Archives for the month of: March, 2014

Next up in my rundown of Taco Bell’s breakfast items is the Waffle Taco. This item, along with the AM Crunchwrap, shows off the different ways in which Taco Bell approaches breakfast. I’ve never seen a Waffle Taco before, but doesn’t it make perfect sense? It should be heartier than a regular taco because the shell is more substantial. It also allows for a pairing of sweet and salty between the waffle and the enclosed fillings.

Pretty sharp box

Pretty sharp box.

Taco Bell offers a choice of meat for the Waffle Taco: bacon or sausage. As we will see later, the sausage should be in patty form, but as of last night, was not served that way. The bacon is meant to be chopped pieces of bacon, but kinda looks like bacon bits. The price for one of these is $1.99, so it costs less than the breakfast burrito options, and to be honest, was just as filling.

This... uh... does not look good

This… uh… does not look good

The Waffle Taco is “a warm waffle wrapped around a delicious sausage patty and fluffy scrambled eggs topped with cheese and served with a side of sweet syrup.” Upon unwrapping the sandwich, the first sense that hit me was the smell. Oh wow did this smell good. It was like waking up and walking into the kitchen as someone who loves you just completed a stack of waffles for you. Or at least the person likes you and wants to impress you. Whatever, the person isn’t important, the waffles are. I ate this three days ago and still remember the scent. I also may or may not be drooling right now. Sorry.

Promo photo!

Promo photo!

 

Reality

Reality!

As great as this smelled, it looked like a pile of crap. Literally. My first two thoughts were rabbit droppings or dog food. This is where the problem of execution comes in, especially since this was the second day of the breakfast rollout. First off, there was no sausage patty. Instead there were sausage chunks on top of the eggs. They tasted fine (I’ll get to that later), but it really looked unappealing. Second problem, I was not given syrup (and did not know that was an option). While eating this, one of my main complaints/suggestions for improvement was that they should drizzle it with some syrup to up the sweetness and cut into the dryness. Now that I know that’s an option, I’m relieved, but not getting that syrup was a failure on the part of the kitchen.

Grease

Grease

I tasted a sausage piece (niblet? chunk?) before delving into the whole thing. It was good: a little spicy and a little sweet. If you’ve had sausage breakfast links, you know the taste here. Not huge taste, but at least it isn’t just filler. Before I picked up the waffle, I knew this was going to be greasy, and I was not let down. I went through several napkins eating this. I understand that Taco Bell wants to show off the taco, but maybe serving this is a paper shell (like the Doritos Locos tacos) would be beneficial.

Taco guts?

Taco guts?

My first bite was not as sweet as I’d thought it’d have been, based on the smell of waffle. Here is where the syrup really would’ve helped. When going through the taco, the eggs took a back seat to the bolder flavors of the waffle and sausage. The waffle itself was soft, and not terribly crunchy. It was fluffy and had a sweetness to it, which went really well with the sausage and cheese.

Waffle piece

Waffle piece

Look at those faux-waffle iron marks!

Look at those faux-waffle iron marks!

Whilst eating, I noted that this was a really dry sandwich and needed some sort of sauce. I wound up using some Fire Sauce, which worked really well with the sausage and cheese. Spice was the main flavor in those bites, but it was still a little sweet, so the waffle wasn’t completely overshadowed.

With Fire Sauce

With Fire Sauce

So this is somewhat of an incomplete. At the price, I think the Waffle Taco would be a good value, especially with a sausage patty since it’s pretty filling. However, the execution errors were glaring here. I understand that sometimes food won’t look like the menu picture, but what’s served shouldn’t look inedible. At some point I’ll try this again, hopefully as intended, and it will live up to expectations. But, right now, I’d say maybe wait a bit to order this to ensure that you get what’s advertised.

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Before we begin on this adventure, a quick note. This blog is a labor of love and I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. With that being said, I’m also not opposed to people sharing it via tweets, Facebook, reblogs, etc. I try to keep my Facebook plugs to a minimum (once a month!), but more traffic is nice! Anyway, back to business.

Day One's Bounty

Day One’s Bounty

Taco Bell has entered the breakfast game. I’m not entirely certain how anticipation reached a fever pitch for this, but here we are. Taco Bell does well with innovation (seriously those Doritos tacos), and I think people were curious what Taco Bell came up with. Looking at the opening menu choices, they mainly played it safe outside of the Waffle Taco and the A.M. Crunchwrap, but we’ll see how things change if this foray is successful.

I made it my mission to eat everything on the breakfast menu and report back here. Originally, my plan was to do this in three evenly spaced trips. Then I ordered half the menu in a pitch of excitement on my first trip. Oh well, a boy’s gotta eat AND breakfast is the most important meal of the day! One further note: these reviews are likely to be shorter than normal, because many of the components here are going to be the same: bacon/sausage, egg, and cheese. I’ll try and focus more on how flavors combine as opposed to telling you what eggs taste like six posts in a row. Without further ado, here is the first entry in Taco Bell breakfast week.

Exterior shot

Exterior shot

Smaller than I thought

Smaller than I thought

Upon first glance, I was surprised the Steak & Egg Burrito was so small. I’m not sure exactly what I anticipated, but I didn’t expected it would only be slightly larger than a regular soft taco. I got the meal, which comes with a hashbrown or two Cinnabon Delights, and a drink, which can be a coffee, medium soda, or orange juice. The juice cost $0.20 extra and was tiny. Next time I‘ll just get a soda. The total cost of the meal was $4.69. Not a great value, especially when compared to the other items on the breakfast menu, but also not terrible.

Steak

Steak

Taco Bell touts the Steak & Egg Burrito as “fluffy scrambled eggs, lots of warm melted cheddar cheese and marinated, premium thick cut steak, all wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla.” This was the first item I ate on my visit, and my first impression: this tastes like breakfast!!! Sorry. The first bite got some eggs, cheese and tortilla. Like a normal breakfast burrito. It was good. On my second bite, I got some steak, and this was still really good. The steak isn’t the choicest meat ever (this is Taco Bell after all), but I liked the flavor (think normal Mexican spices like cumin and cayenne). Most importantly, it wasn’t chewy. I hate eating fatty chewy steak, which seems to be the norm at most fast food establishments (*cough*Chipotle*cough*). Think of the texture here as that of beef in canned soup, just with some actual flavor. When I tasted the eggs on their own, they were good. I doubt that they’re scrambling eggs on site, but for something that’s likely dehydrated, they actually tasted eggy. They had a nice firm texture and weren’t watery. That’s about the best one could ask for.

Burrito Guts

Burrito Guts

When eating this, I was struck by how evenly distributed the ingredients were. This is something I’ve harped on in the past (including at Taco Bell), but it seemed like every bite contained all the ingredients. Thank you random Taco Bell employee who put some care into making this correctly. It was appreciated.

Well distributed innards

Well distributed innards

Now, onto the odd part of the experience. About halfway through, I realized that I liked the burrito, but felt like it needed some sort of sauce to tie everything together. So I got a packet of fire sauce, and it really contributed to the experience. As someone who likes adding hot sauce to eggs, this was a great combo, and I think anyone else who does the same would like this addition. So I did this until I reached the bottom quarter, and found a sauce. There’s no advertised sauce for this burrito, which was strange. I guessed that it tasted like a creamy chipotle, but based on the way it looked and examining the Taco Bell menu, I think it was the zesty Pepper Jack sauce they put on the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. I liked the sauce. It served the same purpose as the fire sauce by adding some spice and wetness, but I’m not sure if it was there on purpose, or if the kitchen is still working out some kinks with making the breakfast items.

Fire Sauce!

Fire Sauce!

I’m giving this a qualified recommendation. It is good on its own, but I think the addition of a spicy sauce really takes it to another level. Whether you use Fire, Mild, or you accidentally get some Zesty Pepper Jack, those will all add to the experience. There is an option to order it Fresco style, which would replace the cheese with pico de gallo, but I wouldn’t want to dump the cheese.  A breakfast burrito should contain cheese. This was also more expensive than the regular breakfast burrito, which is offered with sausage or bacon, instead of steak. I need to try those to determine whether steak is worth the extra price.

I am not done with Subway. Of course not. Thanks to me waiting so long to try the Fritos Chicken Enchilada, Subway rolled out their take on a pizza, called a Flatizza (because flatbread + pizza = Flatizza, get it?!?!?!). Pizza is a tricky thing for fast food chains. Burger King sells a Pizza Whopper at one of its stores, and McDonald’s tried (and failed) to introduce pizza a few decades ago, but it’s difficult to pull off because you really need to have an oven to make it and it needs time. Paying a fast food chain to microwave a pizza just feels too lazy. Subway has the ovens (and microwaves) to do this. But I’ll admit I was skeptical before I tried it.

IMG_4938

Subway’s initial promotion for Flatizzas is two for $5, which makes sense because these aren’t very big. Think of them as being around the size of a Pizza Hut personal pan pizza, but less substantial because the crust is a flatbread. Because I was also eating a 6 inch Enchilada during this lunch, I opted for a single Flatizza, which was priced at $3.50. Given the option because one of these at $3.50 or two for $5, it makes more sense just to get two. One would be fine as a snack, but the price is slightly prohibitive when you can get a burger somewhere else for half the price. Subway rolled out four different varities: Cheese, Pepperoni, Spicy Italian, and Veggie. I went with the Spicy Italian.

This actually looks like it might be good

This actually looks like it might be good

First bite

First bite

Subway says the Spicy Italian Flatizza is “our super crispy flatbread… topped with our marinara sauce, melty mozzarella cheese, flavorful pepperoni and genoa salami.” After they made it, they asked if I wanted any toppings on it, which caught me off guard. I wound up getting some oregano on top, but I declined their offer of grated cheese. I’d have loved some crushed red pepper, but forgot to ask for it. The Flatizza is served in a mini pizza box, and it is small. My first thought was of the frozen Celeste pizzas. When I opened the box, it smelled like a good pizza. The oregano was a nice touch. Also, they do cut the pizza into four pieces.

Pizza guts

Pizza guts

Flatbread underbelly

Flatbread underbelly

My  first bite: this tastes exactly like a Celeste pizza. It was microwaved and the center did not have much crunch. I got a lot of cheese, but no hint of sauce or meat. When I tried the meat alone, it was really salty, but not terribly spicy. And I have to admit that I couldn’t tell the difference in taste between the pepperoni and salami. If they weren’t different shapes/colors, I wouldn’t have known this had two different meats. In addition, the meat was completely overshadowed by the cheese. This tasted so cheesy and it took over the whole experience. The cheese was fine, but I would have liked all the toppings to work together. As for the marinara, it was a little sweet and tart. I’m guessing it came from a jar. If you’ve had their meatball sub, then you know what the marinara tastes like.

Pepperoni?

Pepperoni?

Now as for the flatbread. The edge, which I guess we can call the “crust” actually was crispy, which helped break up the mushy texture of everything. I also liked the topping coverage, where Subway allowed for some space at the ends of the flatbread without any toppings so it was easier to hold. Other than that, it was a flatbread. It’s there to serve as a vessel for everything else and wasn’t particularly good and bad. It just did its job.

Toppings underneath the cheese

Toppings underneath the cheese

A huge problem here was that this was incredibly greasy. I found it increasingly difficult to type as I was eating (which I guess is not a problem most people will encounter, but still) because the grease was overwhelming. I don’t mind a greasy pizza, but considering the portion, the grease seemed disproportionate. Another issue was that the temperature of the Flatizza wasn’t hot. I will admit that this is likely my fault, since I ate the sandwich before the Flatizza, but it was in its box the whole time, so I’d think it should have retained some of its heat. Plus, if Subway wants you to order two of these, then the second shouldn’t be lukewarm when you go to eat it.

Grease

Grease

As I’m sure you can tell from the preceding 600+ words, I was not a fan. This tasted too much like a microwaved Celeste pizza. Even when I took bites piled with meat, I could still barely taste anything beyond salt. In addition, using flatbread as the base of a pizza and microwaving it does not allow the toppings to anchor to the bread, so they were falling off as I was taking bites. Bottom line: if you want pizza, do not go to Subway. Go to a pizza shop.

I don’t like Subway and it irritates me that so many people do. I realize that is a bold statement to begin a two-part review of Subway items, but I think it’s important to expose any potential bias so readers can try to filter that out and make their own decisions. I think my dislike comes from growing up in Massachusetts, where you can’t shake a stick without hitting a sub shop. Not all sub shops are great, mind you, but generally you can get a good sandwich with fresh ingredients. It may not cost $5, but it’s good. The $5 foot longs, I guess are a good deal if you like bread and lettuce sandwiches. They put so little meat (of dubious quality) on their subs, that when you create your sandwich, you’re really just choosing which seasonings/sauces you like because that’s all you taste.

Our treasure awaits!

Our treasure awaits!

Well, now with that screed out of the way, let’s get down to business, shall we? When I first saw Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt, I put it on my list, and hoped that by the time it came up, Subway would have discontinued it.  No such luck. When I stepped to the counter to seal my fate, I will admit I had no idea what I was doing. I haven’t been in a Subway for at least four years, and I was slightly overwhelmed by all the choices. I tried to recreate my sandwich as close as the advertisement as possible, but since I couldn’t find a standard, some of the ingredients were just my choice. I wound up getting it on white bread with green peppers, jalapenos, lettuce, tomato, creamy buffalo sauce and cheddar cheese, on top of the standard chicken, enchilada sauce and Fritos. The sandwich itself was $5.25 for a 6 inch sub, so this isn’t part of the $5 foot long promotion. However, as a six inch sub, it is fairly filling if you aren’t starving.

Old Glory

Old Glory

There's a lot going on here

There’s a lot going on here

Subway says “Crunch into a pile of Fritos placed right on top of tender pulled chicken and authentic enchilada sauce for a new satisfyingly delicious bite of flavor you can’t find anywhere else!” I unwrapped the sandwich and… it looked like a mess. Maybe I put too many toppings on it, but it was messy. The bread did hold up better than I thought it would though. Other than some seepage at the end, I wasn’t overly reliant on napkins.

Sandwich guts

Sandwich guts

My first bite was mainly bread, which was crusty and warm. Not a bad start. My second bite was really spicy. Almost too spicy. The jalapenos, green peppers and buffalo sauce definitely gave me a friendly hello. My throat was slightly burning and I needed a little timeout before I could continue. After, I got a bit of the Mexican flavor, which I assume was the enchilada sauce. I could taste the cumin and cayenne. I can’t attest to its authenticity, but it was fine. When I finally got to the Fritos, they definitely shone through all the other flavors. They provided crunch, more so than the bread. Their flavor got lost in all the spiciness unless I was paying attention to them though.

Concentrated chicken

Concentrated chicken

Stringy chicken, sorry for the blurriness

Stringy chicken, sorry for the blurriness

The chicken was a problem. First, as I mentioned above, there probably wasn’t enough of it. Part of the problem is a distribution issue, it’s all concentrated at the fold of the bread, which did not cover a large surface area. Certain bites were solely bread and buffalo sauce, then I got a veggie bite with Fritos, then a chicken/Frito bite. The flavors need to be more evenly distributed. Second, even if there had been more chicken, it still didn’t taste good. When I isolated some bits of it, it looked dark, so I’m guessing it was thigh meat. It was stringy and tasted processed (and this is coming from someone who LOVES chicken nuggets). Other than that, there was no real flavor to it.

Buffalo sauce spillage

Buffalo sauce spillage

So, I wasn’t a huge fan of this. The chicken seemed to be there solely as a delivery system for the enchilada sauce, which wasn’t even terribly strong to begin with. The creamy buffalo sauce definitely delivered a more prominent flavor. To tie this back to the my opening paragraph, this is going to taste like the toppings you choose for it, because the chicken and enchilada sauce are not flavorful enough nor prevalent enough to take center stage. Maybe if you got the double meat option it’d be better, but then we’re edging close to $7 for the sandwich, and at that price, just go to a deli and get a real sandwich (or, you know, a Mexican restaurant for an actual enchilada).

The end

The end

I’m a sucker for 1) anything labeled new (hence this blog) and 2) anyplace producing something outside their normal comfort zone. So when I got some coupons in the mail a few weeks ago advertising Baja Shrimp from El Pollo Loco, a local Mexican grilled chicken chain, I had to give it a shot.

Everything all together

Everything all together

I decided to order the Shrimp and Chicken Bowl it cost $9.02, which seemed expensive. It did come with two flour or corn tortillas, and it was a lot of food, but an Original Pollo Bowl (basically the same thing minus the shrimp) is only $5. I think this was larger than the Original Pollo Bowl though, and I actually couldn’t finish. The bowl didn’t appear deep, but it was long and deceptively full of food.

There were only four shrimp in the bowl. They were at a lukewarm temperature, and they were small. I can excuse the temperature since this was 8:30PM on a Friday night (I swear I have a life!). I don’t imagine these things were selling like hotcakes at that hour.

Shrimp close up

Shrimp close up

El Pollo Loco says that the Baja Shrimp are “marinated in our authentic blend of herbs and spices.” I can attest that there was some spice there. They were good! Plus they didn’t smell or taste fishy, which was surprising. When eaten with the other things in the bowl (rice, chicken, beans and pico de gallo), the flavor held up and shone through.

This is a short review, because I really don’t think I need to review a Pollo Bowl. I’m all about the shrimp here. So is it worth it? I’d unfortunately say not. While they were good, the added price here is not worth it for 4 small shrimp. If you really want shrimp that badly, you’re better off going to Long John Silver’s or, you know, an actual fish restaurant. So while I’m impressed with El Pollo Loco’s ability to make a quality shrimp, unless they add more or lower prices, you’re better off sticking with their chicken selections.

I really couldn't finish this thing

I really couldn’t finish this thing

As a footnote, since I ate this, it appears the bowl is no longer available. A check on El Pollo Loco’s website shows that they’re still advertising Baja Shrimp, but right now they’re only in tacos. Maybe that would work better since they’d need to put more shrimp in there.

Who doesn’t like bacon? Nobody, that’s who! Or at least no one will admit it unless they’re willing to become a pariah on the internet. Jack in the Box saw everyone’s obsession with bacon, and  created a burger that works solely as a vessel to deliver more bacon into everyone’s pie holes. That Jack in the Box made this burger is not surprising; they seem to have looked at the fast food landscape and seen most places move towards healthier options and decided to move in the opposite direction (see: the munchies meals).

What would constitute a burger emergency?

What would constitute a burger emergency?

I dined in for this meal, and holy crap this Jack in the Box location was cold. I normally don’t like to eat in sweatshirts, but I couldn’t take mine off without shivering. However, the guy behind the register complimented my hat, so I’ll consider each of those a wash, and conclude that the ambience was good. I got a medium meal, which came out to $7.70. Not bad for fast food, but actually kind of expensive for Jack in the Box. I guess the price of bacon has gone up.

Good lookin' buns

Good lookin’ buns

This was another boxed sandwich. At this point I wonder how much material is being wasted by everyplace putting sandwiches in boxes. I don’t quite see the point of them if the sandwich is well wrapped, and this sandwich was wrapped. Maybe it helps them retain heat? Anyway, at first glance, this looks like a good burger. It’s well constructed; I can see all of the ingredients. The bun appears not to be burnt. And it smells really good. Because it smells like bacon. Just so much bacon.

Profile shot

Profile shot 

The folks at Jack in the Box call this “a bacon triple threat. A juicy beef patty mixed with savory pieces of bacon. This new bacon and beef patty is sandwiched between hickory smoked bacon and topped with creamy bacon mayo, lettuce, tomato, and American cheese… on [their] new soft warm brioche bun.” As I said: so much bacon. On my first bite, I actually got all of the components at once! This tastes pretty amazing! My first impression: so much bacon. This is really bacony. Like I get that there are other things on this sandwich because there are different textures here, but everything tastes like bacon.

Not the healthiest looking tomatoes...

Not the healthiest looking tomatoes…

So. Much. Bacon.

So. Much. Bacon.

I was intrigued by the bacon mayo. I know it exists, but it seemed like an exotic ingredient for a fast food burger. I isolated it and it had a tangy taste. I honestly thought it was ranch until I realized there was only one spread on the sandwich. You can see the little bacon flecks in it, though it didn’t taste overwhelmingly like bacon. Maybe it was because they didn’t put a lot of the mayo on there. The sandwich was a bit dry.

Still holding together well

Still holding together well

There was so much bacon that I thought there were two layers of it in there. The bacon itself had a nice crisp and smoky flavor. As for the patty with bacon bits in it, it was a bit dry. In addition, I wasn’t sure if the patty had actual chopped up bacon in it, or just bacon bits. Regardless, it did have a strong bacon taste and little bacon pieces were chewy. There wasn’t much of a beef taste to the patty, but maybe that’s a good thing; it may have overshadowed the bacon.

Tomatoes spilling out

Tomatoes spilling out

As for the non-bacon items here, they play a good supporting role. I believe I’ve been disappointed with Jack in the Box’s bun in past, but they’ve improved on their formula. It was nice and soft and absorbed some of the bacon mayo. The lettuce and tomato also were big additions because they helped to offset the bacon overload. The coolness and texture complemented the meatiness of everything else. Without some good lettuce and tomato in here, this would have been difficult to finish. As you can tell from the pictures, these weren’t the best tomatoes ever, but they did their job. I feel like I  shortchange the cheese every week. All I can say here is that it didn’t get in the way of anything that was more important (re: bacon).

Sandwich guts

Sandwich guts

At the end, this sandwich did get a bit messy and it was falling apart. Luckily, the paper wrap around the burger helped keep things together, which is a lesson more places seem to be learning. Eating is a more enjoyable experience if my hands aren’t covered with grease and sauce at the end, with me struggling to keep everything in the bread.

A little sloppy and uneven

A little sloppy and uneven

I have now written 700 words, yet anyone’s opinion of the Bacon Insider comes down to one question: how much do you really like bacon? I enjoyed the sandwich. There was definitely a strong bacon flavor in every bite (mission accomplished!) but it never overwhelmed me or made me sick, which was a worry going in. If you really like eating lots of bacon, I think you’ll enjoy this. If not, then stay away, because this will not be a pleasant experience. I don’t have any real suggestions to improve things here, because Jack in the Box accomplished what they set out to do. So congratulations to them, and I need a goddamn vegetable. Bacon.

Apologies again for the delay between posts, but there will be THREE (3) coming up this week to make up for things. First up, Burger King’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich… AGAIN.

The idea to come back to certain items was suggested to me when I first started the blog, and it was an idea that I filed away. I didn’t expect to come back to a product so quickly because I have so many current products on my list to review. However, sometimes circumstances get in the way, and you find yourself at a Burger King drive-thru at 9:30PM, having not eaten since 10AM and mistakenly ordering a Spicy Chicken Sandwich instead of an Original Chicken Sandwich! Here we are!

The focus of my original review was that the sandwich was good, it just wasn’t spicy, which is a problem for a Spicy Chicken Sandwich. However, I can now safely report that the sandwich is spicy!!! I have no reasons why the sandwich suddenly had some bite, other than maybe they needed a few weeks to work the kinks out of their product (which I assume had been taste tested for several months before roll out, but whatever).

Once again, the breading had a reddish tinge to it (sorry, no photos for this post), and everything else was the exact same as the Original Chicken Sandwich: lettuce, mayo, and oblong bun. The patty was still crispy and juicy on the inside (which is a compliment to that location for having fresh food that late). The spice wasn’t overwhelming. I didn’t find myself gasping or needing gulps of water to calm down my taste buds. However, it was noticeable, and it definitely adds something to a sandwich that can be very plain.

I know this is a short post, but after I ate the sandwich, I did feel obligated to update my thoughts since the sandwich was different, and now that we have some spice, I actually would recommend it.

Apologies, but there will be no post this week. I plan on picking up next week, and will make up the missed post within the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience.