Monday, October 30, 2017

A Round-Up of the Seasonal Foodstuffs of Halloween 2017!

Yep - it's time for our seventh annual wrap-up of the best, weirdest and ickiest seasonally-appropriate, limited-time-only foods, snacks and drinks of the Halloween season. Warning: your eyes may get diabetes from reading this.

By: Jimbo X

It's officially Halloween, which means I am required by Internet law to wrap up the month of October with an article highlighting the miscellaneous, seasonally-appropriate foodstuffs I've been chewing on and slurping up since late August. 

I've been doing this pretty much every year since 2011, and at this point, I'm kinda' burned out on the concept. For one, there just doesn't seem to be as many out-there, limited-time-only Halloween foods making the grocery store rounds these last couple of years, with many manufacturers simply pumpkin spicing their regular products instead of giving us something worth going out of our ways to try, like solid black Whoppers and Starbucks drinks modeled after Dracula.

Still, there was no shortage of kooky and kitschy seasonal products glutting store shelves and fast food places this Hallow-season, and it would be a disservice to the Internet as a collective to not recap, recount and reminisce on the wacky, whimsical foods and drinks that were. Pry open those trick or treat bags, kiddos - it's time to chow down on last slice of Halloween ephemera 'til next year.

Brach's Football Candy Corn!

OK, so maybe it's not technically Halloween-related, but come on, football and Halloween are pretty much inseparable aspects of the same season, and if we're going to include a whole bunch of random pumpkin spice flavored shit on the list, we might as well include these, too. Some people have a deep aversion to candy corn, but I've always enjoyed it, and for my money, nobody makes it better than Brach's, whose LTO football-shaped candies are certainly no deviation from the brand's overall quality. What's really cool, though, is that each candy tastes different; the brown ones have a milk chocolate taste, the dark brown ones have a dark chocolate flavor and the orange-looking ones have a noticeable caramel tinge to 'em. The visuals are pretty impressive too - I mean, just look at all those divots embedded on the candies, just like a real football

Sonic's Pumpkin Pie Master Shake!

So this is an annual seasonal offering from the brand, which I've somehow missed out on the last few years. I've never really tried a pumpkin pie flavored ice cream that tasted even remotely authentic, and this, unfortunately, is no exception. It does, however, get some bonus points for the extra layer of whipped creme and those crunchy, pecan-like flakes up top. All in all, it ain't a bad little shake, even if it is a little bit too subdued - conceptually, aesthetically and nutritionally - for the season.

Apple Pie Oreos!

To be frank, I've gotten tired of writing about LTO Oreos, and I have no earthly clue how apple pies directly tie into the fall theme, but I will be goddamned if these aren't some of the best special edition Oreos I've ever tasted. I'm not sure if I would call the interior creme an authentic apple pie facsimile, but it's nonetheless one of the better tasting twist-top cookies I've tasted in a long time. If these things are still on shelves near your neck of the woods, definitely give 'em a try - Halloween gimmick or not, these things are just A-plus junk food.

Cookies & SCREEM M&Ms!

So I take it these things are supposed to taste like Oreos-flavored M&Ms, right? Eh, I didn't really feel it, but I definitely dug the LTO product's aesthetics. While there is this thin layer of cookie wrapped around the interior chocolate core, the overall taste is actually kinda' negligible. All in all, it pretty much tastes like your run of the mill M&M, only it looks more like a scuffed up bowling ball than usual. Which, yeah, is probably worth the slight up-charge in price. Maybe.

Starbucks Dark Mocha Frappuccino!

Starbucks actually released a number of limited-time-only drinks for Halloween this year, so it's not really surprising that the Dark Mocha Frappuccino kinda' fell to the wayside. I mean, there were drinks released by the chain this fall that were supposed to mimic fuckin' zombies (yeah, more on that in just a bit) and something like this just can't compete in today's Instagram-driven culture. As you'd imagine, the super-sugary beverage was one part iced coffee drink, one part whipped creme orgy and one part crunched up Oreo cluster-fuck. Which, for what it's worth, isn't that bad - 'tis a shame the whole thing devolves into a hyper-saccharine mush by the time you're halfway through it, though.

Starbucks Limited Edition Bottled Pumpkin Spice Latte!

Thanks to the PSL, Halloween has more or less turned into three months of companies making every product they manufacture taste like pumpkin spice. And while Starbucks has been producing bottled pumpkin spice frappuccinos for wholesalers like Costco and Sam's for quite a few years now, I'm pretty sure this is the first time the company has sold bottled versions of its' PSL as standalone offerings at gas stations and big box mart freezers coast to coast. Unfortunately, this cold-version of the iconic Starbucks drink doesn't taste anything like the marquee, season-defining beverage. Instead, it tastes like chocolate milk with huge chunks of cinnamon and nutmeg in it, and I'll be Allah-damned if the soup itself doesn't look like liquid diarrhea with pencil shavings in it. Seriously, once you see it, you can't unsee it

McDonald's McCafe Pumpkin Spice Latte!

This PSL imitator has been around for years and years now, but I didn't get around to trying it until this autumn. To be perfectly honest with you, I thought it wasn't that bad. In fact, it's probably one of the better PSL wannabes out there, a beverage that's quite clearly above grade for most gas station pumpkin spice coffees and maybe only a notch or two below the stuff being hawked at Dunkin' Donuts. That, and it goes WAY better with Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders and Sriracha dipping sauce than you'd expect. Significantly better, actually.

Pillsbury Grands! Pumpkin Spice Rolls!

First off, apologies for not including a shot of the can - I forgot to take a snapshot before I exploded that motherfucker, and I am NOT rummaging through the garbage like a raccoon just to show you people the fragments. These things were pretty much what you would expect - sumbitches were extra flaky, and the proprietary cinnamon dipping sauce was gooey as all hell. Oddly enough, the sauce itself didn't taste all that pumpkin spicy, while the rolls themselves had a very noticeable Starbucks-esque cinnamon kick. Anyhoo, it's good stuff all around, if not a bit boring, aesthetically.

Aldi's Lunch Buddies Halloween Fruit Flavored Snacks!

You know it's a weak year for Halloween-themed comestibles when you've reduced yourself to scouring the aisles of Aldi for decent-ish, seasonally-thematic goods. Anyhoo, these artificial fruit chewy snacks are all modeled after miscellaneous Halloween iconography. You've got grape witch hats, lemon spiders, cherry skulls and my personal favorite, the orange Jack O Lanterns. Overall, these were quite a bit better than I thought they would be, and the sculpting on the individual snacks were pretty impressive. That said, it took me forever to realize that one piece was supposed to be a cat - I spent about half an hour thinking it was some kind of half-man, half-monkey hunchback at first.

Pumpkin Patch Orange Pop Rocks!

I've been seeing these things at every Dollar Tree in a 50-mile radius for the last four Halloweens, and oddly enough, that seems to be the only time I see Pop Rocks (or as Sonic and Taco Bell have to call 'em for legal reasons, "popping candy") on store shelves at all these days. It's been years since I've tried the candies, and I have to admit, that tingly sensation is still one of the most idiosyncratically unique experiences in the wide-world of junk foods. These "pumpkin patch" candies came in a pseudo-citrus combination of orange and green, although each seemed to have the exact same off-orange artificial taste.And yes, I know dumping them atop a geode makes them look just like a big old pile of crystal meth, but maybe that was my intent all along. Really, the flavor is negligible, and it's all about that foamy, tingling sensation - which makes me wonder what it would feel like to get a hummer from my girl with a packet of these in her mouth. Anybody out there already tried it and want to give me the lowdown before going all 50 Shades here?

Starbucks Zombie Frappuccino!

Well, you knew this was going to make an appearance at some point on the countdown. This is the limited time only beverage the chain chose to replace the Frappula, which - as we all know by now - is one of my favorite seasonal, LTO gimmick products ever in history. So naturally, I'm going to be just a smidge bitter about this thing bumping my beloved Dracula-themed frappuccino off the menu, but on the whole I'd consider it a pretty enjoyable little drink. The combination of mint green creme and sludgy brown chocolate syrup immediately brings to mind Frankenstein's monster, and the humongous purplish-pinkish swath of whipped topping mimics exposed brain tissue way more accurately (and disturbingly) than you'd have imagined any dairy product doing. More or less, it tasted like a fusion of the chain's cult favorite Unicorn Frappuccino from earlier this year and McDonald's Shamrock Shake, which, yeah, is a bizarre combination of flavors, but one that's nonetheless fairly palatable to this reviewer's tongue. It's not something you would want to chug down on a daily basis, but for a one and done seasonal tie-in drink, it ain't too shabby. And as an added bonus, by the time you're almost done with the beverage, the purple, green, brown and white juice all merges together into this ghastly water-logged corpse-like hue. I'm almost certain the suits at Starbucks didn't plan on that, but if they did? These motherfuckers are on the goddamn ball.

CVSHealth Pumpkin Spice Cough Drops!

And lastly, we come to the moment in time and space in which the long, long-running pumpkin-spice-everything trend officially jumped the shark. At this point, the only way to top CVS' pumpkin spice cough drops is to roll out pumpkin spice flavored birth control apparatuses, which hell, might be right around the corner, considering the way our modern Sodom and Gomorrah society is headed. I actually bought these things in early September and kept 'em in the back of my car for the better part of two months, and I expected the cough drops to come out looking like heat-mutated pieces of glass candy. Thankfully, the individual wrappings kept the package from amalgamating into a giant orange blob, and I will be god-damned if these things - around 60 days after I purchased them and drove all around the coastal southeast, with temperatures in excess of 80 degrees Fahrenheit most of the damn time - STILL packed a palpable PSL flavor. In fact, this is one of the best imitations of the trademark Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte flavor I've ever tasted, which makes me wonder if I can create my own offseason PSL by ordering a regular latte and dropping about three or four of these fuckers in there as home-brewed flavor add-ins. And yes, the menthol-coated drops (which are about 10 calories a piece) do indeed work as efficient and effective cough suppressants, just as advertised.

So, after doing this stupid round-up for seven years now, I reckon I've finally hit the apex of limited-time-only, seasonal edition foodstuff journalism. Not only did I test taste the veritable zenith of the PSL cultural tsunami that's been rolling around for the better part of the decade, I actually managed to conclude my annual round-up of Halloween foods not with an actual food or drink, but a motherfuckin' over-the-counter pharmaceutical product. If that's not a perfect sign it's time to abandon ship, I don't know what is. I mean, by this time next year, CVS could buy out Aetna outright, which means, retroactively, these pumpkin spice cough drops would be a novelty Halloween candy (sorta) produced by a fuckin' health insurance company.

And in a world getting more and more insane every day, if you can't accept health insurance provider-designed, mass-marketed autumnal cough drop gimmicks as the point of no return, you're just living a lie, my friend. A terrible, terrible lie.

H A P P Y  H A L L O W E E N
F R O M  T H E  I N T E R N E T
I S  I N  A M E R I C A , Y O U  
M O T H E R F U C K E R S!

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