Monday, December 24, 2012

A Round-Up of the Seasonal Foodstuffs of Christmas 2012

‘Tis the Seasonto Enjoy Oddly Shaped-and-Tasting Limited-Time-Only Candies!

For the last two Halloweens, I’ve done a round-up of the limited-time only, seasonal foodstuffs that come out around the Samhain season, and since so many limited-time, Christmas-themed candies are out on the market this year, I decided, what the heck, why not review a couple of those, too.

Let me start off by saying that there is a DELUGE of Christmas-themed variations out this year. Seriously, take a stroll down the seasonal aisle of the neighborhood big box store, and you’ll encounter literally DOZENS of permutations per brand of popular offerings like M&Ms and Oreos. Virtually every major candy bar I can think of has at least one Yuletide variation out there, from Snickers shaped like nutcrackers to these weird Butterfingers coins imprinted with miscellaneous Christmas images. Clearly, there’s no shortage of holiday-branded, limited-time-only items for you to load up in your shopping cart in 2012, so I decided to just snag five completely random foodstuffs and give them a proper look (and taste) see. The end results? Some good, some bad, and a whole hell of a lot of unusual among them both.

First up, we’ve got Reese’s Trees, which, if you couldn’t tell, are supposed to be Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, only shaped like Christmas flora. The company tried something very similar last Halloween, only substituting pumpkins for trees, and yeah, I was a pretty big fan of the reshaped goods.

I’ve noticed that the packaging for the products fluctuate pretty heavily, so you have tons of options as a consumer. You can pick up a single cup for about 50 cents, or an entire burlap sack for about five dollars. There’s nothing really different about the candies, other than the shapes, so if you’re anticipating any kooky flavors (Fir? Cedar?), I’m afraid you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Maybe the local Target employees like to run down the aisles with battery-powered hairdryers, because literally every individually wrapped candy in my bag was heavily warped to some degree. Like snowflakes, no two Reese’s Trees appear to be exactly alike, and for that matter, very few of them even remotely resemble Christmas trees. Upon further review, maybe they should’ve called these things “Reese’s Noses” instead?

It really wouldn’t be a proper holiday season without at least one limited-time only Pop-Tart permutation, and this year, there’s about three or four on store shelves. Since I’m not a real big fan of gingerbread flavored anything, I decided to pick up a box of Marshmallow Hot Chocolate ‘Tarts instead.

The packaging here is pretty rudimentary, and unlike the Spookalicious Pop-Tarts that now seem to be an annual offering, the folks over at Pop Tart, Inc. didn’t even have the common decency to give us something funky to cut out and play with on the back of these Christmas pastries boxes. When breakfast treat competitors are giving us cardboard cutout Cap’n Crunch Jack O’ Lantern stencils, you KNOW you’ve got to do better than this.

As far as the gustatory and textural quality of the pastries, I’d say they’re pretty passable. Any long time Tart enthusiast, however, will quickly realize that this things taste a LOT like the S’mores-flavored Pop-Tarts that have been out on store shelves for years, which has me thinking that this seasonal products are really nothing more than full-time products simply painted in a different glaze of icing.

This year, I think there are officially more M&Ms variations out there than there are states in the union, and of the five million permutation out there, I reckoned that these peppermint flavored editions were the most “limited” AND “seasonal” sounding of the bunch.

I don’t think the overpowering scent of these candies can be adequately described in the English language. As soon as you open up the bag, your olfactory glands get gangbanged by a nuclear waft of peppermint, a scent I would say is comparable to the odor of an exploded spearmint chewing gum factory. Seriously, you could open up a bag of these, set them out on a table, and a good 99 percent of the earthly population will think you just dumped a bag of potpourri all over the carpet.

It’s really hard to describe the experience of eating these things. When you get down to the chemical nuts and bolts, these things, technically, taste like regular M&Ms, but the overpowering scent kinda’ tricks your brain into thinking you’re swallowing a ladle of undiluted cinnamon. You know how those candy corn M&Ms made me kinda’ nauseous back in October? Well, these things did pretty much the same thing, leading me to assume that at least SOME of the additives Mars is putting in these things are unfit for human consumption.

It seems like every major holiday, Little Debbie releases about quintillion metric tons of seasonal mass-market baked goods, and this Christmas is no exception. Try going through the dessert section of your local grocery store, and tabulating ALL of the holiday-themed cookies, brownies and crackers with the Little Debbie stamp on them. If your calculator doesn’t have exponential notation, I don’t think you can.

So, yeah, Christmas Tree brownies. They’re brownies, only painted with green icing, and dotted with multicolored “ornaments” of sugar. And unlike Reese’s hilarious attempt to reproduce nature in dessert form, Little Debbie’s trees actually resemble by-god plant life.

All in all, I’d say these treats are pretty good. Despite the funky colored icing, it tastes like pretty much every other snack cake you’ve ever had before, which is more of a positive than a negative. And I really liked the design of the brownies, too; I imagine if you had enough free time, you could have a hoot and half painting the uncolored side of these things to resemble the spaceship from “Galaga” - which, pending these things get released in 2013, I can almost guarantee you a 115 percent that I will be doing this time next year.

And lastly, we come to Winter Oreos, which are one of numerous Christmasy-ish variations released by Nabisco this holiday season. The packaging promises us both red crème and FOUR fun winter shapes, but does it actually deliver?

Well, before I give you my take, let me address how much I HATE these newfangled Oreo packages. You see, instead of being normal packages, they want you to lift open the packages, which sounds pretty agreeable until you realize that it makes it EXTREMELY difficult to rattle out the cookies on the far ends of the rows. So unless you have fingers like Gollum, you pretty much HAVE to shake the hell out of the package to dislodge all of the goodies within.

So, the candies themselves? Well, sure enough, you get four different imprints - which, last time I checked, aren’t the same thing as shapes, but what the hell over, and yes, the filling is indeed red and gory looking. The catch here is, the cookies are completely the same as the normal Oreos, only with different stampings and icing the color of menstrual fluid as opposed to mayonnaise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty yummy, but what the heck, Nabisco! How hard would it have been to flavor that crimson junk like cranberries or something?

With 2013 upon us, I guess these things won’t be on store shelves for too much longer. I wouldn’t say anything I’ve reviewed today is worth going out of your way to experience, but any human being that can say no to peanut butter cups and toaster pastries shaped like bushes and flavored like cappuccinos is somebody I wouldn’t want to be commingling with around the holidays, anyway. Good, bad, it really doesn’t matter; like the Christmas spirit itself, these things are here today, gone tomorrow and a distant memory eight months from now. Enjoy ’em while you can folks; after all, it’s only 364 shopping days left until NEXT Christmas, you know…


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