2019’s Hottest Holiday Junk Food, Part 1!

If past Decembers are any indication, it’ll be Christmas in eight minutes. This month goes way too fast, so make sure you’re grabbing at any and every opportunity to do festive things. Even if those “festive things” only amount to eating limited edition candy bars.

Here’s the first edition of 2019’s Hottest Holiday Junk Food — a title that makes it sound like I even know what “SEO” stands for. I already have enough for a Part 2, so if reading thousands of words about stuff you’ll never eat is your kink, don’t break up with me.

Pillsbury Grands Hot Cocoa Rolls!
(Found at Target)

These were apparently out last year, even if it’s hard to believe that I went through an entire Christmas season with access to HOT COCOA CINNAMON ROLLS and somehow didn’t partake. I feel like a failure and a fraud.

They’re really good, though I’m not sure I would’ve guessed “hot cocoa” without the visual aid of the Pillsbury Doughboy standing beside a big steaming cup of it. It’s definitely chocolatey, but I’d describe it more as a “chocolate jam” flavor — like something that might get sandwiched between a pair of fancy Italian cookies that bakeries charge $15 a pound for.

Of course, the complexities of the chocolate flavor are almost completely lost once you dump the icing on top. At that point, they’re just regular cinnamon rolls with a kick. Which is fine!

GRADE: A. One of the great things about cinnamon rolls is that they’re so easy to make, yet you always feel so accomplished after you prepare them. The other great thing is that they’re delicious enough to substitute for emotional well-being. Go ahead, eat your troubles away.

New Holiday Sodas!
(Found at Target)

Seems that Cinnamon Coke and Winter Spiced Cranberry Sprite are a bit polarizing, at least based on the social media reactions. For whatever it’s worth, I’m on Team Both Are Great.

The Cinnamon Coke has a much richer flavor than its name suggests. It’s cinnamonny for sure, but it comes off more like a full complement of soda-friendly spices. To me, it’s like a more successful version of 2004’s Pepsi Holiday Spice.

The Winter Spiced Cranberry Sprite is hardly just “Cranberry Sprite.” I detected a hint of clove, and then hints of other things that I couldn’t quite name but still found perfectly palatable. Put it this way: There’s enough going on in this soda that Sprite could’ve gotten away with adding red food dye.

Both sodas are such perfect mixers that I’m convinced they were formulated with alcohol in mind. I enjoy them enough as-is, but they’re almost too powerful on their own. That Sprite is just begging for vodka, and the Cinnamon Coke is on its tin knees pleading for whiskey.

GRADE: A. Timing is everything with limited edition junk food, and all told, I think these hit stores too early. Hell, I IG’d the fuckers before Halloween! They might seem “old hat” even to people who haven’t tried them yet, but don’t sleep on these, guys. Getting a new holiday Coke *and* a new holiday Sprite in one season is practically a Christmas miracle.

Oh What Funnel Cakes!
(Available at IHOP)

From now through Christmas, IHOP has a special menu full of weird foods tied to The Elf on the Shelf. Most of the dishes are vague repeats of the ones from their 2018 Grinch menu, but these funnel cakes are all-new and super-amazing.

Take a pair of snowflake-shaped funnel cakes. Top them with powdered sugar and an ungodly amount of glazed strawberries. Add whipped cream, and finish with candy sprinkles large enough to evoke visions of mutant Christmas oysters that spin pearls of red and green.

Funnel cakes are an insta-win, but it’s really the strawberries that make this dish. My assumption is that they just take bags of frozen berries and cook them in the same strawberry pancake syrup that’s already on every table in IHOP. Cheap, yes, but my GOD does it work.

The berries are tangy, the syrup is sickly sweet, and when you mix those flavors with whipped cream and funnel cake, I’d have to constitute eating this as oral sex.

GRADE: A+. Even if they’re all you order, “Oh What Funnel Cakes” are worth the trip to IHOP.

Sweet Cinnamon Kit Kat!
(Found at Walgreens)

Picture regular Kit Kats mixed with Cinnamon Chex, and you’re in the area. I know it’s a bullshit term, but they’re very “gourmet.” Way too gourmet for mini-candies sold by the bag in wrappers that resemble clothed penises.

The first thing you’ll notice is the smell. It’s SEVERE, and not really something that could be described as “sweet cinnamon.” It’s more of a “fudge shop” smell, and weirdly, it doesn’t really line up with the taste.

When they say “cinnamon,” they mean it. There’s a lot of legit cinnamon in there. It’s never overpowering, but certain bites do get close. I dug the hell out of these, and the taste is so far away from normal Kit Kats that they hardly feel like Kit Kats at all.

GRADE: B+. Total overachievers. It’s like some Food Network star was challenged to do something profound with Kit Kats.

Mint Chocolate Twinkies!
(Found at Stop & Shop)

They look stranger than they are. The filling isn’t peppermint, but more of a “sugary candy mint.” It’s also on the muted side, so no, this isn’t like foamed mouthwash hiding in a chocolate Twinkie.

That said, I don’t think it works. It’s too weird to be good, but not weird enough to survive on the merits of being weird. If I was running Hostess, I would’ve taken things three steps further and done some kind of “ugly sweater” Twinkie. Keep the same filling, but maybe do a red-dyed cake with yellow speckles or something. No sense being half-odd, y’know?

Admittedly, I’m biased as I’ve never been big on chocolate Twinkies. I understand that it lets Hostess mess with a broader variety of flavor combos, but chocolate Twinkies never seem to have the right sponginess. There’s never any back-of-the-throat tickle when I eat one. I need that tickle!

GRADE: B-. Points for trying, but if I’m gonna blow my December calories on Hostess, I think I’d stick with their holiday cupcakes.

Thanks for reading! We will speak of more holiday junk food before Christmas. I must eat and photograph everything. It is my lot in life.