Archives for posts with tag: Chili

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.

Advertisements

My earliest memories of Wendy’s was that it was different. Growing up in Massachusetts, we weren’t exactly blessed with a plethora of fast food options. While I could watch TV and see commercials of all these new and strange places, the local fare was fairly standard: McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Wendy’s. I didn’t see a Taco Bell until I was teenager (so deprived, I know). While offering subtle differences, McDonald’s and Burger King basically sold the same thing, and KFC was the fried chicken place (when they started serving Crispy Chicken Strips, my mind was blown).

img_5363

Wendy’s, on the other hand, was always different: square burgers, the salad bar, chili. For whatever reason, I ate my first chili at Wendy’s, and then used that to experience my first chili and cheese fries. Before it became a new market to penetrate to make up for flagging sales as Americans tried to eat healthier, Wendy’s was already aboard the salad train. So when Wendy’s started airing commercial recently advertising the return of the Taco Salad, I was intrigued.

img_5364

Wendy’s Taco Salad is “topped with … chili, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, chunky salsa, and yellow corn tortilla rounds.” It looked delicious in the commercials… or at least as delicious as a fast food salad can look. When ordering, Wendy’s offers the Taco Salad in regular and half portions, which was fantastic for me, as I could sample the salad without letting my whole meal ride on liking it. The half portion is $4.29 and the full sized option is $6.29.

img_5365

I was confused when my order, which also included a grilled chicken sandwich meal (post coming soon!), came in four bags. It seemed (and was) wasteful, and I didn’t know why I needed two hands to grab my small order. Well, the Taco Salad is served disassembled. That’s right, the commercial is even more deceiving than usual! Sure, you can make a delicious taco salad, but to get it looking like the ad, it’ll take you about ten minutes, and you’re too hungry for that. I complain about this with Subway, and I’ll do it here too: serve what you’re advertising. If I want it custom made, then I’ll let you know, but I shouldn’t have to assemble my own salad.

img_5366

Anyway, the lettuce, tomatoes and cheese were in one bowl. I got a tub of salsa, a tube of sour cream, a small bag of tortilla chips, and a small portion of chili, filled halfway. I put all the ingredients in the bowl except the tortilla chips. Originally I wanted them to line the outside of the bowl, like the commercial, but I realized 1) that was going to take a lot of effort and 2) that was impractical for eating purposes. I wound up crushing them into small pieces and mixing them up with everything else.

img_5367

I’ll run through the items one by one, then go into how everything tasted together. First off, the chili was disappointing. It was extremely liquid without much meat or beans. It served as the de facto dressing of the salad… if a meat stew can do such a thing. It was a much better sauce than the salsa, which was thick and tasted really oniony. Fans of the blog already know that I generally despise onions, so the salsa was really off putting. The taste was strong enough that as soon as I tasted a bite, I immediately knew whether it contained salsa. The sour cream honestly didn’t have much of a taste, and I mainly used it to mix with the chili and salsa. The vegetables seemed fresh: lettuce was green and crunchy and tomatoes had real texture.

img_5368

Eating everything combined, the hot chili melted the cheese and made it nice and gooey. It went really well with the salad. Aside from the salsa bites, I really enjoyed this. With so many different ingredients, it was easy to switch up the flavor in each forkful so it didn’t get repetitive. Also, meat dressing is really good. I highly recommend it.

There were some issues though. It was extremely salty for a salad, which makes sense since everything in it was probably loaded with sodium. The tortilla chips were also an awkward addition. I mentioned before that I tried to crumble them into the salad, like a flat crouton, but getting pieces along with other elements of the salad was difficult, and the chip edges were sharp. They wound up being most useful when I just used them to scoop up parts of the salad, like a nacho.

img_5369

For a half a salad, the Taco Salad is a good portion. I don’t regret trying it, though to be honest, I’m not sure when I would actually order it again. If I’m eating fast food, I want fries, and I didn’t like this enough to order it as the main portion of a meal. I think if I wanted a Taco Salad, I’d go to a place that would make one for me, and not ask me to put it together. I really enjoyed this after I started using the tortilla chips as nachos, but again, if I wanted nachos, I’d go to a place that specializes in them. I also wouldn’t order chili salad nachos. So this definitely was not a fail, and if you’re curious, try it while they’re still serving it, but it does have limited appeal.

Taco Bell’s Loaded Grillers are meant (and marketed) to serve as a convenient flavor deliverer.  Pack some bold flavors into a tortilla, heat that thing up, and serve! Convenience! Flavors beyond the usual Taco Bell simplicity! Somehow, I’d never had one, so I decided to head back to Taco Bell (second time in a month!), to try out the Chipotle Ranch Chicken Loaded Griller and the Chili Cheese Fries Loaded Griller (which I should note was enthusiastically recommended to me by the cashier, who claimed he ate ten of them the day before. That he ate so much, survived the aftermath, and still recommended them to me is still making me chuckle. Don’t ever change you weirdo cashier.)

They look like soft tacos, but are heavier

They look like soft tacos, but are heavier

I dined in again this week. With all the cheese and ranch, I was worried about congealing. I think it helped. As for my order, I got the Loaded Grillers, a taco, and the XXL Shredded Chicken Nachos (sidenote: they were MUCH larger than I’d anticipated, and thus did not finish my food), for the grand total of $10.85. Great value for a mountain of food. The Loaded Grillers themselves are $1, which seemed like a pretty good price. They’re small, but filling on their own. Two or three would be enough for a meal… if you were willing to make a meal out of these things.

Perhaps they left this one on the press for too long...

Perhaps they left this one on the press for too long…

They look like soft tacos when they’re in the wrapper, and when unwrapped they look like soft tacos… but bigger, both in length and girth. I opted for Chipotle Ranch Chicken first because of the sauce and cheese, and that was definitely wise. This would have been pretty gross if I’d let it sit for too long, since it’s just chicken, cheese and sauce.

First bites!

First bites!

Taco Bell says the Chipotle Ranch Chicken Loaded Griller “delivers the taste of spicy chicken wings with ranch dip because we take our grilled, all white mat, marinated chicken and cover it with kicked-up Chipotle Ranch Sauce and cool reduced-fat sour cream, then wrap it in a warm flour tortilla and grill it.” That’s a mouthful! (You can groan if you’d like). First three bites… all tortilla. This is something I seem to harp on every week, but seriously: can we figure out how to properly proportion food? It’s difficult to stay excited about something when I’ve already eaten a quarter of it and only tasted bread. So of course on the fourth bite, sauce explodes out of it. There was so much sauce that after every bite I had to wipe my mouth. It seemed a little overkill. That Ranch Sauce is very tangy. It really overtakes the whole experience, especially since there was so much. I noticed the cheese, but couldn’t really taste it. It just blended with the ranch.

Probably not the most appetizing photo I'll post on this blog.

Probably not the most appetizing photo I’ll post on this blog.

When there was a good proportion of all the ingredients, this was actually pretty good! There were only two pieces of chicken in the first half, but the second half had a much better balance, and the chicken definitely stood up to the Ranch Sauce when it was there.

Even at the end, there was still sauce all over this thing

Even at the end, there was still sauce all over this thing

Given that this is only $1, it’s a pretty good deal. If they could just add a little less ranch, it would be something I definitely recommend. However, as of now, unless you really like Ranch Sauce, you may want to stay away. Be warned though: get extra napkins. Sauce was everywhere when I was eating it.

Hope you're still hungry!

Hope you’re still hungry!

Now, onto the main event: the Chili Cheese Fries Loaded Griller! Even before the cashier was salivating at the thought of this when I ordered it, I thought this had a chance to ascend into my regular rotation of Taco Bell food. Taco Bell’s potatoes are underrated, and should occupy a more prominent spot on their menu. If the chili was passable, then this would be good.

Still a little too bready in this shot

Still a little too bready in this shot

Let’s see how Taco Bell describes the Chili Cheese Fries Loaded Griller: it “delivers the taste of chili cheese fries because we take our crispy potato bites and cover them with our savory chili and warm nacho cheese sauce, then wrap it all up in a warm flour tortilla and grill it.” That comes across as so understated compared with the Chipotle Ranch Grilled Chicken. So once again, the first few bites were only tortilla. Ugh. Once I got to the middle and tasted everything, this was good. Really good. The chili wasn’t particularly spicy, and was more like a meat sauce (so no beans; for you heathens who prefer chili without beans, you won’t have any trouble adjusting). It complemented the crispy potatoes really well. And once again, those potatoes. They maintain their crispiness, so there’s some actual texture in here, as opposed to mush.

Griller guts!

Griller guts!

Seriously, the Chili Cheese Fries Loaded Griller is the best thing I’ve reviewed so far. Instead of going overboard and adding some overpowering ingredient, Taco Bell kept it simple, and I appreciate it. The flavors work well together, no one tries to outshine and the other. In addition, this wasn’t messy at all (perhaps because chili is more solid than a sauce). At $1, this is definitely something you could add to a meal if you’re hungry and looking for something a little more substantial than a taco.