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Pumpkin Palooza: A taste test of pumpkin spice treats and eats

It invades our lives every autumn. As a chill enters the air and the leaves turn vibrant red and golden brown, it creeps into our grocery stores, pops up unannounced in the most obscure aisles of our local Walmarts, inserts itself insidiously into every corner of society until it can't be escaped, no matter how hard one might try.

Pumpkin spice season is upon us once again, and as seems to be the case every year, it feels like it's growing out of control, as marketers capitalize on the phenomenon by adding the undeniably delicious flavor into every conceivable product. With everything from coffee creamer to Greek yogurt to hummus (yes, hummus) now available in pumpkin spice, we decided to embark on an important journalistic undertaking -- to buy everything with "Pumpkin Spice" on the label and sample it, so you don't have to. Here's what we found:

The Good

Milanos - Beauty isn't something that's shouted. It's not written in bold, block letters or blasted through subwoofer speakers. It's subtle, nuanced, hidden around the edges. Pepperidge Farm understood this when they created their pumpkin spice Milanos. The pumpkin flavor doesn't announce itself right away; it remains hidden behind the normal rich chocolate of the original cookie, waiting until the last moment before hitting you with the perfect amount of festive flavor. -DS

Rolls - It came as no surprise that the Pillsbury pumpkin spice rolls made the top three. Their oven-baked, fluffy pastries are already delicious, but add a little pumpkin spice to those bad boys... Check please. But what was surprising was the addition of a pumpkin spice icing. Normally too much of a good thing can be overpowering, but that doesn't apply here. The icing, while cloying on its own, accentuates the crescent rolls when drizzled over them, making for a delicious start to your morning. - DS

Creamer - This may be the only product on the list that could be used every day without creating a lifelong aversion to all things pumpkin. It has the perfect amount of pumpkin, that combined with coffee, warms the soul and tastes like fall in liquid form. - AD

The Bad

Hummus - Occasionally a product comes around with a flavor combination so absurd, you figure it has to be good. Chocolate-covered bacon. Biscuits-and-gravy-flavored potato chips. Bagel & Deli's Banana Surprise. It has to be tasty, you logic to yourself. They wouldn't make that if it tasted as bad as it sounds. Pumpkin spice hummus is not one of those items. It tastes exactly like the flavors its name evokes -- as if someone took a gob of pumpkin spice filling and added a pound of salt to it. When my roommate learned what I had eaten, he exclaimed, "Every day, we stray further from God's light." I fear he may be right. - DS

Bottled PSL - When people think pumpkin spice, they usually think Starbucks, the company that practically pioneered the cultural phenomenon. The bottled pumpkin spice latte was high on my list before even twisting off the cap. I took a big sip, expecting to just finish the rest of the bottle. As soon as it hit my tongue, I realized I'd made a colossal mistake. It tasted like someone had burned a pot of coffee and added pumpkin spice to mask their brewing mishap. - AD

Chobani Greek Yogurt - When something both looks and smells like baby puke, it's usually a sign to avoid at all costs. Run away. Don't put that in your mouth. But maybe, just maybe, my senses were deceiving me. Maybe I would be pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately, my senses were correct, and I had just stuck a spoonful of the vilest tasting yogurt I've ever had. The yogurt coated the inside of my mouth and even minutes later, the taste stuck around. - AD

The Surprising

Twinkies - I enjoy Hostess products more than I like to admit. Cupcakes, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's -- I know they're all just artery-clogging combinations of sugar, carbs and yellow dye number seven, but damned if I don't treat myself to the occasional Coffee Cake or Honey Bun. That being said, even I understood that a pumpkin-spice Twinkie was a bit over the top, a smorgasbord of artificial flavors and sweeteners that was bound to overpower the palate. I'm glad to say Hostess proved me wrong. The pumpkin notes here are subtle, adding just a hint of autumnal flavor to the creme-filled pastry. You'll likely struggle to finish the entire box of 10, but it's worth the purchase for even just a few. - DS

Bagel - It seems unnecessary to include pumpkin spice in most of these items, but especially so for one of my staple breakfast items. I'm a blueberry bagel enthusiast, but during the fall, I think I may have found a new temporary favorite. Toasted or not, plain, buttered or slathered with cream cheese, a subtle hint of pumpkin always came through in just the right amount. - AD