Breakfast and Brunch

Milking It: Chocolate Chex

Chocolate Chex General Mills Rating: Three spoons out of four

Cereal description: The typical Chex construction: square grids with a puff in the middle, like a pillow that would leave a tic-tac-toe pattern on your cheek. Approximately half the cereal, which represents a fusion of rice, corn meal and (the words alone sound delicious) soy lecithin, is light colored, while the other half is supposed to be a uniform shade of chocolate brown. Instead, the brown pieces vary in darkness and uniformity of coverage. Maybe some of the sprayers at the General Mills factory are getting clogged -- probably a positive sign.

Box description: The word "Chex" appears on the front cover in bold red beneath "Chocolate," rendered in subtle white semi-cursive, as if the health nuts on the Chex team are slightly embarrassed about the latest iteration of their classic brand. These nervous Nellies also add the words "With a touch of Cocoa," perhaps to reassure eaters that the brown pieces weren't simply scribbled on by Oompah-Loompahs armed with colored pencils, and twice boast that the cereal is made of "Whole grain." In addition, the box front notes that the cereal contains only "8 grams of sugar," as if that's a good thing. The box's reverse side takes the same tack, trumpeting the cereal's "Whole Grain Goodness" and playing the nutrition card via the rhetorical question, "Did you know that 9 out of 10 Americans aren't getting enough Whole Grain?" Well, 9 out of 10 Americans are eating boring breakfasts, too, and that strikes me as a far greater crisis. As for the side panels, one features the usual facts and digits, but the other scores points via a recipe for "Chocolate Chex Muddy Buddies." No way to make that sound nutritious.

Taste: I sat down to my first bowl of Chocolate Chex with low expectations, assuming that the makers' focus on faux-healthfulness would result in a product too much like regular Chex, which work fine in a party mix but settle for inoffensive blandness when eaten with milk. To my surprise, however, they're pretty enjoyable. The chocolate taste isn't overpowering, damn it, but the flavor is unexpectedly pleasing, holding up well until the bowl's done. The results are mildly but persistently sweet, making the cereal a nice palate cleanser following a more sugary sort of feed or a light alternative to the heavy stuff that's perfect for those days when your gut isn't in peak condition for one reason or another.

Conclusion: It'll make that morning after better by allowing you to keep chocolate in your breakfast diet, just as God intended.-- Michael Roberts