Review: Moon Pie Sea Salt Caramel

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We’ve talked quite a bit here at Shameless Consumer about the origins of flavor combinations, and now it’s time you learned about sea salt and caramel. You see, unlike the Arnold Palmer, which was the loving result of marriage and childbirth, sea salt caramel has its basis in bitter, bitter rivalry with a bit of sea salt sprinkled on top.

In order to fully get the story, we have to go back to 1800 Bologna Italy, home town of the renowned yet unaccredited Saltini family. The Saltinis became rich during the occupation by Napoleon’s forces in 1796, striking a deal with Napoleon himself to retain ownership of local sea salt mining operations on the grounds that the family refuse any deal that would see their salt used to flavor the Roman church’s papal crackers. When Bologna traded hands in 1815, the Saltini family was forced to emigrate out of fear of retribution by Pope Pius VII, making an agreement that allowed the family to continue their control of said mine.

So the family hopped into their 1810 Lamborghini Alfredo and booked it with the intention of heading toward what they thought was Novigrad Croatia. However, since Croatia had suffered numerous changes of hands over the years, confusion, lack of road signs, and a general disinterest by head of house Giovanni Saltini to ask for directions led the family astray and the next thing they knew, their car had run out of gas outside of immigration services in downtown New York City. With their reserves of pasta and olive oil depleted, not to mention Grandma Saltini working her way through the thousandth rendition of E Il Sol Dell’anima, the family set up shop.

Over the next few years, Giovanni Saltini would purchase the land and expand his newly international sea salt empire, promising a fortune for any worker willing to put in a day’s effort and coining the term “worth your salt,” in the process. In 1815, however, the Saltini family goes head first into a property dispute with the owners of a nearby mining operation, a  family of Portugese immigrants who had taken advantage of cheap land prices and abundant natural resources. The disputing family, also known as the Caramelos, owned land right next to the Saltinis and set up shop mining its natural caramel caves. According to a lawsuit filed by the Caramelos in 1816, runoff from the Saltini sea salt mine was contaminating their caramel, resulting in the family having to recall all product.

To their surprise, 98% of customers refuse to acknowledge the recall or return the product, they loved it. It seemed as though the families had inadvertently struck gold, creating the next big sensation. People fell in love with the unconventional matching of sweet and salty. The Caramelo family drops their lawsuit and, in December of 1816, family head Leche Caramelo agrees to meet Giovanni Saltini on the sidewalk outside of the Teamonte Cafe. Unknown to Caramelo, Saltini has no plans on forming a business relationship and upon their meeting, he shoots Caramelo point blank in the chest with a shotgun specially modified to fire pellets of sea salt.

Due to the pellets dissolving in Caramelo’s blood, the police are unable to produce sufficient evidence to prosecute Giovanni Saltini, however the NYPD is forced to acknowledge via a later lawsuit that the mixture of blood and salt had melted the icy sidewalk, thus creating a safe environment for responding officers and offering Giovanni a solid character witness, and in 1818 the city compensated the Saltini family by handing over the deed to the caramel mines plus thirty six cents for a day’s lost wages.

Giovanni, sadly, would not survive to see the fruits of his labor. In 1822, the head of the Saltini family perished in a carriage accident. In respect of their father’s pride, the horses involved in Saltini’s trampling were butchered and served at the wake. Daughter Elsa Saltini took this opportunity to field test the first run of the family’s new product: Salted caramels. The new dessert was a hit, transforming the wake from an event of silence and honor to something more closely resembling a birthday party.

The family business would expand over the next hundred years until great grandson Adolfo Saltini in 1917 witnessed a shooting star and decided to leave town to pursue it. He followed the extraterrestrial object across the country, all the way to its crash site in Chattanooga Tennessee where he found that farmers had mined it clean and used its innards to create what we now know as the Moon Pie. Adolfo approached the head miner and made a business offer and the rest, as they say, was history.

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But that’s enough learning for today, we’re here to talk about food.

The salted caramel Moon Pie is an alternate take on a beautiful American classic, the lesser known flag sewn by Betsy Ross’ equally sexy sister, the pair of teeth that George Washington only used in formal occasions, the Vice President of flavor, the deciding vote when the Senate Foreign Culinary Committee comes to a 50/50 opposition and the guy who will probably grab your ass at a formal dinner party and leave a caramel hand print.

At the very least, it will leave a caramel hand print on your face as you open the packaging. The caramel aroma, much like the freedom that the Moon Pie is based off of, does not like being contained, and will burst out as soon as the plastic opens.

It’s important to remember that this is first and foremost a Moon Pie, secondarily a salted caramel treat. The caramel coating, as you would expect, is very thinly layered on top, so thin that you might not even notice it if you wolf down the pie in one mouthful. In this respect, the salted caramel outside is the soft bass carrying the melodic tone of the Moon Pie’s fifth overture, delicately enveloping you in its arms as the soft graham cracker and marshmallow bedding whisk you to a dreamland of serenity, beauty, and presumably an endless stack of Moon Pies.

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There are only two times when it is appropriate for a grown man to cry, and one of those times is when you look upon your Moon Pie with the realization that there is only so much time before both the plastic wrap and your fingers have been sufficiently licked clean of leftover residue. Now that we’ve finished the Moon Pie, I think now it’s been long enough that we can reminisce about it.

The sea salt caramel Moon Pie is soft, gooey, and tastes of deliciously sweet (and salty) caramel. It has exactly the right amount of salt, caramel, graham cracker, and marshmallow. Truly this is culinary inventiveness at its finest.

Verdict – 6/5: The salted caramel Moon Pie isn’t the greatest achievement of man to date, but the first half of this sentence is wrong.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Frappé Mocha and Caramel

Being the completely rational person I am, and having a day coming where I am not impeded by work or school, my eyes drew immediately towards my buy-one-get-one frappé coupon, and what better at 10:30pm than not one, but two coffee based sugar holocausts that McDonald’s calls a beverage? Actually that’s not fair. The Frappé has 70 grams of sugar, which is technically less than the equivalent in most sodas. If you want to get into an argument about the healthiness of the frappé, it does have 1/4th the daily requirement of calcium, 4% of your requirement of iron, and 76% of your daily requirement for carbohydrates, so at least my bones will be strong enough to withstand the brute force of a coffee induced coma.

The first of the two I’ll talk about is the choco…mocha, because the manager making my drinks served it to me first, and I feel I have a commitment to his orderly manner. The mocha frappé is described on McDonald’s website as “one frosty cup of love: the coffee-chocolate goodness of mocha blended with ice, topped with whipped cream,” to which I can’t disagree. I had to eat my drink with a spoon for the most part, because while I was having my daily inner discussion about whether or not Scarlett Johansson should stay a red head or a blond, I forgot to pick up a straw from the counter. The mocha reminded me of the coffee ice cream from Starbucks, creamy and sweet, with a present but not overpowering flavor. The chocolate was present, and this may just been me, but the chocolate didn’t stand out much. You could’ve probably told me that this was a blended coffee drink that was made in a dirty blender that was recently used to make chocolate, and then drizzled with chocolate to cover the fact, and I would have gone ahead and kept drinking.

The caramel frappé is described on the McDonald’s website as “Who isn’t worthy of coffee, caramel and whipped cream? “You deserve a break today.” You’re right, McDonald’s, who doesn’t deserve a break today? Given Godwin’s law and a severe lack of maturity, my mind whisked me off to a vision of Hitler sitting back and enjoying a delicious caramel frappé from McDonald’s (or whatever the chain would have been called in Germany during the 40’s) on a war torn battlefield, which is entirely inappropriate as we all know Hitler would have chosen the Peppermint Mocha from Starbucks. The caramel flavor is definitely more present than the chocolate was in the mocha, although that may be design by flavor. My only issue with the caramel is that once I got down to the bottom of the cup, the mixture was more of a sickly amount of caramel rather than what you’d normally think would be mixed into a drink, to which I love caramel and I like it in drinks, but I just can’t stand strong caramel in a cold drink for some reason. Some of you will see that as a plus, but it wasn’t my cup of…caramel.

Overall the two are on par with Starbucks’ products, if even slightly better for half the price (a medium frappé will cost you $2.79 as opposed to somewhere in the ballpark of over $4 at Starbucks for the equivalent). I do love watching the special McDonald’s machine make my drink, where the McD’s Barista hits a few buttons and the thing makes itself, similar to the smoothies. It even cleans the blender itself too, I need one of those in my home.

Pros: Flavor, price, not having to go to Starbucks, not having to spend a fortune at Starbucks, not having to sell my nonexistent children to Starbucks, the manager made my drinks for me, and not having to sit in the drive thru.

Cons: Caramel had too much caramel at the end, the people at my local McDonald’s are starting to recognize me, I need to stop eating at McDonald’s so much, having to insert the accented é every time I want to say frappé.

Final notes: If you’re looking for energy, look elsewhere. Considering I drank both a medium Mocha and Caramel frappe in the course of an hour at 10pm for this review, I’m already ready to go to bed and it’s only midnight. Otherwise this is just another nail in Starbucks’ coffin as McDonald’s rises up in the cafe area.