Monday, July 20, 2015

A Tribute to the LTO Dunkin’ Donuts Products of Summer 2015!

A celebration of the co-branded pasties and beverages that made DD the place to be over the sweltering summer months…

By: Jimbo X

The Starbucks/Dunkin’ Donuts dichotomy is one of our culture’s finest contemporary corporate rivalries. On the whole, I think most folks would agree that although Starbucks beverages are more expensive than those at DD, said beverages are also of a much higher quality. However, I also think most fellas would agree that the food offerings at DD kick the crap out of those lame muffins and cold dishes you’ll find at the ‘Bucks. Really, picking a victor here hinges on what you expect out of a java shop. If you want a place to chill, browse the Web and take furtive glances at barista side-boob, then Starbucks it is. If you want a coffee and a handful of doughnuts for five dollars and be left the hell alone for a couple of minutes, then DD is for you. Ultimately, your aversion to second-hand college student smoke and/or guys with paint all over their sweatpants who smell like lawn clippings might just be the decisive factor in picking one chain over the over.

Personally, I prefer Dunkin’ Donuts, because that’s the coffee shop of the proletariat. While junior college dorks and squeaky-clean youth group people populate Starbucks chains from Hartford to Tacoma, every Dunkin’ Donuts in the continental U.S. is staffed, operated and frequented by real Americans. It’s the third generation Chinese immigrants who put boxes of China Daily right next to the local newspaper, just because. It’s black dudes wearing camouflage hunter caps and Hispanic laborers and cashier girls from the Virgin Islands hobnobbing with Jersey-transplant vet clinic workers who wear too much green eye shadow and 40-year old men in raggedy Slayer t-shirts who literally mouth “fuck” as soon as the walk through the store’s double doors. Dunkin’ Donuts doesn't need to ask you to talk to them about race relations -- all things considered, Dunkin’ Donuts IS the ultimate statement on U.S. race relations, anyway; an entire nation of people, of all tongues, hues and hair colors, coming together to bask in that which makes America truly great -- mass consumption of sugar and fried stuff.

Speaking of irresistible high-calorie slop, the chain wheeled out a couple of newfangled Oreos and Chips Ahoy!-themed products over the summer. Ever one to bask in the ephemeral glow of corporate branded food products flavored to taste like other corporate branded food products, I spent May through July sampling virtually EVERY Nabisco-licensed permutation the chain had to offer. Needless to say, these were some damned fine limited-time-offerings, and stuff my tongue already misses.


Now here is a seasonal delicacy that only me and my regional kinfolk got to experience. As the official bakery of the Atlanta Braves, I suppose it just makes sense for the chain to also produce a doughnut bearing the official MLB team insignia.

As far as the accuracy of the caked-on logo, it’s pretty respectable. To me, it kind of looks more like the University of Alabama “A” than the Braves symbol, but hey -- decorating shit with a squeeze tube of frosting ain’t easy, y’know.

Granted, it’s a neat idea and all (if nothing else, it’s worlds better than those dumb Major League Baseball Pop-Tarts currently collecting dust on store shelves across America,) but the fundamentals are working against it as a breakfast time offering. To begin with, the metric ton of blue frosting really makes it off-putting for an on-the-commute nom, since it dyes everything it touches -- tongues, teeth and whatever cloth it unfortunately assails -- a deep green hue. Surely, some sap working in Alpharetta or Suwanee has ordered one of these things on a whim, chucked it down his gullet and ignorantly walked into a boardroom meeting, with a mouth looking like he just made out with a Swamp Thing cosplayer.

That said, it is a pretty tasty product, overall, and it gets bonus points for really sticking to the team paint job. Guess what kind of jelly is contained inside the pastry’s shell? Oh, that’s right, a nice, goopy red strawberry jam -- such lovely attention to detail, right there. That got me wondering: for folks who live in other MLB markets, does Dunkin Donuts offer similar MLB-themed products? If so, I’d love to see what a Houston Astros doughnut looks like. Or a Florida Marlins one. Got pictures of ‘em? Feel free to pass them along, folks.


The Chips Ahoy! Crunch Doughnut is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a big, chocolate pastry, topped by a big, heaping handful of chopped up cookie. It’s not the most nuanced culinary exhibition in the world, but who cares how a product is made just as long as it tastes good?

Thankfully, this sugar-laden cross-branded item brings the goods. Combining a flaky fried husk with high octane chocolate is always a recipe for enthusiasm, but once you add crumbled up store-bought cookies into the equation, things really get taken to another level. Sure, it may not be as exciting as the Ghostbusters doughnuts released by Krispy Kreme last Halloween, but it's nonetheless a tasty, limited-time-only treat. The question now is, do you think DD can work out some kind of arrangement with Keebler for some E.L. Fudge donut holes by next spring?


On the outside, the Chips Ahoy! Crème Doughnut is virtually identical to the Crunch variation. Same pastry base, same chocolate exoskeleton, same dollop of crumbled up cookie … they’re kissin’ cousins if there ever were ones. Alas, once you bite into the Crème permutation, you’ll notice something very, very unique about the offering … if not something outright brilliant.

Before I took a chunk out of the doughnut, I was expecting a chocolaty interior. I mean, it just made sense -- the exterior frosting is chocolate, and that would give it a nice layered texture and mouthfeel. Imagine my surprise, however, when I discovered the gooey, molten core of the product wasn’t Bosco’s syrup, but god-damn mother-fucking cookie dough! What an incredibly ingenious idea for a fast food item. You’re eating something with a cookie motif on the outside, and on the inside of said product, it’s even more cookie, this time in its larval/embryo form that we can all agree actually tastes better than the finished product.

This is just a beautiful product, all the way around. Although I’m far from a Dunkin’ Donuts regular, if the chain offered stuff like this on a regular basis, I’d probably swing by at least once a week. After all, these are the same folks who gave us cookie themed pastries with cookie dough goop inside them … that alone just demands reverence, if not flat-out allegiance.


Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the chain’s co-branded seasonal beverages, as well. Basically, the big two newfangled offerings over the season were Oreos and Chips Ahoy! flavored takes on the company’s pre-existing iced coffee and Coolatta beverages. For the sake of diversity, I decided to try one co-branded item per, uh, co-brand. Up first, we’ve got the Oreos Iced Coffee which tasted like … well, an iced coffee, loaded with sugar, with bits of Oreos crème mixed into the cup. Obviously, there weren’t any actual chunks of sandwich cookie floating around in the mix (I think?), but the product did indeed taste quite a bit like the candy section staple. Frankly, it’s a bit difficult to spiel on and on about the drink … it’s an iced coffee that just tastes like damned Oreos. As long as you like Oreos (the normal kind, not the kind that taste like esoteric fruits), you’ll probably dig this, too.


I’m still not 100 percent sure what a “Coolatta” is supposed to be, honestly. It’s kind of a hybrid iced slush cappuccino thing, but with a ton of whipped crème up top (and, in this case, sprinkled with tons and tons of cookie dust.) Really, it tastes more like a milkshake than any cup o’ Joe I’ve ever tasted, and that’s a good thing. In the summer months especially, you just want to try something different, and this here Chips Ahoy! Coolatta bring the “different” in spades.

The “coffee” aspect of the beverage is rather minimal, but that’s probably for the best. There’s not a particularly pronounced cookie taste, either (except towards the top of the drink), but its nonetheless a yummy little offering. Visually, it’s quite the sight, as the swirling vortex of cookie bric-a-brac and vanilla run-off almost resembles a lava lamp … or the surface of Jupiter. And any time a coffee shop offering reminds me of ill-conceived apocalyptic predictions, you know I’m going to give ‘em a thumbs up.

See! I wasn't bullshitting about the China Daily box, neither.

Well, there you have it, folks. Throughout the sweltering summer months, Dunkin’ Donuts was there, providing us with a whole slew of products that cooled our innards and probably gave us gingivitis. While nothing on tap over the last few months was world-changing, at the same time, it’s pretty hard to not get just a wee bit excited about coffees and pastries that taste like Oreos. The template for a long-running, pumpkin spice latte-like semi-annual tradition is quite strong here -- maybe next year, they can wheel out the long-desired Cotton Candy Oreos frappucinno we all had no idea we secretly yearned for? Ultimately, the chain’s partnership with Nabisco proves limitless co-branding opportunities. That smell you’re detecting in the background, dear reader? That’s just the proverbial money truck, rolling by Dunkin’ Donuts’ headquarters as we speak


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