The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow #3

Part Of This Complete Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Edition (part two, apparently)

Welcome to another The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow, where I irregularly post about that most extraordinary combination of flavors, pumpkin pie spice (or just “pumpkin spice”).  Despite currently being in between pumpkin spice seasons, I still have a number of pumpkin spice foods to consider here, thanks to my hoarder mentality. So without further ado, let’s get to them before the expiration date arrives!

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belVita [capitalization theirs] Pumpkin Spice Breakfast Biscuits

I had no idea breakfast biscuits were a thing, but here we are, and it’s a good thing.  Cookies for breakfast sounds like a great idea as far as I can tell and these tasted good, something like an oaty ginger snap, but less heavy on the ginger and pretty good on the scale of pumpkin spice products.  Each package had four cartouche-shaped, rather flat cookies that carried a decent amount of flavor. My girlfriend suggests they’re delicious if you’re a coffee-dunker – I’m not, but I can see it. They’re made of decent stuff for the most part, whole grains being their primary ingredient vs. refined white flour, for instance, including real pumpkin, and a host of other ingredients.  Most of those at the front of the list are even recognizable as food stuffs, but as usual, near the back end it devolves into some obscure chemically sounding stuff, much like any Marvel film devolves into a big CGI fight in the third act. Some of them sound weird, but are just the more complex name for some B vitamins, so overall there’s not too much to be worried about there. I did chuckle over this on the label, “natural flavor with other natural flavors”.  Also, how the wrapper boasts that these tasty cookies (or biscuits if you’re British I guess), provide “4 HOURS OF nutritious STEADY ENERGY” which is an odd capitalization choice that probably Means Something. In keeping with this articles subtitle, there’s even an encouragement that you eat these with some fresh fruit and low fat dairy as “part of a balanced breakfast.” So of course I didn’t, I just ate them with coffee. My only disappointment was the tops of the cookies has a raised imprint of two stalks of wheat; there should have been jack o’lantern faces, c’mon people!

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice ground coffee

The label starts us off with the above name, and “flavored coffee with other natural flavors.”  The coffee so nice they flavored it twice? I guess this is becoming a trend. Anyway, the ‘official’ ingredients list just says, “coffee, natural flavors”.  I’ve emailed manufacturers before and found out that they just don’t respond to people asking for a detailed ingredients list, like those distillers I mentioned in my first article, so we’ll just have to go on without that info.  The label also says it’s “warm and balanced” and it’s perfectly true, being a fairly light roast. I enjoy a few Starbucks flavors and this one’s not too bitter or dirt-tasting, like coffees can be (I heard a rumor that Pike’s Place is named after the famous Seattle public market because it tastes like the pavement there – 100% true story!).  The label goes on to say this is “made without artificial flavors” which I suppose is something as they tend to be derived from petroleum by-products. I know we as a society create a lot of petroleum by-products and we have to do something with them, but I’d rather not Taste The Oil Spill if I can avoid it, plus, let’s face it, they’re often also failures.  More poetically, the label claims this was “inspired by our Pumpkin Spice Latte”; I have no idea why that’s capitalized like that, I guess product names are considered proper names, now that corporations are considered people.  It continues “this cozy fall coffee is radiant with notes of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg.” Radiant? Missing Oxford comma aside, I can’t say I really taste any of that. I mean, it’s good coffee, and it’s obviously not unflavored coffee, but… none of them are all that identifiable; maybe the nutmeg a little, the tiniest hint of cinnamon?  I normally drink coffee black, but made my tester cup with half-and-half and a little sugar, because the dairy fat provides a good base for the flavors spread out across like watercolors absorb into a soaked paper, while the sugar takes the bitter edge off. Even with those steps taken, all I could say for sure was that there was something in there apart from coffee, but whatever it was, I found it indistinct.  Maybe it’s anonymously pumpkin spice. Maybe I’ll like the store-made lattes better this season when the time rolls around.

Land O’Lakes Pumpkin Pie Spice Butter Spread

“Finally, pumpkin pie spice exactly where it belongs…in spreadable butter!” exclaims the website, “Fall never tasted so good.“  I’m inclined to agree. I’m not a big butter fan – I think if I didn’t occasionally fry eggs with it, I’d never use it, but I had to try this stuff when I saw it in the grocery store last fall.  It’s “butter spread”, not just “butter”, so it’s got some filler in it (canola oil mainly), but how does it taste? My girlfriend and I first put some on one half of a butternut squash we nuked until soft, but we also added brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice, so it was perhaps a bit lost in all that, but the squash was tasty enough.  I later tried some on toast, which is probably the best way to test a butter spread, right? And wow, it passed with flying colors, reminding me of cinnamon toast, but pumpkin spice toast! Think about it, the only difference between the two would be the extra spices beyond cinnamon, but the other cinnamon toast ingredients – sugar, butter, toast – are already present.  Enough sugar in fact that it was juuuust on the border of being a bit much for me as I don’t usually like stuff to be too sweet, but never really crossing that line. I bet it would be good on those pumpkin spice pancakes I mentioned last time, you know, if I wanted to put butter (or even “butter spread”) on anything.

Life Multigrain Cereal Pumpkin Spice

I didn’t choose the pumpkin spice Life, the pumpkin spice Life chose me.  Bad joke aside, this is basically true. Despite nearly fifty years of Mikey deciding he liked it, I don’t think I’ve ever had Life cereal until my girlfriend shared this seasonal pumpkin spice variety with me.  And Mikey was right, hey Mikey! Like the other cereals I’ve written about, the Life version is basically the usual stuff with some pumpkin novelty added as a nice afterthought. Again, the pumpkin spice flavor was composed of “natural flavors”, but overall it works well enough.  The decent flavor came through at first taste for me, but my girlfriend said it arrived after the swallow, which is something I’ve often experienced with pumpkin spice stuff before. I think manufacturers avoid overpowering the main brand’s taste, lest they spook any long-time Mikeys who might miss it.  The only complaint I might give is that, like other pumpkin spice cereals, the pumpkin spice seemed to fade away the more I ate, leaving the regular Life taste. My girlfriend, who treats cereal like finger food and eats it without milk, said the flavor stayed strong for her, so I think it’s time to lay down a solid pumpkin spice rule here and now:

Pumpkin spice cereals lose potency in milk.

Like water is to fire, who could have guessed that pumpkin spice’s natural antithesis would be milk?  I might lay the blame for that at the feet of the cereal makers who get too namby-pamby when it comes to adding the pumpkin spice flavor, but that’s not for me to say I guess, at least for now.

But Life is pretty good with pumpkin spice!  I’m in total agreement with the Quaker Oats website’s “add a little pumpkin spice to your Life,” although they did also throw Mikey under the bus with “you might be pointing fingers at who was lucky enough to finish off the box” – goddamn it Mikey, you ate it all!   For added pumpkin spice Life, the back of the box celebrates some fun fall activities like “jumping in leaves!”, “camping” and “taffy apples”. Not only did only one of these supposedly fun activities warrant an exclamation point, but who goes camping in the fall when it’s starting to chill down at night?  Best to stay home and run the included corn maze instead.

KitKat Pumpkin Pie

Candy, for breakfast?!  It could happen! One of the few non-Japanese KitKat variants, these come two small KitKat bars to a mini package, perfect for tossing at Halloween urchins on your doorstep, or down your own throat if you’re greedy for them yourself.  I found them to be decent, flavorful, but I sort of wished the flavor felt more real to me. One online review said they were heavy on the clove, which I think is accurate, and, as clove is my least favorite of all the pumpkin spices, that might account for why my response to them is a bit cool.

The usual KitKat wafers here are covered in one of those “some kind of solid [palm] oil that’s sort of ‘cremey’ but I’m not sure what it is exactly’” substances that one finds in a lot of candies, – sort of like white chocolate, except here it’s orange and naturally and artificially flavored to taste rather strongly of pumpkin pie.  The three colors used in it, blue #1 (might induce allergic reactions in people who have asthma), Yellow #6 (made from petroleum, banned in some EU countries but not the US of A) and Yellow #5 (also an allergy concern, but only to a very small number of people) might have a few bad side effects, but are what they are.  Look, it’s a Hershey mass-produced product, I knew what I was signing up for when I bought it.

You can still order these from Amazon but some buyers report a problem with melted candy; I ate mine when it was about 80 degrees and it did feel like it was already softening up, so sitting on your front step in the sun will probably make you a sad Amazon shopper, but that doesn’t give you the right to give these a one star review, it’s not Hershey’s fault here, OK?  And don’t try blaming that cute cartoon black kitty on the wrapper wearing a chef’s hat, he’s trying awfully hard to do his best for you.

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I bet you still haven’t had enough to read about pumpkin spice, have you?  It happens! So you’ll probably be super-stoked to check out the first pumpkin spice article right here, and the second one here.