Every holiday season brings consumers a big, mixed Santa bag of Christmas-themed nibbles and sips, and it's pretty much a guarantee that at least a few of them are gonna be memorably good, while the rest will be the nightmare during Christmas. This year at least we have some better-sounding eats and drinks to try than in past seasons, like Holiday Sprinkles Cookie Crisp cereal, Pepperidge Farm holiday shaped/colored goldfish crackers, dark chocolate-covered peppermint sandwich cookies from Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's giant bucket of holiday "Cookies Beyond the Pail."
Here's a list of five of the best -- and worst -- specialty holiday products for 2014. Here's to another holiday season's limited edition offerings, most of which are not entirely revolting.
5) Best: Panettone kit from Whole Foods
Store-bought panettone is the Italian version of the dreaded holiday fruitcake. People really don't enjoy store-bought panettone, for legit reasons: it tends to be drier than a desert filled with ShamWows, it tastes like the painted cardboard in which it's packaged, and of course, it's full of those evil raisins. But this year, Whole Foods -- bastion of all that is sorta innovative (and expensive) -- now carries Immaculate Baking Company's new limited edition panettone baking kit , which comes with the ingredients to make four miniature-sized breads, complete with the fancy baking cups. Home-prepared panettone might even be a little moist -- and will at least smell nice while it's baking.
Sorry about the raisins, which will still fuck up the works, but if I were using this new kit, I'd pick them out.
4) Worst: Gingerbread Spice Pop-Tarts
Of course there are gingerbread-flavored Pop-Tarts. This is such a holiday no-brainer that corporate R & D hacks can squeeze them out in their sleep. But stuffing them with globs of white icing and then drawing colored pictures on them in another crass attempt to market directly to kids? Why not add glitter and stick Barbies and racecars to them, too? Or maybe team up with Frozen and Olaf the ever-loving shit of these toaster pastries until every harried parent in America buys them by the case? I'm totally kidding; please don't do any of this.
I represent adults who like to eat Pop-Tarts and we would like to formally request that Kellogg's maintain some modicum of integrity and provide us grown folks with Pop-Tarts we can actually eat, that look and taste like real food.
3) Best: Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch
Cinnamon Toast Crunch has been saving the universe from healthy, bran-laden breakfast cereals since 1984, and just when we all thought this recipe couldn't possibly be improved upon, 2014 marks the year in which General Mills brought forth Sugar Cookie Toast Crunch. It tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch minus the cinnamon, it's not overly vanilla-sweet as expected, and after I finished off the first box of it I was mighty glad I bought two.
Thank you, Kellogg's, for making a holiday-themed cereal that is not red or green, that tastes like you said it would, and that we hope you will bring back next year.
For more of great and not-so-great holiday products, read on.
2) Best: Trader Joe's Belgian Chocolate Shoppe
There are many reasons why Trader Joe's is a house of worship akin to the Vatican, and one of those reasons is that T.J.'s routinely and consistently makes serious gourmet shit at Wal-Mart prices. A sprightly holiday example of Joe's holiday magic is the Belgian Chocolate Shoppe box of 36 chocolates for about ten bucks. These confections include some compelling flavor combos like orange ganache with candied orange peel, dark chocolate with raspberry filling, butter truffle with grated coconut, and milk chocolate with crunchy hazelnut cream.
I'm thinking of buying a few extra boxes so I can eat chocolates while watching my friends start their New Year's fad diets.
1) Absolute Worst Ever: Southern Comfort Gingerbread Spice.
The original recipe Southern Comfort tastes like cough syrup; the Bold Black Cherry SoCo tastes like nighttime cough syrup. I've heard there's even a lime version, but that sounds so dreadful I wouldn't crack open a bottle with a gun pointed at my head. So when I heard the big news that SoCo was releasing a holiday gingerbread spice version, my reaction was pre-upchuck mouth-watering, followed by raking my nails through my hair while screaming "WHYYYY???!!!"
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But sadly I know people who do like SoCo, so I did get to try a sip; the gingerbread spice concoction tastes and smells like a thrilling mashup of mulling spices, nail polish remover, vanilla and 'Tussin. I'll stick with the Nyquil.