The 'Shroom:Issue 177/Critic Corner
It's finally December!!! The year has flown by, and it simultaneously feels like nothing happened and everything happened. My personal life has gone through several significant changes, and it's kinda weird sitting back and reflecting on who and where I was a year ago, with no idea what was coming for me. I'm sure you all have that experience as well, and I'm here to reassure you that Critic Corner will continue to be here with wonderful and passionate sections, that much is not changing!
Thank you for voting Half-Baked Reviews as November's Critic Corner Section of the Month!! Be sure to give your love to all of our sections here, and give a shout out to our writers whether in chat or in their forum threads dedicated to their sections. Be sure to vote vote vote!
And now for my regular announcements: We've decided to implement in Critic Corner something similar to News Flush over in Fake News, where no formal sign-up application process is required for one-time or limited sections. From now on if you just want to send in a single review for something you just read, watched played, tried, whatever, you just have to send me your review privately either to me directly in chat, or in a message to me on the forum at least one week before each 'Shroom is to be released! There's no commitment or obligation to provide a full monthly section (although you absolutely can shift it into one if you so choose), just send us your thoughts on a thing and we'll feature it here! If you have any questions or curiosities about this, please feel free to ask!
As always, if you would like to help Critic Corner, we always have openings for more writers! You are free to write for sections such as Character Review and Movie Review, or really anything you'd like to do! There's no pressure to have a huge section; they can be shorter and concise! The application process is very simple, starting with reading the Sign Up page, and sending your application to Ninja Squid, our Stats Manager on the forum. Any idea you have is welcome, and if you have any questions or need help signing up, please feel free to reach out to myself or other 'Shroom peeps!
Section of the Month
|Critic Corner SECTION OF THE MONTH|
|1st||Anton's Half-Baked Reviews||11||78.57%||Hypnotoad (talk)|
|2nd||Graphic Novel Review||2||14.29%||FunkyK38 (talk)|
|2nd||'Shroom FM||1||7.14%||MrConcreteDonkey (talk)|
Hello! Welcome to 'Shroom FM! Merry Christmas!
I actually managed to go see one of my favourite artists live in November - specifically Ichiko Aoba, whose last album Windswept Adan was my favourite album of 2020. It's the first gig I've been to since 2018 (not counting local bands I've known people in). She played a few songs from that album in an acoustic style, plus a few of her earlier songs. She also did a few fun things between some of the songs. My favourite moment was when she sung a bit of the Animal Crossing theme and then did a genuinely perfect impression of an Animal Crossing villager. Very mellow evening, had a very nice time.
ABBA - VOYAGE
DJ SABRINA THE TEENAGE DJ - THE MAKIN' MAGICK II ALBUM
IDLES - CRAWLER
LIL UGLY MANE - VOLCANIC BIRD ENEMY AND THE VOICED CONCERN ⭐cites a wide range of unusual influences in this Sonemic interview, and those I'm familiar with do make a lot of sense. Anyway, I think this is a really cool album, every song feels unique and memorable in its own way. It has a very pessimistic and ironic atmosphere to it, genuinely sounds exactly like the cover art. I hate that bird in particular - it's horrible, and it's perfect. This atmosphere is complemented excellently by Miller's lethargic vocals and lyrics, a lot of lines here that really grab your attention. Production is superb - plenty of odd and unorthodox sounds and samples, which work very well with the mellow instrumentation. I think there's a few ideas here that don't work as well as others - some that are more interesting stylistically rather than being catchy, not that that's always a bad thing. In general, this is a really unique and well-crafted album, a lot of fun to listen to.
SILK SONIC - AN EVENING WITH SILK SONIC
See you in January for the best/worst/everything else of 2021!
All-Time Smash Merit Ranking
Hello everyone! For those who aren’t on the forums, welcome to the beginning of a new section for the Shroom. This will be similar in concept to Superchao’s Mach Speed Mayhem in that the community decides who I cover next. but for Smash Bros. characters. However, it’s not going to be one-by-one like with the F-Zero characters (Otherwise this would last over 3 years). Instead, I’ll be going for 5 a month. With the top two of each subsequent month being covered in the Shroom. The other 3 are covered either shortly before the Shroom, or on my own time eventually. The three characters outside the Shroom were Chrom, Dr. Mario, and Wii Fit Trainer. Click the hyperlinks to each forum post if you’d like to see those first before preceding to the Shroom section characters.
Anyhow, over the course of this section. An all-time merit list will be collected. What’s being counted into merit? Quite a bit of factors including a character’s relevance to Nintendo and/or gaming history as a whole, if they provide a unique moveset, have been a popular request and/or popular in general if they were among the early no-brainer characters back in SSB64 and Melee, and sometimes underlying x-factors like how difficult it must have been to get them in Smash, etc.. While a merit thread naturally will mean a fair bit of opinion and personal experience (Some of which, I may need a guest to speak on characters that I did not play their original games.) I hope to have something close to an objective list of the most deserving Smash characters at the top.
Without further adieu, let’s get to our characters. I wonder who was voted #2 for my first ever Shroom section charac-
|Fighter Group||Ultimate Newcomers/Preorder Bonus|
|Game of Origin||Super Mario Bros. (NES, 1985 (US/JP), 1987 (EU)|
………….Actually, I kind of saw this coming. It’s fine actually, we get this one over with so generally the rest of this goes on the more… positive side.
For those who don’t know me. This isn’t the first time I’ve done merit rankings. I had threads for it during Smash 4’s speculation, and Ultimate. The one for Smash 4 even had an earlier attempt at an all-time ranking that probably will have a fair bit of similarities to what this list will end up being in the end. However there’s more characters, and who knows if there’s been a fair amount of change for at least some characters since then that might have grown their merit since then.
For those who remember my thoughts given on each newcomer for Ultimate… I had a… interesting reaction to… this fighter… not that I rage quitted when I saw it get in Smash. I in fact was laughing at that point of time. I even audio recorded my initial reactions to Piranha Plant being a fighter… though you can say… I was laughing to contain the utter pain of the part of my brain that delves into speculation for who could be a fighter in Smash…
Because by almost every metric when it comes to merit, Piranha Plant… is the worst inclusion in the entire series.
Say what you will about promotional Fire Emblem characters like Corrin and Byleth. But at least they were the main playable characters from their game, and as much as people complain about anime swordsmen. Corrin and Byleth arguably had some of the more fun movesets out of the Fire Emblem character choices.
The main things Piranha Plant has going for it, is that it’s recognizable to everyone, and that it provides a unique moveset that no one else does. However, the choice of Piranha Plant limits these as a factor for quite a few reasons. Sure, just like everything from the original Super Mario Bros., Piranha Plant is a recognizable part of the Mario franchise that even those who don’t play often may recognize. But do you know what’s a character that debuted in the same game that still isn’t playable by themselves and would have made a lot more sense? TOAD.
If you’re gonna argue the recognizability of the plant, you should be able to acknowledge Toad who’s not only been in the series just as long but has actually been playable in some form in Mario games for years. And even if the goal was a Mario enemy as a character, Goombas or Koopa Troopas are the more iconic Mario enemy then the mostly stationary Piranha Plants. Piranha Plant having never been fully playable in any game, not even Spin-offs prior to Smash. Piranha Plants generally were at best items and hazards.
Piranha Plant feels like it’d make more sense as part of a moveset rather then a full-on character. What if Waluigi had gotten playable, and his Down Special was him bringing out a Piranha Plant that stretches out just like what the current Piranha Plant fighter can do. That would work, and even has something close to a reference in an artwork for Mario Party. And as if it couldn’t get any worse for fans who have wanted Toad to have a spotlight in Smash. It’s Toad who’s been relegated to a Down special (Though at the very least in Ultimate he’s also in the grabs and seems quite a bit more active then simply being pulled out of Peach’s hammerspace pocket) while the Plant who’s always been more like an item in spin-off games, gets to be fully playable.
It probably doesn’t help at the timing they revealed the Piranha Plant. It was the final base game Smash Ultimate direct. Everyone who believed that the infamous Grinch leak was real, laid in shambles as Ken and Incineroar turned out to be the final two characters. There was no Shadow, there was no Isaac, there was no Geno, etc. Luckily, there was the announcement of DLC to at least cheer people up. A full fighter’s pass of 5 fighters was on the way. Though Sakurai had another surprise for us, a fighter that comes free if you pre-order the game and becomes paid after a later date. The last time we had something like this? We got freakin’ Mewtwo back in Smash 4. So there had to have been a feeling that this character was going to be hype to further encourage pre-orders.
Anticipation waited as we cut to the trailer of the new character, we see it’s Mario on the NSMB field. Was Geno (Or potentially any other requested Mario character) joining the battle after all? Mario then approaches a potted piranha plant. The plant pops up. Then dodges backward… hits Mario… and… taunts… followed by the tagline “Piranha Plant Pipes Up!”….
I think for the most part, the only reasonable reaction to it is to just… laugh. All this hype from before the final base game direct, especially everything to do with the Grinch leak. Plus, the prior knowledge of Smash 4 having gotten a really hype pre-order bonus in the form of Mewtwo. And it ends up… being a Piranha Plant.
It was the cherry on top for a day proven to be an utter apocalypse for wanted characters (especially if you were in the mindset that the spirits deconfirmed the characters for DLC. Which to be fair we literally only got Min Min and Pyra/Mythra to counter that) If Piranha Plant had been announced earlier, it might of came off more so as the Wii Fit Trainer where it’s just a really weird joke character they decided to put in (Though as I note in when I covered her on the forums, she still makes some sense from the perspective that Wii Fit was a financial success), but no, they literally made this plant the very first DLC character for Ultimate (Granted there’s possible hints that the plant may have once been planned for base game. Such as the fact as it’s the only DLC character who got a Palutena’s guidance for them). I don’t think it needs to be said that it definitely crash-and-burned as a choice for the preorder bonus compared to having Mewtwo last time. And again, it came at the same time we got a potentially apocalyptic amount of character deconfirmations, even if you don’t consider the overhype the Grinch leak caused. There was a debate afterward if a character appearing as a spirit discounted them as DLC, which was arguably correct until the 2nd fighter’s pass. A plant gets announced playable in Smash, while all these recognizable characters may have only gotten what amounts to a PNG in the game.
After the direct, naturally came the memes and the exclamations of “#PLANTGANG”. Piranha Plant is absolutely the most jokey joke character that Smash has ever provided. Pichu may have technically been the previous real joke character with the ability to damage itself, but Pokemon was still huge at the time and the Gen 2 rep being the promoted baby form of Pikachu made some form of sense back in Melee. Plant has everything of being a choice literally no one before they were revealed would have said they wanted (The closest to anyone wanting a playable Piranha Plant would probably have to be Petey, who was put as the Final Smash in a reference to the boss fight in Brawl). If you wanted to make fun of people taking Smash speculation too seriously, the Plant became the perfect outlet. Because under no circumstance could the character’s inclusion be explained other then Sakurai wanted to have a little fun. The more serious you try to take Piranha Plant’s inclusion, the worse it gets. So it’s almost better to just treat Piranha Plant as the one time Sakurai decided to troll all of us to the highest degree. Sakurai had mainly been making fans happy with everything up from Everyone is Here! to Ridley and K. Rool being added to Smash that perhaps the Plant was Sakurai utterly grasping for something outside of the box to try to mix things up.
Perhaps, the main argument for Piranha Plant is “If it’s supposed to be a joke character. Then lighten up! Why complain about it? There’s several other great characters that came before and after” and all I can really say is that you’re actually right. Just because the plant made it, doesn’t mean I was like “GAME RUINED FOREVER. PRE-ORDER CANCELED!”, I still wanted Smash Ultimate as soon as possible because it still had every Smash character up to that point plus I wanted to continue to use Sonic the most out of any character. And for the most part, the characters that came after Piranha Plant were all worthy in some way.
I do however feel like there’s room to at least understand those who have dream characters that still have not yet made it can be upset that they chose to give development time to another Mario character… that wasn’t even among the ones that people have been clamoring for years for. You replace Piranha Plant with Toad, Waluigi, Paper Mario, etc. and you have a pre-order bonus that doesn’t need to make memes to enjoy it. I feel like it can be understood that for some, it can feel like they scraped for the bottom of the barrel even among Mario enemy choices for Smash. And that’s only if you talk about things as if the pre-order bonus could have ONLY been a Mario character. There’s many other franchises that could have gotten a good spotlight by adding a character as a pre-order bonus.
Perhaps another disappointing aspect of Piranha Plant’s inclusion. It was the only individual character outside of the 2 fighter passes we got. There’s a section of the DLC section of the Smash Bros. website that says Individual DLC. That might have lead people to believe that at some point, we were going to get singularly released fighters at some point other then the plant. But no, Piranha Plant is the only character there as every other character was in the 2 Fighter Passes (Although you could pay for them individually). So even now, Piranha Plant has the added factor of bringing some false hope.
Piranha Plant has also such an effect, that may be for a time. I had lower expectations heading into DLC. I still got Piranha Plant since it was free, though if I indeed had to have paid for it… I think I for the first time would of chosen to not buy them. The only other character I considered skipping was Roy in Smash 4 but I had a little extra eShop money at the time so I was like “Oh, why not”. I also did not buy either of the two passes just in case that another Piranha Plant-like shocker of a surprise awaited us. Luckily, another Piranha Plant in Ultimate did not happen. You could argue Byleth maybe, but even then. Byleth is the protagonist of a popular Fire Emblem game, Piranha Plant has less merit then a goomba. You’d have to literally try really hard to think of a character with less merit. You’d probably have to delve into literal inanimate objects such as coin blocks or the spikes from Megaman to get anywhere near to an equivalent or worse to the Plant.
Perhaps I’m taking this all too seriously, as after all in the end. Super Smash Bros. is just a video game with lots of varying characters and can do silly things especially when items are involved. But ever since Brawl (Or even Melee counting the debut of the trophies), there’s been this feeling like that Smash Bros. almost feels like your very own Nintendo museum that started with the trophies, and that the characters in the game were like entering Nintendo’s hall of fame. With Smash 4 and Ultimate sort of almost expanding it to an in-general video game hall of fame with all the 3rd party character choices. Though I can understand the cons of a hall of fame mentality when it comes to game rosters. As it can make people feel their character is entitled to a spot, and if they don’t make it. It feels like a personal insult, and can lead to trashing of characters they don’t feel like they deserve it. Which quickly devolves into some really toxic arguments.
However, I do feel that even with an assortment of promotional characters. As in characters meant mostly to help sell a recent game (Most notably the new Pokemon and Fire Emblem chancers ever since Smash 4) the roster has actually well and abided to deserving characters and/or popular requests. Even amongst most of the others that are most assuredly going to be among the bottom of the list of merited characters, Piranha Plant sticks out cause the other low merited characters is usually just a clone of another fighter that was made pretty cheaply. While Piranha Plant’s uniqueness is ironically a detriment unlike other characters, because it’s time spent on a character that should have had other characters come before it. If Toad has already been in Smash. Piranha Plant would of arguably been more tolerable even without the more popularly demanded Waluigi. But would still remain a pretty awful choice nonetheless. It’d just again be more tolerable, because you basically have the entire classic Mario crew. Not to mention every playable character in Super Mario Bros. 2, Mario Kart 64, the New Super Mario Bros. series and Super Mario 3D World in Smash. Adding the Plant with Toad in, would be like “…Ok yeah sure, the Mario roster was already pretty complete. So whatever”. As it stands, it’s only now a wonder why Toad has never been chosen in all the years of Smash, yet the plant did, having never been playable in anything else before. Even if you rebut that with the fact Toad is in Peach’s moveset. We got Chrom as a character despite him still being in Robin’s final Smash. And what’s more, Toads are a species. If they can have Chrom attack himself, then you can have a Toad counter Peach from an attack from a different Toad. And if it’s that much of an issue, make Peach’s toad Toadsworth while the regular toad, blue toad, Captain Toad, or even Toadette are the default playable Toad(/s)
Just like what I said when I covered Dr. Mario on the forums, I’ll put in a disclaimer that I doubt the choice was ever between deciding if that pre-order bonus would be Toad or Piranha Plant. I think Sakurai just wanted a goofy character no one expects to spice up the roster. I even have a feeling that’s part of the reason we got characters such as Mr. Game & Wtach, ROB, and Wii Fit Trainer. But the problem is there each of those have a strong place in Nintendo’s history. You could try to argue from the perspective that Piranha Plant was in the first Super Mario Bros. one of the biggest gaming hits in history. But that just circles back to the fact Toad was also in that game. And how he appears (Or at least, multiple of them) appear more then the Princess who has been playable since Melee. Sorry if this reads like I’m some salty Toad for Smash supporter. I wouldn’t lie that I would be happy if Toad ever got in Smash, but a playable Toad is actually not one I actively yearn for all that much. But when you have 9 Mario characters, but a major recurring character in the franchise still isn’t among one of those and yet choices like Mario with a PHD and a single Piranha Plant got in first, it really leaves an empty hole in the Mario character representation that despite Ultimate having this really grand huge roster, makes the flagship franchise still feel like it’s missing something. Even if Toad being more active in Peach and Daisy’s moveset feels like a way to sort of try to appease Toad fans.
While there have been other characters of questionable merit, I feel strongly Piranha Plant is the lowest of the low. The plants a character that defies all expectations in the worst sense of the word. Honestly, Plant has just humbled me when it comes to inclusions past, present, and future. It’s a worse inclusion then anything in the past, every single inclusion since Piranha Plant has been ok in some fashion (Yes, even Byleth), and for the future. I’m not sure I can go in without expecting at least one really weird choice done similar to Piranha Plant being done again. it’s pretty much broken me to the point, that it’d take a bit for me to complain about a character. Because again, you’d have to literally get into playable inanimate objects before something can reach a worse merit then Piranha Plant I can actually take more echo fighters or alternate versions of characters already in the game, if it means we avoid more Piranha Plant-esque shockers in the future. Because there is a way to draw the line between recognizability, uniqueness and being a choice people actually wanted and/or being tone deaf to certain characters in a franchise that should come first.
No other character that’s made it into Smash has made me feel this way. And I hope, especially if the roster gets cut down quite a bit from Ultimate’s number. That they don’t have to delve into more like this. That said, I won’t be surprised if there is at least one that comes off as similar. Cause there’s probably some advertisement value for Nintendo for the sheer shock value of this choice. Plant’s inclusion can be sort of excused that at least even before it got in, such fan-pleasing moments such as Everyone is Here, Ridley, and K. Rool happened. And we still got cool choices like Banjo, Sephiroth, and Sora afterward. But what happens if you have say either the Plant return or something of it’s caliber be announced for the next Smash. But your favorite character may have been left behind? That’s a situation that I fear, most of all.
Now that we’re done with what may have been a bit of a downer… let’s get into a much, much happier one now that we’re on to who was voted #1!
|Fighter Group||Ultimate Newcomers/Fighter's Pass 2|
|Game of Origin||Minecraft (Public Beta: PC/Mac, 2009. Official Full release: PC/Mac, 2011)|
Now depending on who you are, you may object to me saying Steve is a happier inclusion then the Plant if you’re both an old-school gaming purist and you’ve never been a fan of Minecraft whether it’s because you’re tired of seeing the game perhaps quite a bit too often in the gaming sphere. Because there is so many let’s players and streamers that have played Minecraft at least once. And I imagine even a couple of ones that play almost exclusively Minecraft due to the never-ending aspect of Minecraft’s gameplay. Let alone an entire generation of gamers that still love Minecraft to this day. But even if you’re not a fan of Minecraft, you have to acknowledge that it is a phenomenon that took the world by storm ever since it’s public beta back in 2009.
Everyone knows Minecraft as that game that either you build to create whatever you want in creative mode. Though there is also the popular enough survival mode where you’re trying to keep your player alive and your homes safe from all the creatures that pop out at night. Sometimes having to risk it all heading into the caves looking for materials so that you have backups for when your weapon eventually breaks.
It's admittedly also quite amusing to know the fact that Steve is perhaps the one character Sakurai had to work the hardest into fitting because including him meant adding something to every single stage in the game and thinking on which stages would provide Steve with certain materials. As some stages offer more dirt or wood, while the more metal or rocky stages provide more iron.
I myself am not a huge Minecraft player but I did delve into some of it back in the early days. And I even bought it on Switch relatively recently… granted, I mostly did so for the official Sonic DLC that was added.
(A brief review of the Sonic DLC, it's certainly fun. Though on a controller you may need to change the controller settings, and the speed that you go at in levels you can go in is sometimes too much for Minecraft's draw distance to load. Sometimes the game will freeze for a little bit or you may find your self standing on invisible ground that has yet to load in. Also keep in mind the speed of the Sonic characters in the DLC World is not applied to your character if you use a Sonic skin outside of it. As much as it would be cool to be running fast and spin-dashing through survival mode. You can't do it. Unless maybe a modder has found a way to do it for at least the PC version.)
But speaking of such collaborations such as said Sonic DLC, it really speaks as to just how huge Minecraft has gotten that you’ve gotten pretty big companies putting licensed content in. Though I imagine part of that is because Minecraft went into the hands of Microsoft when they bought it from the game’s creator (Who I won’t mention who they were for… a reason. Let’s just say there’s a reason there’s memes that the game came from Space or that Hatsune Miku created it instead).
Now a funny coincidence between both the Plant and Steve’s reveal. I was also laughing hard at the character being Steve. But this time the laugh was not actually hiding some pain. Because in truth, Steve is actually decently deserving. Minecraft is the highest-selling game in the world. As simple and blocky he looks, he is an icon of the modern generation of gamers. To deny that is gatekeeping. Perhaps things got dicey in regards to Steve because during Ultimate speculation it was thought it was going to be a race between Banjo-Kazooie and Steve to be Microsoft’s rep. The biggest fear many Banjo fans had was Steve showing up first, putting much doubt on Banjo being in. However, it was Banjo that got in first… but Steve came in the next pass anyway. So both big sets of those who wanted a Microsoft character in Smash got what they wanted eventually. (Unless you were a Master Chief supporter… good luck next time, maybe?)
On a side note, ever since the Steve trailer. I’ve joked about calling Sonic’s forward Smash the Minecraft Banisher. Since it is Sonic’s punch that sends Mario flying into the Minecraft world.
Now in some regards, there is some degree of limits where Steve can go for the merits because Nintendo-wise. Minecraft did not show up on a Nintendo system until 2015. Minecraft has been on Nintendo systems shorter then Splatoon as a franchise has existed. That said Minecraft ended up with a pretty healthy relationship with Nintendo. With the Wii U and Switch versions having an exclusive Mario world with character skins and everything (Albeit I imagine they weren’t hard to simply recreate via the PC version’s modding community).
However, I will say that the impact of Minecraft can not be denied. And I feel he’ll have a decent spot in the rankings when all is said and done. With that, it’s time to place both the Plant and Steve into the current rankings list.
Piranha Plant is at the bottom of these 5 and as I’ve stated will more then likely remain on the bottom the entire time, expect that 5 to eventually be accompanied by an 8 to the left of it by the end of this list. As for Steve, there will certainly be characters that outrank him. But of this first batch of 5, he builds a block tower above them all.
2. Wii Fit Trainer
4. Dr. Mario
5. Piranha Plant
Continuing with my quest to give things, of which i gave crappy reviews, a full and fair chance, I’ll be trying out a bunch of eggnog! How festive! The last time I reviewed eggnog was waaaaaay back in December 2016, a full 5 years ago, where I rendered upon it such endearing terms as “worst mistake of my life” and “sorry excuse for the sludge scraped out from underneath a community waffle iron at a budget hotel’s continental breakfast at 9:58am.”
If you are unfamiliar with eggnog, it’s a classic winter holiday drink originated in the United Kingdom, and has become greatly popular in the United States and Canada as well. The basic components of it are whipped egg yolks (and often whites), milk, cream, sugar, and nutmeg, with cinnamon being a common addition, not much unlike simply a melted ice cream, but variations in processing makes the difference. It’s meant to be thick and goopy, like a custard, so my pancake-batter remark is not too far off. Eggnog is often spiked with alcohol such as rum, brandy, whiskey, bourbon, or any combination or all included, but is not necessary and nearly never to be found in a store-bought version; I’d prefer to add my own, anyways. Traditionally, this is made at home, with whatever family recipe and your heart’s greatest desires being added, but that’s not what I’m here for today.
The eggnogs I selected are simply from what I had available in stores as I shopped around, and eggnog seems to have many MANY regional brands, so it’s very likely I will cover some that you might not ever see, and it’s very likely you might be a huge fan of one that I don’t even know exists because it’s produced in one single metropolitan area. Organic Valley Eggnog, which I’ve seen top several lists of Best Eggnog, is not being produced this year due to an unspecified reason, which seems to be the case for several other brands as well, so maybe in another year or two I’ll have a whole new set of eggnogs to try if this gauntlet I’m putting myself through now doesn’t either sicken or kill me.
As seems to be the case with all of these dairy-centric reviews I do, I ended up trying way too much as I came to discover an expansive variety readily available to me, so buckle in for a sleigh ride through the rest of winter with Mariah Carey blasting the whole way. First up will be real eggnogs made with standard ingredients and can actually be labeled as “eggnog”. An expression from a cool dude I had a conversation about eggnog with, eggnog has a low floor high ceiling, as it can be abysmally bad, or mind-bogglingly delicious, so it’s time to find out which ones are what.
In lieu of more words, and simplifying the procedure in wonderfully joyful way, I will also include a delightful graphic provided by Toadbert101 (talk) to illustrate how 🎄❄️ festive 🔔🎅 each eggnog made me feel.
T.G. LeeI figured I’d start off by mirroring what I had tried 5 years ago, eggnog from the token regional dairy production company; with Western New York that was Upstate Farms, and with Central Florida it’s T.G. Lee Dairy. Deans Foods brands. It’s also important for you, my lovely readers, to be aware of this regional brand as T.G. Lee dairy products are what you’ll often find at Disney World parks, along with many other local products.
Cinnamon and nutmeg smells are immediate, which foretell its flavor. Thick and creamy, yet smooth and fluid, a pleasant silky texture. Thanks carrageenan! I’m genuinely shocked at how much I liked it, but its sheer viscosity became quickly apparent. The heaviness of it makes it feel like you can’t drink so much of it so quickly, but I’m sure that does not deter the avid drinkers of it. I mixed it with rum because sure, which brought out the warmth of the cinnamon and nutmeg, but maintained the sweetness. A dangerous alcoholic drink as it is tasty and feels good, with built-in alcohol burn nullification.
Promised Land Dairy Old-Fashioned Eggnog
Right next to the T.G. Lee was the Promised Land milks and eggnog. I’ve been a fan of their regular milk, despite its heftier price, they are one of the only few companies that produce strawberry milk. A big part of their brand is that they use milk from Jersey cows, as opposed to the more common Holstein, offering a ‘richer and creamier’ experience, and is something I can verify as true. They produce milk with higher percentages of protein, calcium, and more importantly butterfat. As such, I am expecting the same for their eggnog.
Alarmingly smooth, super creamy and homogeneous; lacking the standard eggnog goopiness. The flavor is present, yet muted. I can tell there’s some nutmeg in there, and some dessert-level sweetness, but not much more. I can’t tell if I’m yearning for more, or thankful that I’m not experiencing a liquified version of the cinnamon challenge. It feels and tastes perfect, but still seems kinda boring, as the world of eggnog is filled with punch and kick. This feels too safe, but I appreciate that there’s a pretty tasty entry-level option for people who don’t want to deal with typical eggnog’s features. I’d qualify this more like an eggnog-flavored milk, which is totally not true by definition, but it evokes more what it feels like.
No added hormones or antibiotics, and ultra pasteurized which increases its shelf-life. The ingredient list does include guar gum and carrageenan, which ehhhhhh, pretty much all of these seem to do unless they specifically specialize in not doing exactly that, but I kinda figured that a brand that is making its name on the higher quality and texture of their Jersey cow milk would want to highlight that more. It’s not a breaking point for me, as the current texture among this and all of their products is pretty much unbeatable, but it was just surprising to realize.
Homestead Creamery EggnogI dug deep into Homestead Creamery’s milk products way back in Issue 156 in the fateful month of March 2020, reviewing a few of them with a result that fell towards either really good or really awful. I found this one at The Fresh Market where it was pretty heavily featured with its own big fridge and everything, but with a noticeable lack of any of their other basic products or flavors. While Earth Fare has opened back up under new ownership, I’ve yet to see Homestead Creamery there at ALL despite them originally having quite a large footprint. There is no innate recycling program with this one, with there being no deposit or expectation to bring the glass back, and without Orlando really having an easy or accessible way to recycle I have to now decide if I should just launch this into the garbage can to become a landfill to further develop suburbs in the swamps to the southeast,
Homestead’s eggnog is made with their typical grade A milk, all natural with no hormones or antibiotics, with ‘minimal pasteurization’ which seems to be what a bunch of companies are trying to do to appeal to both worlds of people who prefer notions of peak flavor and those who prefer knowing they’re not going to contract listeria.
Incredibly thick and rich, yet smooth, but in a way that feels exactly like the gums and carrageenan they used in it and not much else. Very VERY sugary, pretty much on par with a can of Pepsi, and it’s noticeable. Beyond that, nutmeg flavor is more present than cinnamon, which I guess is how eggnog is supposed to be. I almost felt like I could chew it.
Nellie’s Free-Range Eggnog
Made with certified humane free-range eggs, as seems to be their main shtick, Nellie’s eggnog is a recent addition (2020) to supermarket shelves. I happened to find this at Earth Fare, being pretty much the only eggnog on barren shelves, but it’s allegedly also available at Winn Dixie, Whole Foods, and Walmart. Grade A milk, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, ultra pasteurized. Nellie’s is a network of small free range farms that partner with hatcheries to produce their eggs, butter, and adjacent products, and are quite open about how they work.
Tastes a little thinner, but still really gloopy, which was kinda perplexing until I thought more about what raw eggs are like and then got a little grossed out. It was a little jarring feeling like I could chew it, almost pudding-like, but I survived and it really wasn’t THAT bad. It’s not quite as heavy on the spices as others I’ve tried, which might’ve put more of a focus on the texture, which just wasn’t what I’d ever want to willingly consume again.
As with all things Trader Joe’s, there’s a lot of buzz about how good their seasonal products are, and eggnog isn’t left out. Gracing many lists of must-haves with heaps of praise, many focusing on the cow art on the package, which raises a red flag of suspicion to me that if the most joyous part of the product is the box art, what is not being said? So, I snagged these, too, just to see if the hype is real, despite it being a week before the release of this section, and luckily (and surprisingly) the store near me still had a full inventory. Lesson learned from last year, I suppose!
Trader Joe’s Egg Nog
Pasteurized, homogenized, grade A milk, a standard I haven’t really seen deviated away from, leaving me curious what the alternatives are like; a 5 minute google search indicates that nothing like that is available near me, but if anyone in Iowa, California, or Pennsylvania want to offer their senses to me those seem to be the places where all this nonsense is. Trader Joe’s regular egg nog comes with no artificial flavors or preservatives, and it’s genuinely noticeable with the taste. There’s just no weird hard-to-describe off flavor, and instead just what’s inside it with the ability to taste each part. Thick, but inoffensive, spices are visible and noticeable to taste. Pretty mild relative to others, with a much friendlier viscosity. This one is sure to be a general crowd pleaser, middle of the road in all aspects but certainly does the job.
Trader Joe’s Light Egg Nog
They also have a Light Egg Nog, which is 90% less fat (than regular). It certainly feels a teeny tiny bit thinner, but the flavor is still pretty much the same, if just a touch bit sweeter. I could see this one getting riffed on by hardcore eggnog peeps, but it’s a pretty good entry point that answers for several complaints people could possibly have about eggnog.
Can’t say I’m a fan of both of these eggnogs coming in a carton that has no method of resealing, and instead having those pop-open tops you’d get from little milks at lunch in school. Yeah I can just fold it back up to close, but it just doesn’t feel like a full seal and I don’t feel right just leaving a dairy product exposed like that, so I had to tape them back up so I could sleep at night.
Trader Joe’s Egg Nog Milkshake recipe
This isn’t a marketed product available in stores, but rather a recipe on their website featuring their eggnog and using other products they offer. The full recipe is as simple as:
- 2 cups TJ's Premium Vanilla Ice Cream
- 3/4 cup TJ's Egg Nog or Almond Nog (seasonal)
- 1 tsp TJ's Nutmeg
- 1 tsp TJ's Ground Cinnamon
- 1 jar TJ's Cinnamon Sticks (optional garnish)
Just simply blend it all up, sprinkle some cinnamon on top, garnish with a cinnamon stick if you want, and enjoy. I figured I’d do this since I already have everything listed in the ingredients anyways, just without the Trader Joe’s branding, and I needed an excuse to consume more eggnog because my fridge is totally filled with like a dozen of these that I tried for a single cup and then put back in to forget about. It’s very indulgent; sweet and intriguing. You can taste the eggnog if you know it’s in there, and seems to be a good way to ease someone into having eggnog who otherwise would refuse, but you can very easily mask this as a vanilla cinnamon milkshake and no one would be any wiser. An excellent way to burn through a significant amount of the eggnog I’ve had stored in my fridge, and I’ll likely either do this again or try something similar as chugging a cup a day is making me ill.
Just some final thoughts as a stress I’ve had while writing these is that each eggnog review is not quite long enough, not quite as thorough and impassioned as others I’ve seen around, so I sat and pondered why is that so? And the answer that came to me is that there’s some qualities of eggnog I place the entirety of its value into, and the others I just completely do not care about. One of these is coloring. Pretty much all, if not exactly all, of the ones I reviewed include coloring, whether natural or not, often annatto or turmeric to give it that kinda “don’t forget there’s eggs in here” off-yellow vision. While I understand the whole ‘you eat with your eyes’ and presentation and quality and yadda yadda, I’ve just always felt like I need to be convinced that the coloring was necessary. Fire engine red for candy cherry? Sure. Toxic green for apple or watermelon? Gotcha. But does a dairy product need a color to look like a dairy product? What is the coloring hiding? Is this a whole big thing like how people prefer yellow american or cheddar cheese even though the white ones are exactly the same? If it’s made with egg yolks, as it should be, would it not already be the proper yellow tint? I just really don’t care, so that paragraph or two that other reviews had are just now absent from mine, and instead you get this mass of words at the end.
How many more times can I review effectively the same product with just minor differences over and over? Tune in next month to find out!
|The 'Shroom: Issue 177|
|Staff sections||Staff Notes • The 'Shroom Spotlight • End-of-the-Year Awards • Director Election • 'Shroomfest|
|Features||Fake News • Fun Stuff • Palette Swap • Pipe Plaza • Critic Corner• Strategy Wing|
|Specials||The 'Shroom Staff Recipe Book • Special Thanks|