I’ll say one thing about this year’s crop of Halloween junk food: It sure is big.
Sooo many brands are only now taking their first swings at Halloween or autumnal releases, and good luck trying to sample it all by October 31st. The 2016 season hasn’t had many shout-from-the-rooftop standouts, but if going by sheer volume, it’s been aces.
Here are five more junk foods that you need to eat — or at least take a picture of — before Halloween:
Entenmann’s Halloween Donuts!
Um, YES. There are a whole bunch of Halloween treats out from Entenmann’s, but for my money, nothing pops quite like this “simple” box of donuts.
Joining the mainstay chocolate and white powdered varieties is an ORANGE powdered version. The orange donuts don’t taste any different from the white ones, but flavor isn’t the point. The draw is that they look like Halloween in its purest form. Linus would serve these to the Great Pumpkin.
This feels like a throwback to the Halloween promotions of the ‘80s and ‘90s, when the focus wasn’t on potential internet buzz. There’s nothing flashy or provocative about orange donuts, and that’s why I love them. They’re the cheap plastic hockey masks of Halloween snacks, where perfection is achieved while you’re still in first gear.
Pumpkin & Spice Triscuits!
I’m more fond of pumpkin spice as a concept than a flavor, but Nabisco knocked it out of the park with these.
Take a regular Triscuit cracker. Make it less salty and a little sweeter. That’s pretty much the whole story with these.
While there’s a certain pumpkiny undertone, I wouldn’t call it robust. I normally only rate pumpkin spice foods highly when I can survive a few bites without becoming irritated, but here, I plowed through the entire box in record time, and then spent the whole weekend feeling horribly full and guilty.
It was worth it.
Hell, I liked the stupid crackers enough to follow one of the recipes on the box, which called for them to be topped with gouda, sage and cranberry sauce. It was like celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving at the same time. Given the amount of sodium I endured, I guess I’ll go trick-or-treating as a parade float.
GRADE: A. Many of this year’s pumpkin spice foods seem more gimmicky than gimme gimme, but here, the execution is pretty flawless. (Maybe that’s why Nabisco insisted on the ampersand in Pumpkin & Spice? A clue that they weren’t just piggybacking?)
Spooky Junior Mints!
They taste the same as normal Junior Mints, but each of the creamy centers has been dyed orange or black.
And I mean SEVERELY dyed. It’s not that bright, friendly orange, or that cheerful purple that so often masquerades as black. We’re talking hardcore no-fucking-around DARK ASS COLORS, here. In fact, I’d bet that Tootsie didn’t even intend for them to come out this dark.
The orange ones are palatable enough, but those Junior Mints with the jet black centers are legitimately ghastly. While I’m guessing that Junior Mint centers are simply inconducive to fainter colors, the fact that they’re this dark seems almost ballsy.
GRADE: B. I’m cool with them, but the deep and disturbing colors would’ve been better served by a deep and disturbing box design. That box says “elementary school Halloween party,” but those gooey centers scream “horror movie.” Paired together, neither feels quite right.
Keebler Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripes!
These cookies were around last year, but they arrived late in the season and in short supply. Keebler seems to be giving them a much bigger push in 2016. Remember this trivia; it may come in handy ten thousand years from now.
Me and Jay talked about Pumpkin Spice Fudge Stripes on the last Purple Stuff Podcast, and I’m sticking by what I said there: They’re decent cookies that abide by the core tenets of pumpkin spice law, but they look like snacks that you’d only find at Grandma’s house.
They kind of taste that way, too. It’s that sharp, spicy cookie flavor that grandmas and only grandmas love, in part because it pairs so well with tea. The gobs of icing help to offset the bitterness, but I still feel like you’re not allowed to eat these unless they’re served to you four-on-a-plate with a pat-on-the-head.
GRADE: B. (…which sounds high considering my ambivalence, but the truth is that not everyone wants to eat weird shit like Twinkies and Oreos. It’s nice to see a more “mature” pumpkin spice snack on the market. Ernie, you so sophisto.)
Brach’s Brunch Favorites Candy Corn!
This is brilliant. “Brunch” has nothing to do with Halloween and neither do the three flavors found in each bag, but by simple virtue of being candy corn, everything gets a pass.
What makes Brach’s strategy so effective is that no other company has even tried to make Halloween candies out of these flavors. When you stand alone, you stand tall by default.
Included in each bag are three color-coded flavors: French Toast & Maple Syrup, Waffles and Strawberry, and Chocolate Chip & Pancakes. Each is distinct enough, but since the whole bag reeks of Aunt Jemima, you could still summarize the smorgasbord as “syrup-flavored candy corn.”
Judging by the reactions online, some have discerned the intended flavors more strongly than others. No matter where you land, I think it’ll be worth it. Biting pieces of candy corn to determine precisely how much they taste like waffles is so much fun. Maybe not the kind of fun that anyone would think to seek out, but that’s kind of why this works.
GRADE: B+. None of these flavors had me serenading the candy with Ini Kamoze singles, but there’s something maverickish about Brach’s Brunch Favorites. When so many other Halloween junk foods are trying to deliver the same punchlines, just being different counts for a lot!
Now go out and buy a billion calories.
PS: Dino Drac’s Envelopes of Evil are still on sale, but there aren’t many left! Check out the details, before you lose your chance!