In my continuing series on Dunkin’ Donuts’ seasonal specific donuts, this post will feature the Vanilla Truffle Donut which I originally ate back in March, but may find itself back on the rotation at some point as Dunkin’ rotates in new flavors every few months now.

IMG_5798

Dunkin’s Vanilla Truffle Donut is their standard donut with a cream filling, chocolate frosting, and topped with little pieces of chocolate. On its own, the price was $1.17, continuing my constant shock at how much a donut costs. Not to sound old here, but these used to cost less than $1! And back in the day they were bigger! Old man grumbling aside, this little fella packed a wallop at 390 calories. Yowza. I guess the cost per calorie is reasonable enough.

IMG_5799

Taking the donut out of the bag, it smelled fantastic, as donuts always do. I got a nice whiff of the chocolate frosting and vanilla filling inside the donut. Before taking my first bite of the donut, I tried one of the chocolate curly things (truffles?) on the top. There was nothing particularly special that I could discern from that bite. It tasted like a normal piece of chocolate and seemed to be added just for texture.

IMG_5800

I finally took my first bite and… it was a regular donut. You generally know what you’re getting with Dunkin’ and this wasn’t the most adventurous flavor to begin with. The dough was soft and sweet and it was definitely fresh. It was the same donut that’d be used for a Boston Kreme. I managed to bite into the side without any filling (also a problem with the Candy Cane Crunch Donut), so those first bites were essentially a fancier chocolate frosting donut. The truffles on top added a different texture, which was nice, but that was still just more chocolate.

IMG_5801

I finally reached the vanilla cream filling about halfway through the experience and it did improve the flavor. The first half was too chocolatey for my taste, so the vanilla helped cut and balance that more intense chocolate flavor. Unfortunately, on its own the vanilla cream was nothing special. It smelled better than it tasted, because it didn’t have a strong vanilla flavor that I hoped for. The filling did the bare minimum and probably couldn’t have carried a donut on its own.

IMG_5802

Overall, this was a fine donut. If you’re a fan of chocolate and want something with extra chocolate flavor, then I’d recommend ordering the Vanilla Truffle Donut if it’s available again. You won’t be overwhelmed by the vanilla and you’re getting more chocolate than a regular chocolate frosted donut. However, for me and others who don’t want that much chocolate in the morning hours, this is a pass in the future. Boston Kreme still reigns supreme as their best filled donut because they cream has more flavor and blends with the chocolate to produce a better taste.

Advertisements

Countries, cities and regions are frequently linked to their famous foodstuffs. When you travel to that place, or go to a restaurant serving that particular cuisine, there’s always a local delicacy that you have to try; otherwise, did you really visit that location and eat what the locals eat?

Thus it is with Montreal. While the city is also famous for its French cuisine, bakeries, and smoked meat, in my humble option, poutine reigns supreme above all other local foods. I’ve had the chance to visit the city several times, and no visit is complete without one (or two, or three…) meals featuring poutine. Therefore, on my last visit this spring, even though I had already eaten poutine and a smoked meat sandwich for lunch, after a full dinner I needed to make a stop for one last fix at Montreal’s most famous poutinerie: McDonald’s.

I knew McDonald’s in Montreal had poutine, little did I know I arrive soon after the release of their Three Cheese and Bacon Poutine, also known as a Poutine au bacon et 3 fromages to the locals. Their regular poutine contains gravy and cheese curds over their regular fries, but this edition also contained bacon pieces and a shredded cheese blend. The price for this delicacy was 5.24 CAD, and after adding a medium soda and tax, the total was 7.74 CAD which is $6.39 USD as of this writing.

IMG_5953

One potential flaw in my plan for this snack: I purchased the food then walked back to my hotel before eating it. I hustled back, but it was still in the bag for 5ish minutes. While I held the bag open to reduce moisture and forestall sogginess, some sog was inevitable.

IMG_5947

Of course, the presentation of the poutine didn’t help keep it crispy. It was served in a box with a lid. I understand wanting to keep the whole mess contained so there was no leakage in the bag, but closing the box only created more humidity. The other issue is that the poutine took up all the space in the container, so it was difficult to pick around to choose my bites. If I’d eaten at the restaurant, I probably would have dumped it on my tray, and I think it would have been a better eating experience.

IMG_5948

Anyway, onto the actual eating experience. Upon taking the poutine out of the bag, I was greeted with a cheesy and bacon aroma. It was loaded with cheese, but I didn’t notice the traditional cheese curds. Instead the three cheese blend looked like it came from a bag of shredded cheese that you can get in a market. This doesn’t make it automatically bad, but without the curds, this isn’t really poutine. It’s more akin to disco fries. Of course, after some digging, I did find cheese curds buried underneath the initial layer of cheese, so they made sure to cover all their bases.

IMG_5949

I tried a bacon piece before I dove into the full experience. To their credit, the bacon wasn’t just bacon bits from a plastic container. It looked like McDonald’s actual bacon chopped up into good sized chunks. They were smoky and salty, and generally maintained their crispness as I ate.

IMG_5950

The layer of triple cheese on top, by now fully melted and solid posed as a real obstacle to digging down and getting some fries. It was thick, and the plastic fork may not been have been the best utensil for the task. I did sneak a plain fry on the side, and not much needs to be said about it: fresh McDonald’s fries are delicious.

IMG_5951

The poutine was really salty. I kept reaching for my drink as I ate. The bacon was a nice touch to break up the flavor, but of course added to the saltiness. As mentioned above, I was surprised we got whole curds. Not because they don’t belong, but because in McDonald’s interpretation of poutine, I figured the three-cheese blend would be enough. I can’t pretend to be an expert in cheese curds (I’ve only eaten them on poutine), but these met my standards in terms of cheesy flavor and squeakiness.

IMG_5952

Taking all of the components together, cheese was the biggest flavor, as the curds and cheese blend were the star of the dish. The next strongest flavors were unsurprisingly the salt and smokiness of the bacon. The fries were in the background, mainly as a vehicle for the more assertive toppings and the gravy as well had a slight beefy oniony flavor, but I really only  tasted that when it was isolated with the fries. The poutine was so cheese forward that I’m not sure that extra layer of cheese was necessary, or at least if McDonald’s wanted that cheese to make this their dish, then a smaller amount could have been used. It was hard to pick around the cheese to get non-cheese bites.

IMG_5954

As I continued to eat, I ran into the inevitable poutine problem (exacerbated by the walk to the hotel): eating poutine is a race against the clock. The fries are only getting soggier as they soak up the gravy and the gravy combines with the cheese to create humidity which saps crispness. The box also didn’t help, as the pouting filled the confines, so there really was no access to outside air. By the end, this was a soggy mess, with congealed gravy, which made some of those last bites undesirable. There were some untouched, fries that somehow stayed crisp on the bottom, and they were a nice reprieve.

IMG_5955

The Bacon and Three Cheese Poutine was a large portion of food, which I consumed after eating a full meal. Is it something I’d eat all the time if it was available in the U.S.? No, probably not. It’s a large, heavy side dish to add to a meal, plus poutine is something you want to eat immediately, and I usually save my fries for the end. However, if you really want to indulge and can handle being stuffed to the gills, then it’s worth it. Sure, this isn’t a traditional poutine, and if you have one chance to eat it in Montreal, you’re probably not stopping at McDonald’s, but if you find yourself in a McDonald’s in La belle province, treat yourself to something you can’t get back home.

 

Taco Bell’s general modus operandi is to create new food items or just double (or triple!) the portion size of an existing item. Why serve a regular burrito, when you can serve an XL burrito? The question is so silly it shouldn’t even be asked.

The XL Steakhouse Burrito comes with chips and queso. The chips and queso are not an add-on to the burrito, they are necessary accompaniments. I think I see that Taco Bell is looking to give a restaurant feel to a bigger and pricier item, but for me personally, I’d prefer to eat a different menu item rather than waste stomach space on Taco Bell chips and queso. The collection of foods cost $6.49, and I added on a medium drink for $1, which lines up with the cost of a meal at other fast food outlets. Of course, that means this is expensive for Taco Bell. The burrito itself contained steak, bacon, queso, sour cream and fried potatoes.

To run through the sides before we get to the main event, the chips were meh. They were nice and salty, but thin and stale tasting. The chips sometimes broke when dripped in the queso. The queso was better and is more in line with what I expect from Taco Bell. It had a nice spicy cheesy taste. The only problem with the queso was the consistency: it was too soupy, which makes me think it came from a mix.

IMG_5505

The meal came in a large cardboard box, and the burrito itself was in brown paper. From the looks of it, it was a hefty burrito. Taking into account on the presentation and the size of the burrito, you’d be happy receiving this form your local burrito establishment, while also wondering how they made an oblong burrito.

IMG_5506

My first bite was tortilla and fried potato. I wasn’t sure if the potatoes were fried pieces or tots, but it doesn’t matter. One of my policies in life is that adding fries potatoes to any foodstuff is always the correct decision. In a burrito, it helps to have that crunch to switch up textures as you eat. The Taco Bell tortilla is not great. It’s thick and chewy, but those qualities also mean it should be sturdy enough to hold everything together.

IMG_5507

The other prominent ingredient in the first few bites seemed like a bacon cheese sauce. There’s a chance it was just bacon pieces and queso (which I found out afterwards when researching the ingredients), but I want to believe it was one ingredient. I like queso and thought it complemented the steak well, when I eventually got to the steak, that is.

IMG_5508

The burrito suffered from poor construction. I made it 1/3 of the way through getting any steak. Seeing the ads, I knew XL meant a bigger burrito, but also should mean more steak, which didn’t seem to be case.

IMG_5509

When I finally reached the steak, I was surprised at how tender it was. I always hesitate when ordering steak burritos because if the meat is too chewy or difficult to bite, then it’s difficult to get just a bite of steak, as opposed to a whole piece. It goes without saying that I was expecting hard and chewy pieces. The steak was decently spiced I think. I twas hard to isolate alone because of the sauce throughout the burrito. One nit pick: the steak pieces were pretty small. The pieces were small enough that it almost didn’t seem like I was eating steak. Soon after I encountered the steak, I reached a sour cream cache in the middle of the burrito. I’m not a fan of sour cream in general and don’t think it helped the burrito.

IMG_5510

Taken as a whole, the burrito was extremely messy and saucy. At the halfway point, the burrito started falling apart. It seems the tortilla wasn’t as study as I thought. Combining all the ingredients, there were some good bites here. Anything steak heavy was tasty and I applaud the use of fried potato, rather than rice, as the burrito filler. The bacon, when not a featured bite, fell into the background and seemed to just be there so they could advertise that the burrito had bacon on it. Maybe if it had more of a smokey flavor that would have been good for background.

The XL Steakhouse Burrito was filling. While on the pricey side for Taco Bell, it was a substantial meal. The fact that I’m leading off with that point is not a great sign though. I felt like the burrito was less than the sum of its parts. The bites without steak, of which there were many thanks to uneven ingredient distribution, just didn’t have strong enough taste, and too much of the heavy lifting was left to the sour cream. As I write this, the XL Steakhouse Burrito isn’t currently on the menu, so no one can actually order it right now, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it as anything other than a filling meal.

The paradox of introducing a new base ingredient in the implication that the previous incarnation was somehow less than. (And how’s that for an opening sentence on a blog about fast food?) Was it not healthy? Maybe it was full of additives? Or not properly seasoned? Regardless of the reason for replacing the old food, some credit should be given to a restaurant which is looking for ways to improve their core products.

This, of course, brings us to Wendy’s “new” Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The new is in quotes because the sandwich debuted in October 2016 and I ate in in November when it was actually new, as opposed to July 2017 when Wendy’s has already begin rolling out new products based around the grilled chicken (R.I.P. Fresh Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich, we hardly knew ye). My opinion and unscientific polling indicate that Wendy’s for whatever reason(s) (probably the salad bar that I haven’t seen in 10+ years), is considered the healthiest of the bigger fast food chains, so their grilled chicken sandwich is more important that, say, Burger King’s.

IMG_5371

Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich “is a juicy, all-white meat chicken breast fillet, marinated in a blend of herbs, topped with a smoky honey mustard, vibrant spring mix and fresh-cut tomato, all served on a toasted, multigrain bun.” It’s priced at $4.29 for the sandwich and $7.29 for a combo with medium fries and soda.

IMG_5372

As a note, I ate the Taco Salad first, but this sandwich was still hot when I ate it. Taking the sandwich out of its wrapper, it did smell like real chicken. To be clear, I didn’t put my nose directly up against the sandwich, but it had a strong aroma. As I looked at the sandwich before eating, it appeared to suffer from poor sandwich construction, like everything else at Wendy’s. I pulled up the top bun to see the insides. The lettuce looked crisp and fresh, but it also protruded enough from the bun as to make picking up the sandwich slightly difficult. It has also just dawned on me that I received regular iceberg lettuce and not the spring mix as advertised. Either they made a change after I ate it, or I wasn’t given the proper toppings. I also didn’t initially find a tomato, which struck me as an odd choice. Of course, as we’ll soon discover, a tiny one was added, but it was hidden by the giant lettuce.

IMG_5374

My first bite, by design, was only chicken. It tasted well seasoned, my guess is that lemon pepper features prominently in their spice mix. As good as it tasted, the texture of the chicken was a problem. The texture was soft and off-putting. I ate before noon, so it’s doubtful the chicken sat in a holding tray for very long, if it was cooked that morning, and I’ll give this location the benefit of the doubt that the chicken wasn’t originally cooked the night before and then served to me the next day. But discounting those two possibilities leaves an extremely unfavorable impression of the chicken.

IMG_5375

As I ate the components together, the lemony flavor from the chicken stuck out. It combined with the sweetness of the honey mustard, to produce what is probably a good taste if you like honey mustard. But I don’t, so the sweetness didn’t do anything for me. If it had been replaced with some barbecue, or hot sauce or even a flavored mayo I would have much preferred the sandwich.

IMG_5376

The multigrain bun didn’t have any special taste beyond having grains sprinkled on top.. Unlike most specialty fast food bun, this was fine, without any weird taste, and it fit the “healthier” theme of a grilled chicken sandwich.

IMG_5377

Taking everything into account, the sandwich felt plain and repetitive in taste, which is a common weakness for grilled, white meat chicken. There was no real depth or variation of flavor. I tasted lemon and sugar in every bite.

IMG_5378

The experience was made worse by the sandwich falling apart as I ate it, because there was too much honey mustard. The plus of the sandwich disintegrating was my discovery of the tomato hiding underneath the lettuce. Unfortunately, it was too tiny to make any difference in texture or flavor in the sandwich.

IMG_5379

One compliment I can definitely give Wendy’s is that they did not skimp on the chicken portion. It was substantial. The large chicken breast give the sandwich heft, and made it filling, even without eating a Taco Salad. Unfortunately, it’s a big piece of chicken on a substandard sandwich. The lemon taste was too much. The chicken needed more salt to balance the lemon, and maybe a little more black pepper, or a spicy sauce. The honey mustard was too sweet and there was too much of it. It was literally dripping out of the sandwich.

While I applaud the effort, I just don’t see myself ordering the regular Grilled Chicken Sandwich again, unless they make some tweaks. As they add variations to the menu, I’m sure I’ll come across it again and check to see if they solved the seasoning and texturally issues, but I don’t need the honey mustard overload again.

 

This post will conclude our KFC Conversation, which began last week with the Nashville Hot Chicken. To include the introduction again, this post is a continuation of last week’s conversation. I went with four friends (AB, AP, HJ, PM plus me [FFC]!) to my local KFC (no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken) to sample their two newest selections: Nashville Hot and Georgia Gold Chicken.

KFC’s Georgia Gold Chicken is KFC chicken topped “with its delicious, tangy honey mustard BBQ sauce.” After KFC debuted their Nashville Hot Chicken last year, I guess KFC decided it could keep the train rolling with a new creation, using their regular chicken and adding a different sauce to it. Since we started the meal with two Nashville Hot Chicken meals, I’d wanted to order just the chicken for this round of eating. I’m not entirely certain whether that’s not possible, or if the people behind the counter didn’t fully understand, but I was not allowed to order just the chicken, because they said it had to be a meal. Therefore, I ordered two more baskets, each of which come with six tenders, two sides and a biscuit, and is priced at $9.99.

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation centered on the Georgia Gold Chicken and a comparison with the Nashville Hot Chicken. In the interest of full disclosure, we ate the Nashville Hot Chicken first.

IMG_5850

Act I: So We’re Eating More Chicken… plus sides!

FFC: We ordered the Georgia Gold, and I was told I cannot get just chicken so now we have two meals, each with 6 tenders, two sides and two biscuits.

AB: Let’s give it a good sniff test.

FFC: We did not get pickles with his one.

AP: Were they not offered? [Ed. Note – they were not, but they should have been added.]

HJ: So the pickles were intentional?

­­­­­­­­­____________________

IMG_5855

Act II: This Is Not My Honey Mustard

FFC: I guess for the Nashville. It smells like honey mustard, for better or for worse.

AP: it was not what I was expecting…

FFC: AP looks perturbed…

AP: It tastes like a mustard powder or something.

HJ: Yea, that’s what it tastes like.

AB: This is not honey mustard.

PM: Is it mustard oil? Is it mustard gas?

FFC: I have not tasted it but, but the three who have tasted it so far…

AB: This is not good honey mustard.

PM: It looks semi-lethal.

AP: This is a rehydrated, dehydrated…

HJ: I think if they just gave me a honey mustard packet I’d be happy, but it’s not bad.

AB: It’s not sweet, honey mustard should be sweet.

PM: This is just mustard chicken.

FFC: I actually don’t mind it…

AB: Yea, you wouldn’t…

FFC: … because I don’t like honey mustard so this is fine.

AB This is edible.

FFC: The texture is weird.

AP: It is grainy.

HJ: It IS grainy.

PM: Yea…

AB: This is no Ma Magoos, let me tell you that.

AP: What is that taste?

PM: MSG.

HJ: Is that the chili oil? With sugar and mustard in it.

AB: Yea, if you sniff it, it almost like burns.

FFC: it does have a weirdly sharp mustard taste.

AP: Yea and the after taste, I’m getting… not good.

PM: AB really wanted this, I’m interested what he has to say.

AB: I don’t like it.

HJ: You know what it tastes like? You know those honey mustard pretzels? It tastes like that.

AP: OH!

PM: Oooo.

AP: The dust on those…

FFC: Yup.

HJ: The dust on those pretzels

PM: Mixed with olive oil.

AP: That’s what that is.

HJ: Yea, you’re welcome.

AB: Snyder’s.

AP + PMM: Yea, Snyder’s.

HJ: Here’s what I want: just give us chicken and give us honey mustard packets. Now that we’ve identified it… it tastes like. It’s like ‘oh that’s what they’re going for’.

AP: Yea (laughs). Snyder’s dust of honey mustard.

FFC: Like a Doritos Locos Taco.

HJ: I might die.

­­­­­­­­­____________________

IMG_5851

Act III: Georgia Gold v. Nashville Hot

HJ: So who likes which better?

FFC: I like Nashville better.

AB: I like Nashville better too but I was convinced I’d like this one more.

HJ: I think I like this one better.

FFC: I feel like I’m in the top on this one also though, because with it not being real honey mustard, and I don’t like honey mustard, so for me, it’s fine.

AB: I think I was disappointed that it doesn’t have that sweetness.

FFC: Higher expectations.

AP: It’s not a good honey mustard.

AP: Nashville for me.

HJ: I Like this one better.

PM: Hahah you’re the only one.

HJ: I know!

AP: And I’m a pretty good example because I would love either flavor. The idea of them are both great to me and this one really fell short.

PM: They both could have been a lot better.

AP: Oh yes, this could have been better.

­­­­­­­­­____________________

[Ed. Note – brief discussion of the commercials, PM hated them]

IMG_5852

Act IV: Maybe It’s Better With the Biscuit and the Sides

AB: I can taste more of the Snyder’s.

PM: That’s all I can taste now, but there’s more of a depth to it.

HJ: There is more of a depth.

PM: Not a shock and then nothing.

FFC: It tastes sharper when you dip a wedge in there.

AB: So does the chicken itself neutralize it?

FFC: Maybe the breading, because it’s just a regular tender which is seasoned, so maybe that overtakes the honey mustard sauce.

AB: Are these pepper flecks in the sauce?

FFC: I don’t think so.

PM: It’s the breading.

AB: Does it always have those?

FFC: Yes, those are the Colonel’s secret spices!

AB: I’m full.

AP: I’m sad I ended on this one.

AB: Sorry, I thought this one would be better.

HJ: It’s like a train wreck, I want to keep eating it to examine.

FFC: I’ll probably eat one more [Ed. Note – I did.]

AP: I feel like my body is going to give out.

AB: I have dinner with my family in an hour, so I have to stop eating.

*Everyone laughs*

FFC: What are you having for dinner, is it going to be better than this?

AB: Yes. Sushi.

FFC: So not better than this.

­­­­­­­­­____________________

IMG_5854

Act V: Bringing It Home

AP: I’m overall not happy with this meal.

FFC: That’s good. Everyone give me your final thoughts on the Gold and overall…

AB: I regret coming here.

AP: I seriously regret the Georgia Gold.

HJ: I regret it too, we could have been in a spa…

PM: I’m gonna go with that answer.

HJ: … instead of eating saturated fat.

AP: Already my stomach is upset and I regret this meal.

HJ: So is mine. Do you include that in your reviews, like how you feel after?

FFC: I feel fine.

AP: He eats this crap all the time.

PM: He feels the same after.

AB: I enjoyed the company.

FFC: That’s irrelevant.

HJ: Part of me wants to get back in there and see what happens.

FFC: I’d stop.

PM: That’d be the last thing I ever did

FFC: So the general consensus other than HJ is that the Nashville Hot was better.

AB: Yea, Nashville was better, but not sure I would order it again.

FFC: Would anyone order it again?

AP: I’m never going to come back here.

FFC: in a hypothetical…

AP: In a hypothetical I would eat the Nashville again.

AB: If I came back, I would prefer regular (consensus opinion).

 

And there you have the exciting conclusion to our conversation.  The consensus is that the Nashville Hot Chicken was better because the Georgia Gold was grainy and did not taste like honey mustard. After the meal, we had some leftovers, which I took home and ate for lunch two days later. I can attest that the grainy texture to the honey mustard sauce was gone at that point, but it did not taste any better. If you’re going to KFC, order the original (or extra crispy!) recipe. If you’re going to order one of these squirted sauces, go with Nashville Hot.

Today is an exciting day for the blog, as I’ve changed the format for the next two posts. Instead of my usual solo musings on the food I write up, these next two posts will be presented as a conversation. This will be slightly longer than usual, but hopefully the journey is worth it. I went with four friends (AB, AP, HJ, PM plus me [FFC]!) to my local KFC (no longer Kentucky Fried Chicken) to sample their two newest selections: Nashville Hot and Georgia Gold Chicken.

KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken is “a perfect blend of spicy cayenne and smoked paprika” obviously inspired by the classic Nashville Hot Chicken, which has been having something of a moment recently. To feed five people, I ordered two meals, each of which came with six chicken tenders, two sides, and a biscuit. It also is supposed to be served with four pickles. One basket is priced at $9.99.

IMG_5843

 

What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation centered on the Nashville Hot Chicken. The second post will feature the Georgia Gold and our thoughts on the two. In the interest of full disclosure, we ate the Nashville Hot Chicken first.

IMG_5844

Act I: The Beginning:

FFC: So let’s open this one. Generally where I start is I kinda smell and look.

AB: Nice, should I close this to keep it warm. Did you get photos?

FFC: I got those.

PM: Did you get your thumb in them?

FFC: Not yet! I need to start eating.

HJ: I don’t remember the last time I had KFC, it may have been the 90s.

PM: The last time I had fun was the 90s.

FFC: Actually that’s good, when was the last you all had KFC?

PM: Last time for me was sometime in college, maybe?

AB: When I was in Trinidad. [Ed. Note: Mr. Fancypants!]

AP: I had Kennedy Fried Chicken in college. It was a different KFC. I cannot… I don’t know if I’ve ever had it.

FFC: Ok, so it’s been awhile for everyone.


IMG_5845

Act II: Our First Impressions

FFC: I don’t need a spork, I’m just going to pick it up. Also, I got mashed potatoes and wedges. How does it look to you guys?

PM: The same.

AP: Soggy.

AB: Darker than I would have thought. On the sauce there are kinda pepper chunks.

HJ: Yea.

FFC: This is all Nashville hot. These are regular tenders, then they poured the sauce on them after putting them in the box.

Everyone (yes, everyone): Ahhhh!

FFC: So [the sauce] is not baked in. They just had a squirt bottle.

AP: Interesting. It looks appetizing. It looks greasy and like yummy.

AB: Alright, interesting.

PMM: I’m not so interested in it now that I know it was a mix.

HJ: I’m excited. I can’t really smell it.

FFC: Yea, I don’t think it has a distinctive smell, but I don’t know what it smells like, we’ll have to find out.

AB: It does have a smell.

AP: Let’s see if it’s too hot for me because I don’t really do hot stuff well. Oh, its crispy, good crispy. Look at that! Oily, hot goodness is all over my fingers.

FFC: The Nashville sauce is supposed to be hot oil with like cayenne and crap in there.

HJ: It tastes like a chili oil.

AB: The kick comes in about two chews in.

HJ: are you supposed to eat it with the pickle in the same bite?

FFC: You can have a pickle bite and a non-pickle bite to get an impression. It’s kinda smoky.

HJ: I like it with the pickle on it.

AP: Really good, juicy chicken.

HJ: Yea.

AP: Just a general comment about KFC.

FFC: So it’s not disappointing then, not a dry batch?

AP: Yea.


IMG_5846

Act III: More Sauce Talk

HJ: is it spicy for you?

AP: Like a mild heat. It’s really good.

HJ: It is good.

AB: I still prefer regular KFC chicken.

PM: Do they have levels of the flavor like where you can get it more?

FFC: I think if you just ask for extra sauce.

HJ: It’s like a blackened catfish flavor.

FFC: it definitely crispier than I thought it would be. When you pour sauce on top of fried chicken it usually gets soft and gross.

AB: That’s probably why they wait until the very end.

FFC: That’s true.

PM: How’s the biscuit with the sauce oil?

AB: Not bad.

FFC: Is it really oily when dipping stuff into it?

AP: It’s absorbing all of the oil.

AB: The biscuit and sauce isn’t very flavorful. The biscuit is like Bertucci’s dough that they give to kids.

FFC: Dipping the biscuit into the sauce, what is it?

AB: I’m not getting any flavor. I’m not sure if the sauce is just oil and they put some blackened spice on top of the chicken…

AP: Yea…

AB: … that’s giving the flavor.

PM: The biscuit is a good theory to test that out.

Break: We spent a lot of time talking about the biscuit in the oil. Then we discussed the mashed potatoes (not good), the potato wedges (good) and dipping the wedges in the mashed potatoes (a FFC specialty- really good). We also digressed into dipping fries into Wendy’s chili.

IMG_5847

Act IV: Proper Spice Levels and Flavor

HJ: Maybe they should add more flavor to the sauce?

FFC: More spice?

HJ: No, it’s spicy enough and I think its salty enough, but not flavor.

AP: You’re right, I’m just getting hot, only some flavor. It’s just heating up my mouth and its salty.

FFC: I get the smoke flavor.

AP: My mouth is kinda hot.

AB: What size was this that you ordered?

FFC: I think I got ten or twelve, so everyone gets two.

AB: I’m trying to think because I’m more excited for the Georgia Gold.

FFC: I’ll get the same size and I’ll try to avoid getting the sides with that one. [Ed. Note: this didn’t happen.]

AP: Yea, you can do chicken only.

FFC Yup. [Ed. Note: Nope.]

HJ: I like the pickle though.

FFC: I like the pickle with the chicken too.

HJ: It adds more flavor and extra texture.

AB: What’s your assessment now?

HJ: It’s so much better with the pickle!

AP: I know, right!

FFC: It’s really good.

AP: I guess were getting that style..

FFC: Chick Fil A?

AP: Yea.

HJ: I’ve never eaten at Chick Fil A.

FFC: I think I’m going to like this one more than the Georgia Gold, between not liking honey mustard that much and preferring spicy food. I could see myself eating a full meal of this.

PM: Its spicy but not really flavorful.

FFC: Yea, but as opposed not liking honey mustard, I’d rather just have spice rather than a taste I’m not a fan of.

PM: I prefer regular.

AB: I prefer regular.

FFC: I’d rather regular with hot sauce on the side.

PM: It tastes like a patch of icy hot on my tongue.

AP: It’s cleaning out my sinuses.

 

IMG_5848

Act V: Conclusion

AB: Do you do a five-point scale?

FFC: I don’t do a number.

AB: You just do happiness? Are you happy?

FFC: It’d be too hard to give numbers and keep it consistent.

AB: Are you biased because you’re in a happier mood now than you would be by yourself?

FFC: I don’t think so, I like the food or I don’t. This is different, but I’ve brought FFC Spouse before, and sometimes she’ll try it and sometimes she won’t, but I’m not always alone when I try food.

HJ: Do you try and temper your hunger so you’re the same hunger every time?

FFC: I just try and be hungry, because if I’m not hungry, it’s going to be gross and I won’t be happy. Today was a weird time to eat [Ed. Note: we were there around 4:30]. I went to lunch at 12:30 and didn’t eat a full lunch because then I wouldn’t have been happy eating this.

FFC: I could eat one more.

HJ: I don’t want anymore.

AP: I’m good.

AB: Want to split one?

FFC: We can each have one.

FFC: A quick run through of your final thoughts. Since PM has food in his mouth, let’s start with AP.

AP: This is the tough one because I can’t really compare it to regular KFC, but delicious fried chicken. I understand why they try and keep the recipe so secret. I really enjoyed the heat. I am probably more sensitive than you guys to heat, so it was the perfect amount for me, so maybe it’s kinda mild/hot overall if I were trying to describe it someone else. I really liked it.

HJ: Like the chicken. The sauce is maybe too spicy and oily and salty but no flavor, like there was something missing and I liked the fries. I liked the pickle

AP: Oh man, those wedges.

PM: There was no depth to it. There’s flavor now.  It doesn’t last.

AB: There was spice, but it wasn’t flavorful. There was mouth tingling but it’s not like I’m still tasting anything. But the chicken was really good and with the pickle it was better. The biscuit even with sopping up the sauce didn’t have taste, which speaks to the lack of flavor in the sauce.

 

So there you have the first conversation post! The general consensus was that the chicken was good, but the sauce was perhaps not fully developed. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion where we try the Georgia Gold Chicken and compare the two!

 

This post will cover the second item from my trip to Sonic back in the fall. Sonic’s Fiery Cheeseburger interested me because I like spicy food (in lieu of a single link, you can check out virtually every post on this blog). Since I knew I was going to try the popcorn chicken, I wanted to pair that with the cheeseburger, so I wasn’t doubling up on fried chicken. Unfortunately, whether due to an ordering mistake on my part or a worker error, I wound up actually eating Sonic’s Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich, the other option in their fiery sandwich lineup.

The Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich was “a premium thick-cut, all-white chicken fillet with a crispy golden outside [with] pepper jack cheese, sliced jalapeños … red jalapeño spread” on a Brioche bun. Of course, I used the past tense because the sandwich doesn’t seem to be currently available. I don’t have pricing information anymore (the receipt has long since been lost to the recycling bin), but this was the most expensive part of an expensive meal (this lunch seriously cost around $30).

IMG_5392

To get back on topic, like the Garlic Parmesan Chicken, the Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich had a pungent smell. The sandwich’s main odor came from the pickled jalapeños on top of the sandwich. It permeated the car before I even unwrapped the sandwich. As I peeled away the foil, the sandwich looked like it was going to be a mess. Sauce and cheese were already oozing out the sides, and to be honest, considering the cramped quarters of my car (plus my shock upon realizing I didn’t receive what I’d intended to order) I wasn’t looking forward to eating it.

IMG_5395

My first few bites had a bacon-y taste, which was disconcerting because there was no bacon on the sandwich. This taste only appeared when I had bites which didn’t have any of the sauce. As I got further into the sandwich, the jalapeño taste took precedence. It wasn’t an overwhelming heat, but I was starting to feel a tickle at the back of my throat. I should also note that sensation was solely from the jalapeño spread. Due to suboptimal sandwich construction, the pickled jalapeños were only on one half of the sandwich.

IMG_5396

While I normally disdain cheese as a topping for a chicken sandwich, I have to compliment Sonic here. The cheese was nice and gooey, It didn’t bunch up or congeal or get too messy on its own. While I’m not sure it added much (unless it somehow was the source of that bacon taste?), it wasn’t unwelcome.

I finally hit the pickled jalapeños on the back half of the sandwich, and things started to get a little heated in the car. And by things, I mean me. It was spicy. Swallowing was becoming a chore, and because they didn’t add any lettuce or tomato or other cooling agent to the sandwich, eating provided no refuge. I was taking gulps of my slush (Cherry Ocean Water!) after pretty much every bite at this point, as the jalapeño spread and pickled jalapeños completely dominated everything in the sandwich. I think everyone knows what pickled jalapeños taste like, but the red jalapeño spread deserves some detail. It had flecks of pepper actually in the spread, and aside from the hotness, it had some acidity (I’m assuming some sort of vinegar) to contrast the rest of the flavors in the sandwich.

IMG_5398

As usual with a Sonic sandwich, the chicken was juicy and had a nice crunch. I couldn’t taste if it was well seasoned because my mouth was on fire, but I’m sure it would have been fine on its own.

IMG_5399

The eating experience was surprisingly clean. There wasn’t much leakage with the sandwich, which had been a serious worry with eating in my car. Any dripping was going to stain my pants, and luckily they survived to live another day. If I hadn’t been eating the Garlic Parmesan Chicken with this, I wouldn’t have needed many napkins at all. And though I don’t always like Brioche buns, the bread didn’t fall apart and it kept the sandwich ingredients in place.

IMG_5400

While the Fiery Ultimate Chicken Sandwich had some highlights, I’m not sure this is something I’d want to experience again. It certainly packed enough of a punch for me to consider it the spiciest fast food item I’ve ever eaten. Real heat seekers may find this lacking, but amateurs like me will be more than satisfied. However, the heat become too much towards the end, and the sandwich suffered. It needed some sort of vegetable to provide a break. Also, that bacon taste never went away. That may have been a store specific problem, but it counts here. Lastly, I ordered a cheeseburger.

After the Sriracha craze a few years ago, where it seemed like half the internet was composed of love letters to the sauce, things have calmed down. It has settled in as a good hot sauce, different than a Tabasco or Frank’s in taste and texture, but good in the right amounts on the right foods rather than slathered onto everything. Wendy’s, in their laudable quest to ensure I have new content as long as I continue to update this blog, decided to utilize Sriracha on their Spicy Chicken Sandwich (IMO, the GOAT of fast food chicken sandwiches). I originally wasn’t going to try this, but after a request from a loyal reader, I decided to eat the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich.

img_5572

The Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is priced at $5.49 (!) for the sandwich and $8.19 for a meal with a medium soda and fries. According to Wendy’s, the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich is their “iconic Spicy Chicken, topped with one of kind Sriracha Jack Cheese, thick-cut Applewood Smoked Bacon, creamy Sriracha aioli, spring mix, and red onion … on a toasted Sriracha-infused bakery-style bun.” The sandwich was presented in a box, but it was so large that it was awkward to pick it up, which I remember happening before at Wendy’s. If these boxes are here to stay, they need to make them larger so one’s fingers can get around the sandwich.

img_5573

Upon opening the box, the sandwich smelled great; it was that spicy fried chicken aroma which I’ll never tire of. The bun looked bland. I originally thought it was a Brioche bun, but Fortune has corrected me. I would have preferred a regular seeded bun, but Wendy’s doesn’t actually serve those, so I’m tilting at windmills here.

img_5575

I lifted up the bun and saw the inevitable raw red onion. I did my best to take it all off, but I know I missed at least part of that mess. I also saw that the cheese hadn’t really melted yet. The sandwich, in particular the chicken, didn’t taste cold, so I don’t know why the cheese didn’t melt, but maybe Wendy’s needs to raise the temperature on their food holders.

img_5576

The bun was toasted and tasted like wheat…. with spice. It was a little weird and I wasn’t 100% certain that it was spicy until I confirmed it on the Wendy’s website. It was a nice touch to add Sriracha, but it didn’t stand out unless I was eating the bun without anything else. The chicken was a regular spicy chicken patty. No complaints, it was great. That Sriracha aioli was basically Sriracha sauce cut with some mayo. Since they couldn’t just spread Sriracha on the damn sandwich without scorching everyone’s taste buds, this was the way to go. It became easily spreadable while retaining its heat.

img_5578

I did manage to get one bite with every ingredient (including the onion). Of course, the onion overpowered everything. In the non-onion bites, the bacon was a standout in the sandwich. Wendy’s puts bacon on everything, and it worked really well here. It was smoky and crispy and helped balance every other ingredient which contained Sriracha. They were also good about putting enough bacon on the sandwich so that almost every bite had some. The Sriracha Jack Cheese, as mentioned before, wasn’t full melted. The cheese didn’t have a strong taste and if it hadn’t; been on the sandwich, I doubt I would have missed it.

img_5579

Through the first half of the sandwich, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich tasted like a Spicy Chicken Sandwich turned to 11. Even though Sriracha was the star, the heat built steadily. My mouth wasn’t on fire from the first bite. I could see anyone who is sensitive to spice not liking this sandwich, because it is more intense than the Spicy Chicken sandwich. To help make this more palatable to more people, I think adding a tomato slice would have helped. I’m actually surprised the sandwich didn’t have a tomato, considering we got raw onion

 

While on the subject of vegetables, I do need to compliment the spring mix. Wendy’s has really stepped up their game in this area recently, and I do appreciate their effort. By giving better greens on the sandwich, it feels less like a fast food burger. I applaud the move away from pale, limp iceberg lettuce. When talking about a bacon spicy fried chicken sandwich, this is a minor point, but it’s the little things that add up to create a better whole.

img_5582

One of my usual Wendy’s complaints, and a distinct worry when I started eating this particular sandwich, was that it was going to be terribly messy. The sandwiches themselves don’t stay together, sauce leaks everywhere, and I need about twenty napkins to get through the experience, not including extra napkins if I plan on typing notes for this blog. I can say that the Spicy Sriracha Chicken Sandwich did stay together with minimal leakage. The bread was strong enough to keep everything in one place and soak up the sauce to ensure it didn’t get on my hands.

img_5577

As mentioned above, the Sriracha Spicy Chicken Sandwich was hot, but not overwhelmingly so. It was a well put together sandwich where everything made sense (except the onion) and worked together to make a really good eating experience. Though the use of the Sriracha makes this a gimmick item that will never become a permanent staple of the menu, I do hope it’s brought back for return engagements in the future so anyone who likes the Spicy Chicken Sandwich but wants something a bit spicier can give this a try. If you’re in a Wendy’s and see this on the menu, it is definitely worth your time.

Days like today are why I started this blog. Today’s item was the most requested post I’ve had since I started the blog (yes, I will take requests within reason). Even I was curious how the hell they were going to pull this off. Without further adieu, today, I review Taco Bell’s Naked Chicken Chalupa.

img_5738

I’m late to this party, since I was abroad when it was released (see the Burger King Italian Stacker post). Needless to say, I was incredibly excited for the chance to finally try this Frankenstein. I had flashbacks to KFC’s Double Down, which used fried chicken as the ‘bread’ on a sandwich. Taco Bell was going for the same experience, except they weren’t filling the ‘chalupa shell’ with any meat: just veggies and sauce.

img_5739

Taco Bell describes the Naked Chicken Chalupa as “a Chalupa shell made of crispy, marinated all-white meat chicken and filled … with crispy lettuce, diced tomatoes, cheese and avocado ranch sauce.” The Naked Chicken Chalupa is $2.99 on its own, pricy for a Taco Bell item, or $5 for a box, which comes with the chalupa, a Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos taco, crunchy taco and medium soda. I ordered the box, plus an extra crunchy taco, because I can’t help myself.

img_5740

Before we begin, a quick note: as I wrote the post, I kept alternating between taco/chalupa in describing the food. It is technically called a chalupa, but we all know this is a chicken taco. Don’t be confused.

img_5741

The tacos all came in a literal box. When I opened the box and took out the Chalupa (shiny wrapper in the picture), I was struck by how small it was. I think the price relative to the Taco Bell menu, tricked me into thinking this would be larger than it is. Upon taking it out of the wrapping, I was impressed by the breading on the chicken. It had a nice color, and it smelled fantastic. I sized it up, then tried to figure out how to eat it. Yes, I know how to eat it a taco, but it was presented in the cardboard taco holder that the Doritos Locos Taco comes in, which makes it a little awkward to eat. Also, the shell is chicken, which is stiffer than a normal tortilla. When I tried to pick it up, the tomatoes perched on top kept spilled out.

img_5742

Eventually, I took my first bite, which was only chicken. It was quite crunchy and was well-seasoned with some spice. The chicken was slightly dry, but I’m going to be grading the meat on a curve here (no pun intended) because to fashion chicken into this shape, I’m sure we’re working with some unnatural additives to the meal.

img_5743

My first two bites were only lettuce and chicken. The cheese coverage was lacking, and the aforementioned tomatoes were laying on the table. The lettuce helped to cool some of the spice, which came in handy later, but otherwise, this was just eating some good-tasting, oddly-shaped chicken. By my third bite, I got some of the avocado ranch sauce. It had a light green hue and really went well with the taco. I didn’t really get an avocado taste, but maybe it was just for color purposes. Regardless, I may not love ranch dressing, but it does well when tastefully applied to fried chicken.

img_5744

The weird part of the experience is eating a taco with an iceberg lettuce filling. As mentioned above, a lot of my tomatoes fell out, and what little cheese there was was concentrated at the top. With the sauce in the heel of the chicken shell, that meant a lot of chicken and lettuce bites. Those two ingredients are fine, and the chicken definitely carries the flavor of the whole thing, but it would have been nice to have something else in there. My immediate thought was bacon. Any other viable (i.e. available at Taco Bell) meat wouldn’t pair well with the chicken, but bacon would add a different, smoky taste, and extra crunch. I wouldn’t be shocked if this the Naked Chicken Chalupa is released with bacon at some point. The other drawback: I wouldn’t have been opposed to more of the sauce. I didn’t add any sauce on my mown, and since the chicken was a little dry for me, more sauce would have helped.

img_5745

As I continued eating, and this seems to be a recurring theme here, is the creeping spice. About halfway through the taco, I needed a soda break, and I definitely felt the heat over the last half of the taco. While on the subject of the shell, the fried chicken held its shape as I ate. It didn’t break or get soggy. The coating didn’t crack and fall to the table. It was really well done.

img_5746

Obviously, the easy comparison here is the Double Down, but this is served in a manageable portion. I can understand someone looking at the Double Down and thinking it’s too gross and they didn’t want to/couldn’t eat it. Because of the smaller size here, that’s not valid.

I mentioned at the top that my first impression was that this was smaller than I anticipated. Despite its stature, it was really filling. After finishing the Naked Chicken Chalupa, I realized that I had three more tacos to eat and felt a pang of regret. I ate those tacos, but I didn’t need to order beyond the box. This was really good and unlike other items where I’ve liked them, but they wouldn’t supplant my usual order, if I was at a Taco Bell tomorrow, this would take the place of my usual order. Go for the curiosity, the Instagram likes or the gluttony and don’t be afraid, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. The Naked Chicken Chalupa is worth your time, if only to say you ate it. Also, no bread, so less carbs, you’re doing your body a favor!

Bonus Fast Food Connoisseur Spouse Review: This one is good because of the chicken.

 

 

In honor of Chinese New Year, we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled posts to review another fast food item from China! I’ve spent far too much time in my life in Shanghai Pudong Airport, but one advantage to flying from that location is that it contains one of the few Burger Kings I’ve seen in China. Since I’m usually flying back to the United States from Pudong, it’s a tradition of mine to fill up at the local BK before hopping on a 10-15 hour flight, and this past week was no different.

Looking over the menu, there were two items which are not currently available at U.S. locations: a Spicy Whopper and an Italian Stacker. Since I guessed the Spicy Whopper was just a burger with some hot sauce, I though the Italian Stacker would make for a better post, so that was my choice.

The Italian Stacker is offered with up to four patties on the burger. I opted for the single version, which only had one burger patty. The sandwich was 23 RMB alone or 40 RMB for a meal, which came with a medium fries and medium soda. The meal price increased 8 RMB for each additional beef patty, which seemed reasonable enough.

Upon ordering the sandwich, I had literally no idea what to expect. I couldn’t access wifi in the airport, so I couldn’t do any research on the sandwich beforehand. In fact, I still don’t actually have an official description of the sandwich. A cursory Google search returned no results, and not even Wikipedia includes a mention of the Italian Stacker in its article on the BK Stacker (someone should edit that- is this blog credible enough to serve as a source?).

img_5725

Anyway, the picture on the menu looked like there was some sauce and bacon and cheese. I noticed that this location offered chili fries (which were called spicy meat sauce fries) and I hoped that this chili was not going to serve as Italian tomato sauce. I … was wrong.

img_5726

Upon opening the wrapper, the burger looked a little small, but I did order the single, which is the equivalent of a regular cheeseburger. It had the regular sesame bun and the patty looked like a regular American burger. It smelled like bacon, which gave me some hope for a good experience. I lifted the top bun, and the insides looked kinda gross. The sauce definitely looked like the chili, and the bacon was not typical American style crispy bacon: it was wide cut and soggy.

img_5728

I picked up the burger and it was a tad messy and soggy from the sauce. My first bite had an overwhelming bacon taste. I wish it had been crispy though. On the second bite, I realized the sauce was definitely chili, but it had a slightly off taste. It was a thin tomato sauce with chunks of ground beef. It could have used some more seasoning, especially salt, and maybe some spice. I thought I taste a hint of oregano, but that may have been wish casting. Instead, the main seasoning seemed to be diced onions. Perhaps it’s my personal taste in not liking onions, but the sauce seemed to get more oniony as I continued eating.

img_5729

Other than the bacon, cheese and chili, nothing else was on the burger. Luckily the bacon carried most of the taste when it was in a bite, because I was not a big fan of that chili. The burger itself had that same flame-grilled (TM!) taste you’re used to, but it was smaller than the bun. There was a good amount of bacon on the burger, and it did start to overwhelm the patty at times. I think if I’d gotten at least a double, the beef would have stood up better

img_5730

The best bites of the burger were where the sauce ended up melting the cheese, so they combined into a gooey, cheesy sauce. It helped to hide the strong onion flavor, and it paired really well with the burger and bacon. Towards the end, I tried to create as many of those bites as possible, but there was only a single slice of cheese to work with.

img_5732

As a novelty item, this was fine. I probably shouldn’t; have expected a semi-authentic tomato sauce, and I’m guessing I, and other foreigners, would be more receptive to the taste if it was marketed as a chili cheese burger, and not something with Italian flavor. I’d also prefer crispy bacon, but that’s probably asking too much. I would be interested in an actual Italian burger (free idea Burger King!), having tomato sauce paired with provolone. But until that’s a reality, I’ll probably stick to a safer choice next time I’m in China.