The Pumpkin Spice Must Flow #13

Turkey Day Edition

What better way to celebrate the holiday famous for pumpkin pie than with another discussion about pumpkin spice foods?  Precisely! So let’s not sit around waiting several hours for it to be ready, let’s dive right in. I will note before doing so though, that yes I did find recipes for pumpkin spice turkey, but there’s no way I’m going to try them.


365 Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches

These do contain the four usual spices and pumpkin, and much of it is organic.  Also though? Palm oil, which, don’t forget, is a saturated fat, which is a bad thing for you, like the potassium benzoate in the free frogurt toppings.  But my god are these amazingly good, even one of my cats likes them! Ice cream in general seems to be a good venue for pumpkin spice, and these ice cream sandwiches are really rather addictive.  This is one of the few cases when I’ll say that I think these are probably worth ignoring the palm oil issues for, except of course that being a frozen product, why the hell did they use palm oil here anyway, unless it was just to save pennies at the expense of some wildlife half a world away?  Still goddamned tasty though. Of all the pumpkin spice things I’ve tried and written about in these columns, these are probably my favorite, and I’m not even an ice cream fan. The sandwich part of them is the real star with their great sort of ginger-snappy flavor, but the ice cream inside them is no slouch either, and they both combine into pure pumpkin spice bliss.  Shame about that palm oil though.


Johnny Popps Pumpkin Spice And Cream

Thanks to the The Avocado poster whose name I have again forgotten for suggesting these to me (was it you, Owen?).  Do not sleep on these, because sleeping on ice cream will give you frostbite and these are really good. They look great on paper right out of the gate because they’re made with so few ingredients, only one of which is any kind of cheat (guar gum, a thickener); that means the rest of these things are, you know, food you might actually find in your kitchen, unlike all that other stuff that apparently food chemists cook with.  And these taste wonderful, like frozen pumpkin pie on a stick. The pumpkin’s flavor comes through immediately, then it wraps itself up in the pumpkin spice combo like a comfy jacket. That pumpkin flavor is of course coming from the real deal, I literally saw a bit of pumpkin fiber hanging off the bar after my first bite. The consistency is pretty good too, soft but not gloopy, so maybe that guar gum is justified. Seriously good stuff, these (like the ice cream sandwiches above) are one of the few pumpkin spice all-stars I’ve found since I started writing these columns.   A bit interesting to note they never refer to these as “ice cream bars” or “bars” or anything like that, either on the box or even on their website. Maybe that “Popps” in the name is enough, even if it is playfully misspelled, perhaps indicating that that’s not really the case. But who cares when something tastes this good and is made this (mostly) well?


Starbucks Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew

Whoa, another perfect win!  After introducing the world to pumpkin spice madness with their lattes 16 years ago (or maybe it was the other way round, like an infection?) and making them terrible something like 7 years ago (not that they were really all that great before), Starbucks has finally figured out how to make a seriously good pumpkin spice drink!   The iced coffee is perfectly smooth with zero acidic or bitter qualities and the pumpkin spice flavor is perfectly carried along on a rich whipped cream that’s distinctly not even close to the all-out blitzkrieg of sugar like the other Starbucks lattes, and works really nicely with the coffee.  It’s like if someone like me who gets sugared-out way too easily designed a Starbucks drink. These are wonderful, and my fiancee who’s a Starbucks stan (am I using that word right?) already says they’re “quite possibly the best pumpkin spice thing” she’s ever had.  Do not sleep on these either!


Chocolove Bites Pumpkin Spice

The chocolate, if you just pop it into your mouth and bite, has a snap I don’t normally appreciate in chocolate, but if you let it sit for a bit in your mouth, does melt pleasingly enough.  And you’ll taste a pumpkin spice as soon as it does too, even though I don’t think it’s a great pumpkin spice (“It’s Not The Great Pumpkin Spice, Charlie Brown!”). But the pumpkin spice filling inside really doesn’t bring much to the table.  When I’m eating chocolate, I normally eat some that’s basically baking chocolate and rates at 70% cocoa, whereas these are just 55%, but that’s not so bad, and admittedly that 70% stuff also has something of a snap to them too.

This is from a local-ish company of the same name that’s pretentious enough to list a “master chocolatier” on their website, but that’s that’s Boulder Colorado for you I guess (more evidence: the FAQ also addresses the question of if they accept poetry submissions – someone tag Gest!).  It also notes that “our non-GMO verified ingredients are another way to know where our ingredients come from and to show that we care to buy the very best. Great effort is made to deliver consistent great taste so you can feel great about eating Chocolove.” Sure, sometimes I can feel good about that non-GMO thing, but I do still feel bad about all that plastic to throw away, as each of these “bites” come individually wrapped, but that’s America for you, I guess.  As far as the palm oil goes, because again, that’s America for you so of course there’s palm oil in it, they go on to say that “Chocolove is a member of the RSPO, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an organization devoted to ensuring the minimization of the negative impact of palm oil cultivation. The demand for more sustainable sources of palm oil continues to grow and the RSPO is an internationally recognized standard for assuring sustainable production of palm oil across the supply chain. RSPO certification ensures that palm oil production is not associated with deforestation and loss of critical habitat.”  Sounds great, but Wikipedia points out that the RSPO has been criticized before, including “the fact that RSPO members are allowed to clear cut pristine forest areas, when there are large areas of grasslands available in Indonesia, rais[ing] doubts about commitment to sustainability.” I’m sure there are “both sides” to all of this, but… I don’t need these chocolates in my life that badly, I’ll stick to my 70%.


Denver Beer Company Imperial Hey! Pumpkin Graham Cracker Porter

Hey not pumpkin!  “Better than liver though,” says my fiancee.  There’s something odd about the taste, as it’s not pumpkin spice and it also not it’s not graham crackery (taking the label at face value), but maybe some hint of ginger, something flowery…  It was OKish as a porter, whatever that is? Like a Guinness maybe?, but mrslauarajinn (said fiancee) thought this was the worst beer she’s ever had, “even Coors Light is better, I never want to taste this again.”  So I’m going to have to face this entire pint all by myself. Again, no pumpkin spice beer is ever going to be worth it unless you’re willing to accept that it won’t be pumpkin spice.  It’s just going to be beer, and at their worst, a weird beer.


think! Protein+150 calorie Bar

Chicory root and “natural flavor”  Just one, not “natural flavorS”?  I dunno what this flavor is for sure, but it’s not pumpkin spice.  Yeah, you heard me “think!”! You got a problem with me coming after you like that, make a better pumpkin spice bar!  You think!  These are just more or less a standard protein sludge bar coated in white goo “icing.” The label shows a cinnamon stick sitting next to a pumpkin, but apparently neither of those things are in these bars, unless they’re hidden under that “natural flavor” umbrella/dodge.  All I can really taste is chicory root, which is not a pumpkin spice you maniacs.  Somehow these have a 3.5 star rating on Amazon, although only about 35% of the ratings are five-stars and the rest are fairly evenly spread over four-, three-, two-, and one-star ratings.  I really should go through Amazon sometime and cut and paste all my pumpkin spice reviews onto the appropriate products pages, just for funsies.


NutriGrain Soft Baked Breakfast Bars Pumpkin Spice

Urgh.  Think a fig newton dusted with crushed oats and filled with fruit-ish goo.  The box cays “made with REAL PUMPKIN, NO artificial flavors, NO colors from artificial sources” but these are also made with ALL kinds of disappointing.  To be fair, three of the four pumpkin spices are present, minus cloves thankfully, but you can’t taste any of them anyway. They are also made with two, uh three, no wait, four thickeners, our old friend palm oil, and fruit and vegetable juices for color, which seems odd because when you make something with pumpkin it does come out orange in my experience.  Makes me wonder how much pumpkin puree is actually in each bar, a tablespoon, a teaspoon? Maybe there’s just not much room in there for “extra” pumpkin puree when there’s so many thickeners? The back of the box invites us to “delight in a slice of pumpkin spice,” but I did not, not at all. Maybe “delight” is the key word here, as in “de-” to indicate the removal or negation of “light” – leaving us with a flavorless, boring slog down a dark tube of un-pumpkin spiced darkness.


Look, Megara Justice Machine knows he can be something of a contrarian if not downright annoying, but as proof that he does occasionally genuinely like things, look no further than some of the above reviews..  He has written about other pumpkin spice foods he’s enjoyed, but you’ll probably have to sift through all the negative opinions to find them, because a company’s dedication to pumpkin spice isn’t always so pure as to actually strive to make a good one so much as just to sell you one by hopping on the pumpkin spice bandwagon.  You can find all of Megara’s pumpkin spice opinions, both good and bad, here on The Avocado if you type the words “pumpkin spice” into the search bar at the top of the page. Like saturated fats, you are encouraged to not partake of too many at any one sitting.