"Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have been your gold standard forever,” I said to my man Patrick, handing him a peanut butter cup.

“Yes, the combination of soft, sweet chocolate wrapped around the grainy, salty peanut butter creates a sort of sublimity,” Patrick waxed poetic.

“Think there’s anything better out there?” I asked.

“I doubt it,” he smiled. “But might be fun to find out.”

After hitting the regular circuit of grocery stores, I headed back with my load of peanut-y goodness and plopped it down in front of Pat. “Oh, it is so on,” he said, as he unwrapped the goodies with his eyes. I handed him the first offering of the day, a Safeway Creamy Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Cup ($2.99 for a 9-ounce package at Vons). “I just get sweet and gritty with a gooey center. Makes me shudder,” reported Patrick.

“This one is even worse,” I grimaced, handing Patrick a Great Value Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter cup ($2.82 for 12 ounces at Walmart Marketplace). “It has that classic candy peanut butter flavor,” Patrick said. “You know cherry candy flavor is instantly recognizable, but it tastes nothing like a cherry? This is the peanut butter version of that.”

“Here’s a keeper,” I announced, handing him a Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ($4.29 for 16 ounces). “The bitter of the dark chocolate offsets the sweetness of the peanut goodness.”

“Agreed.” Patrick popped one more into his mouth.

“But its cousin, Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup, is cloyingly sweet,” I noticed ($4.29 for 16 ounces). “Both the chocolate and the peanut butter are super sweet and soft. The slight salty bitterness of dark chocolate balances the sweetness of the center. And the firmness of the dark chocolate contrasts the soft peanut-y middle.”

“Let’s pull out the Reese’s varieties,” I said, handing Patrick the petite-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis ($2.49 for 8 ounces at Target). “The ratios are all wrong,” Patrick said, “too much chocolate, not enough peanut butter.”

“I could use these for cake decorations,” I added. “They’re the perfect size and shape for castle turrets.”

The Milk Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures run a little bigger than the minis but smaller than the regulars ($2.89 for 12 ounces at Target). “What’s good about the regular-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups is that the peanut-y goodness perfectly balances the sweet chocolate,” offered Patrick. “But in the minis and the miniature-size cups, the chocolate-to-peanut butter ratio is all wrong.”

The smallest chocolate of the evening was the Mini Peanut Butter Cups from the bulk section at Sprouts ($6.99 per pound). “What’s even the point?” Patrick asked. “It amazes me they can even make these...how do you get the peanut butter into that small of a chocolate?”

“When the peanut butter is essentially liquid, it’s no problem,” I answered, grimacing from a bite. “And the aftertaste is getting worse with the passage of time.”

“This is a branding with a big head,” I said, unwrapping an Unreal Candy: Unjunked the Double One Peanut Butter Cup ($3.99 for 6.3 ounces from Target). “Big head, little body,” Patrick joked. “The peanut butter filling is jello-y. And the whole candy carries a terrible aftertaste.”

“Paul Newman has never failed us,” I smiled, handing my man a Newman’s Own Organics Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup ($1.69 for 1.2 ounces at Whole Foods).

“Maybe this time he has,” Patrick answered. “The chocolate is waxy, and it’s too oily. I’m just getting sweet and oily, not much cocoa or peanut,” Patrick noticed.

“What about Justin? Maybe he holds the ticket,” I said, offering a Justin’s Organic Peanut Butter Cup to Patrick ($1.99 for 1.4 ounces at Whole Foods).

“Why am I smelling banana?” asked Patrick.

“Must be the palm oil,” I answered. “This would be perfect in a dark chocolate,” I remarked.

“Not a fan of the mousse-like filling,” Pat concluded, “Justin is not a winner. Reese’s and Trader Joe’s Dark Peanut Butter cups are the winners.”

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