Halloween 2023: October 26ᵗʰ – PumpkinQuest 2023, Part 3

Happy National Pumpkin Day! This is it, folks! The grand finale of my quest to eat fifty new-to-me pumpkin delights before Halloween ends. It has been a journey, that’s for sure. Click the pic and we’ll taste the last batch of this year’s pumpkin delicacies, a couple of which I made myself!


Before we get started, I need to publish a correction. In PumpkinQuest Part 1, I reviewed the Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin Cheesecake served by Skyline Chili. But it turns out I reviewed this exact same cheesecake just last year. So I owe you guys a #10.

I went out and got a box of Kellogg’s Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini Wheats to write about those, but I looked it up and found that I reviewed those back in 2019. So I found another cereal for you, one I’m sure I have never reviewed. Here’s what I need you to do: grab a Sharpie, go back to Part 1, and cross out that old #10. Just scribble right over the whole paragraph on your monitor. Color over the picture, too, just for good measure. Then come back here and read the real #10.

10. Quaker Pumpkin Spice Instant Oatmeal – I picked this up in North Carolina. It’s not very strongly flavored. In fact, it smells exactly like unflavored oatmeal when you cook it. And although I wish here was a bit more pumpkin spice flavor, I appreciate the fact that, compared to other Quaker instant oatmeal flavors I’ve had, this isn’t super sweet. I’m going to add a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice to the next bowl I make to see if that gives it a little boost.

And now, on with the countdown!

31. Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice Bagel Bologna Sandwich – Back in PumpkinQuest 2023, Part 2, I told you there was an even better way to eat Thomas’ Pumpkin Spice Bagels than to simply toast them. And that secret, ladies and gentlemen, is to sandwich-ize them. First you lightly toast them…

Then you lay on plenty of yellow mustard…

Now add three slices of Oscar Mayer bologna. The regular kind. Don’t use all beef; it has a mushy texture that does not work on this sandwich. Top with plenty more yellow mustard…

And there we have it! I’m not really a big fan of bologna, but this sandwich is DELICIOUS. The amount of mustard may seem shocking, but the acid from the vinegar and the tang of the mustard seeds perfectly balances the sweetness of the bagel and the salt of the bologna. This was my lunch at work for an entire week. I finished the bag of bagels this way, and my only complaint is that I’ve been to three grocery stores since then and I can’t find any more pumpkin spice bagels. Damn you, seasonal corporate sales strategies!

By the way, you can also do this with pumpkin spice swirl bread. I tried using brown mustard on one half, but I don’t think it tastes as good. The brown adds a weird sweetness that just doesn’t work for me. Stick with yellow mustard. You won’t be sorry.

UPDATE: I found another bag of pumpkin spice bagels! And I’ve found another thing they’re good at! This is pan fried cheddar bratwurst on a toasted pumpkin spice bagel, this time with just a tiny amount of yellow mustard to cut through the fattiness of the sausage. I’m not normally a fan of cheddar bratwurst, but I had some and I decided to give this a try. I never imagined I’d say this, but this might be even better than the bologna sandwich. I’m starting to realize how versatile these pumpkin spice bagels are. I wish I could share with you the smell of this sandwich before I ever took a bite. The sweetness of the pumpkin, redolent with spice, mixed with the mouthwatering scent of grilled meat, with just a hint of that acidic mustard tang… just amazing. The only thing I could think that would have improved this would have been if the bratwurst was a spicy Italian sausage. Time to head to the grocery.

32. Thomas’ Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Swirl Bread Grilled Cheese – Speaking of pumpkin spice breads, the swirl bread from Part 1 makes an excellent grilled cheese sandwich. The sugar in the bread makes it easy to burn, so you have to adjust the heat and keep an eye on it, but that same sugar makes the bread wonderfully crispy when you get it right. The sandwich above is made from pepper jack singles, and the heat and sweet combination is fantastic. Of course, there’s only one way to really put grilled cheese to the test…

Oh, yeah! This absolutely works. Full transparency: I used Progresso Tomato Basil soup here. And while it was good, I really should have used regular canned Campbell’s tomato soup made with whole milk. Don’t get me wrong, this was delicious. But even as I enjoyed it, I could tell that the missing notes of cream from the milk would have made this meal even better. I will make another bowl again in the near future, this time with a milk-based tomato soup. And I can already tell you that the pumpkin spice bread will go with it like they were made for each other. I’ll bet good money on it.

33. Little Debbie Pumpkin Pie – Okay, back to some store bought pumpkin eats. I was thrilled to find that Little Debbie had come out with a new pumpkin treat.

This is legitimately a tiny pie in a tiny pie tin. I thought it might be some clever looking snack cake, but this is the real deal. Unfortunately is shares some of the flaws common to other pumpkin pies.

The first problem is the crust. It tastes like all store-bought pie crusts: dry, lifeless, and disgustingly floury. But the biggest issue I have with this is the sweetness. I’ve mentioned other times this year how I’ve noticed the needless sugariness of many pumpkin treats, and this is by far the worst offender I’ve tasted this year. It was so sweet it was actually nasty. I ate less than half of it. The part of the pie I’m holding in the picture above went in the garbage.

34. Charlotte’s Pumpkin Squares – Much like the oatmeal earlier, these don’t have a strong pumpkin smell. But they are buttery, and have a wonderful pumpkin flavor.

When I saw the thickness of he crust I was concerned these would be dry. But they are actually moist and mouthwatering. Of everything I’ve eaten this year, these taste the most like something homemade. I will definitely seek these out next year. These have been added to my permanent Halloween list.

35. Sugar Bowl Bakery Pumpkin Spice Madeleines – I’ve never had madeleines before, so I don’t have anything to compare these to. But they’re damned tasty, I can tell you that.

I thought madeleines were cookies, but these are more like miniature cakes. I expected there to be some crispness. Again, I’ve never had a madeleine in my life, so I don’t know why I expected that. But they are softer and much more dense than I expected.

I also did not expect for these to taste so good. This is an excellent bite sized pumpkin cake, and conveniently individually wrapped as well. These will be perfect to keep in my desk at work for when I need a quick pumpkin hit to get me through ’til quitting time.

36. Ole Smoky Pumpkin Spice Cream Moonshine – This stuff has no business being as good as it is. I am not a moonshine fan. I’m really not much of a drinker anymore at all. I used to be a tequila burning engine, but in my dotage the party machine has become a puttering, wheezing, rusted out lawnmower. If I was a car I’d be up on cinder blocks. I actually sip liquor now. And this is liquor well worth sipping. If you enjoy pumpkin spice at all, you will almost certainly enjoy this. Just sip. This is not a chugging alcohol.

37. Meijer Pumpkin Cake Glazed Donut Holes – Well, these are a massive disappointment. I expected something akin to Dunkin’ donut holes, but these are dense, dry, and unpleasantly chewy. Not a fan.

38. Meijer Pumpkin Crème Cake – I’m having a hard time figuring out whether I like this or Entenmann’s pumpkin cake better. They both taste outstanding, and this is SO moist. One of the most tender cakes I’ve ever eaten, pumpkin or otherwise. It’s damned good. I will be buying this again.

39. Quinn’s Baking Company Pumpkin Spice Swiss Rolls – A while back I made a Swiss Meringue Buttercream Roll, and, flavor aside, this reminded me very much of the cake I made. And that is not a good thing.

I have never eaten a professionally baked Swiss roll, so maybe they’re supposed to be like this, but the reason I was able to get such a perfectly round roll is that my cake was very stiff. Not dry, but almost chewy, like it had WAY more gluten in it than it should have. I don’t know what I did wrong, but Quinn’s did it too, because these little Swiss rolls have the exact same tough texture my cake had. Like my cake, these taste great but have an off-putting stretchy quality. They’re 90% cake, 10% neoprene mouse pad. I sympathize, Quinn’s. The same damned thing happened to me.

40. Meijer Pumpkin Mini Danish – These are mild almost to the point of not tasting like pumpkin at all. If you’re looking for a real punch of pumpkin spice, look elsewhere. That said, I’m not sorry I bought them.

These little Danishes are not completely without pumpkininity, and they have a great browned butter taste to boot. They would have gone very nicely with coffee, and even better with hot tea.

41. Thomas Pumpkin Spice English Muffins – It took me a long damned time to find these. I was starting to think they had gone regional and I wasn’t going to get any.

Give these things a good toast and slather with salted butter. God DAMN. These beautiful crunchy bastards were well worth the wait! Of course, to truly test the quality of an English muffin, we’re gonna need a little more than just butter…

Ladies and gentlemen, meet pumpkin spice breakfast! I love a good eggs Benedict, but you don’t need the whole recipe to test the quality of an English muffin. You just need eggs with nice, runny yolks. And since these are an English bread, I’ve decided to forgo my standard grape jelly in favor of jam. Tally ho, and so forth. Please forgive my ugly eggs; I fried these in a cheap little electric skillet in my office, which I have never used for eggs. But while their appearance leaves something to be desired, I actually managed to get two fairly decent eggs over easy.

Being an English bread, I buttered both halves before topping them, of course. It’s the only decent British thing to do. The muffin and strawberry jam combination seemed like a no brainer, and it was as delightful as I assumed it would be. I was, however, concerned about muddling the flavors of pumpkin spice and egg yolk. I’ve tried a lot of combinations, but mixing those two very distinctive tastes seemed odd even for me. But I shouldn’t have worried. You would think pumpkin spice English muffins were FORMULATED to go with eggs. The flavor is unbelievable. These are so much better than regular English muffins. They should stop making other kinds and just manufacture these instead. They are in every way superior. I may need to go full eggs Benedict with these.

42. Dunkin’ Pumpkin Spice Grahams Goldfish Crackers – These are great! I’ve had pumpkin pies in graham cracker crusts before, but this is a completely different ratio of flavors. Right up front, the sweetness is balanced by the perfect amount of saltiness, married with a wonderful hit of maple courtesy of the inclusion of real maple syrup in the recipe. The flavor profile is first and foremost graham crackers, and secondly a fantastic maple pumpkin experience. While several things I’ve tried during PumpkinQuest 2023 have tasted very similar, I think it’s safe to say that absolutely nothing I’ve tried tastes anything like this. These stand alone, and I LOVE them. Of all the pumpkin treats this year, these are the most surprisingly enjoyable. I could care less about regular Goldfish crackers, but is very difficult to restrain myself from eating the entire bag of pumpkin graham Goldfish in one sitting. I hope they make these things forever.

43. Entenmann’s Pumpkin Donuts – These are pushing the envelope of how sweet a donut can be before it becomes unenjoyable. Fortunately, they do not cross the line, but I could only eat one.

One thing I will give Entenmann’s is that these donuts are moist. It’s easy to get ahold of a lot of dry pumpkin baked good this time of year, but these are tender and soft.

44. Café Valley Bakery Pumpkin Cream Cheese Coffee Cake – These are straightforward what they claim to be. When I first opened the package, the cream cheese aroma was strong, but don’t let that deter you. They do not taste overly cheesy, nor are they too strongly spiced. These are made to please a broad audience. They are pretty sweet, but come in very pleasant, bite-sized servings. I am pleased with these. I wouldn’t eat them all the time, but I can see buying a tray of these every October, if for nothing else than to share in the office.

45. Remke Special Recipe Pumpkin Cookies – Selling these as cookies is a bit of a stretch. In truth these are very thin, very small cakes, and they are so soft they fall apart under their own weight. They are tender cake, I’ll give them that, but they leave a lot to be desired for something sold as cookies.

They don’t taste bad, but they don’t taste like much, either. They’re basically just a very mild spice cake. I tried to dip one of them in the included frosting and it ripped into tiny pieces. Why? Because these are not cookies. Don’t believe the packaging. These are fragile, cookie shaped cakes.

46. Remke Pumpkin Spice Yogurt Pretzels – I’ve had other pumpkin spice pretzels before, but those were drizzled with white chocolate or something similar. I think I prefer these. It’s a more straightforward pumpkin spice flavor, without the unnecessary vanilla and cocoa fat sweetness of white chocolate. These are an excellent salty sweet snack.

47. Biggby Coffee Pumpkin Spice Latte – I’m not sure how long Biggby Coffee has been around, but it’s new to me. In the past few months I’ve started seeing them everywhere. I pulled in the drive through almost knowing that no coffee shop would be without pumpkin this time of year, and I was not disappointed. Not with the availability of pumpkin, anyway. The latte, however… meh. It’s the one on the left. It’s not bad by any means, but in a world full of good PSLs, this one is nothing to leave the house for.

Mediocre!

48. Biggby Coffee Sweet Foam Pumpkin Cold Brew – This, on the other hand, was a nice surprise. The texture of the foam is something between whipped cream and marshmallow fluff. I tried sipping the coffee through the foam and then later stirred it together. Either way is good, but sipping the coffee through the foam was the better method. It allowed me to taste more of the foam and coffee flavors separately and then together as they mixed. If you get one of these, which I would recommend, don’t stir.

49. Biggby Coffee Pumpkin Muffin – The white muffin top you see above is not flour, nor a bad photo. That is what I believe is supposed to be a cream cheese frosting that is baked into the muffin. It’s weird, yes, but it’s also the only part of this muffin that is worth eating.

The muffin isn’t dry, exactly, but it’s close. It crumbles into pieces because there’s so little moisture in it. It’s like all the water in this thing migrated to the “topping.” The muffin itself has a funky flavor. I couldn’t identify it after several bites, and I was not interested in trying further. I’m cool living with this particular mystery, because I’m never going to buy a pumpkin muffin from Biggby again. These remind me of Rick James: funky and unpleasant.

50. Remke N&R Pumpkin Muffins – Not happy with my Biggby muffin, I hit Remke, because it was literally less than a hundred feet away. Unfortunately, Remke doesn’t seem to be able to do a whole lot better than Biggby. The muffin was moist, I’ll give it that much, but the processed cream cheese flavored frosting was too rich, and the muffin itself didn’t taste like much of anything.

51. Remke Iced Pumpkin Cake Donuts – What the actual fuck, Remke? These don’t taste like pumpkin nor pumpkin spice. Not even a little. If anything, they have a weirdly muted citrus flavor. Are these made with orange zest? There is nothing pumpkiny at all about these. Don’t buy them. What a massive disappointment.

52. Treat Shop Pumpkin Spice Sweet Middles – Now this is more like it! I was concerned the cinnamon cream cheese filling would drown out the pumpkin spices, but no. It actually all works together really well. You can taste everything. And while these are sweet as hell, they are also pretty tiny. Consider these Chris tested, Chris approved!

53. Jell-O Pumpkin Spice Instant Pudding – Okay, folks, this is it! The last entry of PumpkinQuest 2023! I have been waiting for this one. I’ve known about this stuff for years, but I’ve never gotten around to trying it before now. I love pudding, and Jell-O has yet to let me down, but this is going to be an odd one.

When you open the packet, the powdered pudding is a pale lavender grey, but as soon as the milk hits it, these beautiful caramel colors are released. This stuff is SO GOOD! Silky, creamy, and best of all, it is positively rich with pumpkin spice. This would make an excellent pudding pie, pudding cake, or even a dip for ginger snaps. I don’t know why I hesitated so long to try this!

And that’s all she wrote for PumpkinQuest 2023! Thank you all for joining me in this ridiculous endeavor; I’ve had a hell of a good time! And I did it! Over fifty new-to-me pumpkin goodies before Halloween! Yes! Now check out The Skull Of The Day!

Today’s Skull Of The Day is my new silicone candy/soap mold. Longtime readers will remember that I have dabbled in candy making with varying degrees of success and failure. When I get around to it, I’ll show you what I make! Come back tomorrow for more Halloween treats!

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