was first introduced, and then became a permanent flavor). I wanted to mention it because after just one bag it has become one of my two favorite M&M flavors. Love it, love it. I love pretty much anything coconut, and while these M&M’s could be a tad more “coconut-y” the flavor is very authentic. Good stuff. 

Next up, Raspberry, which I found at CVS Pharmacy. They came in a small bag. Haven’t seen them anywhere else, interestingly enough, although I highly doubt a place like CVS would ever have an M&M exclusive flavor. The verdict: Not bad, but definitely not among my favorite M&M flavors. I’m only a moderate fan of raspberry flavor – I like the actual fruit a lot, but it’s been hit-and-miss for me when it comes to raspberry-flavored candies. I probably wouldn’t buy them again. 

Next up, Cherry Cordial and Cherry. I don’t know if these are limited editions or not, but it was the first time that I’ve seen them. I’m grouping these 2 M&M’s into one category because while they have different names, they’re pretty much the same thing. I couldn’t tell any difference between the 2. The verdict: pretty good, but not great. I had the same issue with them that I’ve had with every other cherry-flavored chocolate variety: not enough cherry taste. I don’t know what it is about the cherry flavor, but IMO it’s never translated that well into chocolates. 

Next up, Gingerbread, a Wal-Mart exclusive. The verdict: quite good. The actual gingerbread flavor comes more as an aftertaste than anything else, but it’s very pleasant. 

And last, but certainly not least, is the Target-exclusive Pumpkin Spice. Perhaps one reason why these are my favorite M&M’s (along with the aforementioned Coconut) is because for a time, they were elusive to me. I had read about them many times but seemed to never find them. Every Target I went to said that they had them earlier but sold out within minutes, literally. It took me a visit to 4 Targets before I found them. With these, I’m sure it was a matter of being at the right place at the right time, and the fourth time was the charm for me. The Target where I found them had pretty much a full shelf, so I went with 6 bags. The way I figured it, 6 bags made it worth the time (and gas money) I spent to find them, while at the same time leaving plenty for others and not making me one of those greedy folks who clean up aisles and don’t leave anything for anyone else. The verdict: can you guess? I love them. As with the Gingerbread, the pumpkin spice flavor is more of an aftertaste, although after eating a lot of them one will notice on their palate that the pumpkin spice flavor is somewhat present at first as well. Honestly, the taste leans more towards the “spice” in “pumpkin spice,” but that’s not a bad thing. These are just flat-out tasty. Now, if you don’t like pumpkin at all then you most likely won’t be a fan of them. One does need to like the general taste of pumpkin. But if one does, Pumpkin Spice M&M’s hit the spot.

In conclusion, I've really enjoyed most of the limited edition M&M flavors I've tried in these past several months, and look forward to future new flavors. I know that there's at least one recent limited edition flavor that I haven't had, the Wal-Mart exclusive White Chocolate Carrot Cake, which they had last year during Easter. Here's hoping that they bring it back this year. But just now I was able to find the Wal-Mart exclusive Red Velvet, which is available now for Valentine's Day. I really liked these, despite having read some mediocre reviews. I admit that the actual cake's flavor isn't present, however, the frosting definitely is, and that's what sold me on this one. Hats off to M&M's for yet another solid flavor entry.

Next up is America’s Favorite Cookie (as the slogan goes), the always-popular Oreo. I love the originals, either with or without milk. As far as I’m concerned, one can never go wrong with Oreo’s. Last summer I read about 2 new Target-exclusive Oreo limited edition flavors, Watermelon and Ice Cream. Both were very easy to find, with plenty in stock. The verdict: I liked the Watermelon, although I found it to be overly sweet. On the upside, the taste of the Watermelon was very authentic and present. I think it’s safe to say that watermelon isn’t exactly an easy flavor for a pastry filling, and they definitely got it right. I can’t remember exactly which specific flavor the Ice Cream ones tasted like, and maybe that’s because it really wasn’t a specific flavor, but rather, just a sweet-tasting concoction of a pastry filling. So, it didn’t make as much of an impression on me. 

Next up, Candy Corn, another Target-exclusive. The verdict: quite tasty, authentic candy corn flavor, and not overly sweet. Thumbs up from me. 

Next up, Banana Split, which I found at a supermarket chain called Stop & Shop. That’s the only place I saw them, although they may have been available at other locations. The verdict: another winner. What’s most impressive about these is the sheer difficulty of combining all those flavors so that each one was noticeable but not dominating. And the cookie construction was rather brilliant: one chocolate cookie, one vanilla cookie, and then the filling as the strawberry and banana flavors. It all came together nicely. 

Next up, Candy Cane, yet another Target-exclusive I believe. The verdict: awesome! A nice minty taste (but not too minty), and tiny bits of candy cane inside the filling that added a unique texture (but again, not overly so). 

Next up, Winter Oreos, which were basically regular Oreos but with a red filling and holiday designs on the cookies. The verdict: didn’t see the point to these. Sure, they tasted great like the originals do, but they didn’t bring anything new to the table. I wouldn’t buy them again. 

Next up, White Fudge Covered. This was a rather unusual Oreo in two ways. For one, they came in a much smaller packaging, paper instead of plastic, with just 10 cookies I believe. And two, they were simply regular Oreo cookies coated in a thin layer of white chocolate, as the name suggests. I didn't care much for these, as they were way too sweet and rather uninteresting. 

Next up, Lemon, which I found at another supermarket chain here called Market Basket. Not sure if they’re being sold at other locations but I would assume so. The verdict: quite good, with an authentic flavor, but not too sweet. 

And finally, Oreo’s brand new flavors, Cookie Dough and Marshmallow Crispy. I had been under the impression that these are Target exclusives, but someone I know said that he found them at Wal-Mart this week. The first one I tried was the Marshmallow Crispy. The verdict: excellent! Just the perfect amount of sweetness. I can't say that the "crispy" part is very noticeable, in fact it simply blends in with the overall eating experience of the cookie, but the marshmallow taste is definitely there. 

Next, the Cookie Dough. The verdict: a huge let-down. I would even go as far as saying that this is my least favorite Oreo ever. Before I tried it for myself, I had read several reviews saying that they were a major disappointment, with barely any cookie dough in the creme. Well, not only is that true, but I'll go even farther and say that there is NO cookie dough at all. It's merely a chocolate-flavored Oreo, and not even with a very good chocolate flavor at that. The packaging boasts that there are chocolate chips in the creme, and there are, but they're far from chips, and do nothing to enhance the taste. They're merely tiny little chocolate "flakes" at best. So, Oreo dropped the ball with these. But hey, they really got it right with the Marshmallow Crispy, so I suppose that balances things out. Well that's about it for my Oreo reviews. Despite the very "blah" Cookie Dough, Oreo has put out some terrific limited editions as of late.

Up next, I'd like to briefly review some miscellaneous foods that I've found recently. First, 2 limited edition Pringles chip flavors, Pecan Pie and Cheeseburger. The former I found at Target and the latter at Wal-Mart, and I have no idea if they are exclusive to those stores or not. Ok, so let's start with the more "exotic" of the 2 flavors, Pecan Pie. You gotta give Pringles credit for the sheer audacity of this flavor, regardless of your opinion of the actual taste. And as for the actual taste, amazingly, it's just like pecan pie. I was able to taste the pecans, the gooey filling and even the crust. Yes, it's a sweet chip, but that's to be expected. All in all I liked them. I wouldn't buy them regularly, but I was impressed with the authentic flavor. And the Cheeseburger Pringles? One word: outstanding. Again, it's amazing how they pulled it off, and in some ways this one is even more amazing since every flavor is present: the bun, meat, cheese, onion, ketchup and mustard. Well, I'm not totally sure about the onion in terms of whether it's really present or not, but I thought I detected it. I think Pringles has some more current limited edition flavors out there now, but I have yet to try them.

Next up, I'll briefly talk about the new Werther's Original Caramel Popcorn. At $4.99 a bag they're rather steep, and I think this price will deter at least some people from buying them. And as with bags of potato chips, just more than half the bag is full. So a slight deduction for that, Werthers. But trust me when I say that the taste makes up for it. Wow, these are great. Forget what you know about their hard caramel candies - these caramel-coated popcorn literally melt in your mouth. Each popcorn has just some caramel coating it, so the caramel's sweetness never overpowers the overall flavor, even with several pieces in one's mouth at a time. Despite the questionable price tag I'd recommend these for sure.

Ok, so up until now I've been talking about candies that I've liked for the most part. So how about turning the tides and shaking things up a little by mentioning some things that made me want to hurl? This past holiday season the Polar Seltzer company decided to come out with 4 limited edition flavors of their ever-popular seltzer. Now, I'll begin by saying that I'm actually a HUGE fan of Polar Seltzer, and would even say that it's my favorite carbonated beverage. I consider it a great alternative to soda. Don't get me wrong, I also enjoy the occasional regular soda. But Polar Seltzer offers the same carbonated drinking experience with zero sugar and zero calories, with many delicious fruit flavors to choose from (my personal favorites being Blueberry, Black Cherry and Georgia Peach). So what's not to love? Well, there WAS plenty to not love about their "interesting" choices for the 4 limited edition holiday flavors: Butter Rum, Toasted Coconut Creme, Mint Chocolate and Fudge Cheesecake. These flavors were the perfect example of just-because-you-can-doesn't-mean-you-should. On the upside (if an upside can be applied here, I'm not sure), the flavors were authentic, as are all of their flavors. They delivered what they promised in terms of taste. But that's where any praise ends, because, simply put, these flavors were never meant to be beverages. It's as simple as that. The whole thing was just...wrong, with the most offensive flavor hands-down being the Fudge Cheesecake. The worst part about this one was that at first it tastes like rubbing alcohol. Mind you, I have never drank rubbing alcohol, nor would I recommend it. But I've smelled it. And Polar Seltzer Fudge Cheesecake smells like rubbing alcohol. And no, this isn't one of those brain tricks that makes one taste what they smell at first. I was tempted to spit out the first mouthful I had, but managed to swallow it, just to see what the taste would turn into. Sure enough, the fudge cheesecake flavor eventually made its appearance, after about 5 seconds. But it wasn't a good fudge cheesecake flavor in and of itself. And even if it was, having to first taste something that one uses to sterilize items with kind of ruins the experience, I must say. If I were to put a "Least Off-Putting" prize ribbon on one of the flavors, it would be the Toasted Coconut Creme, but even that one just has something not right about it. I really don't know what Polar Seltzer was thinking with these flavors, and I'm sure they must have scared off many people whose first time drinking Polar Seltzer was with these. I know that I would be. I still continue to be their fan, but holy crap, I wish I could have these 4 flavors permanently erased from my memory.

So that's it for my food review. Hope you enjoyed reading, and thanks again to Monty for letting me post!

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