Archives for posts with tag: Lettuce

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Continuing our swing through my past eats, next up is McDonald’s Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken, which no longer appears to be available. The McChicken was originally brought back to the McDonald’s menu as a cheaper alternative to the Deluxe Chicken sandwiches with the introduction of the Dollar Menu. There was a distinct difference between the sandwiches. While the deluxe sandwiches had a piece of chicken breast that you could imagine eating in a restaurant, the McChicken never conjured such an image. It reminded me more of a dining hall chicken sandwich. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it was a distinctly different experience when you chose the lower price point, as opposed to ordering a double cheeseburger vs. a Quarter pounder (another dollar menu v regular sandwich distinction).

As McDonald’s raised prices and attempted to move away from the Dollar Menu, they needed new ways to induce people to spend more than a buck on a cheap chicken sandwich. Thus was born the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken. Though it had been available for some time, I ate it as I was driving across the country, somewhere on I-40 in Southern California. I ordered it as a supplement to my regular meal. The price at the time was $2, so those extra accoutrements were not cheap.

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Opening up the paper wrapper, it looked like a regular McChicken. It’s an unassuming sandwich. Seedless bun, chicken patty thin, not very greasy. Taking a sample of the chicken patty before digging into the sandwich as a whole, it already had some spice in the breading! I was taken aback because I figured this would just be a regular McChicken with some new toppings slapped on top, but McDonald’s actually made some effort here, and it showed. In addition, the patty itself was juicy and crunchy. Honestly, if you took away the bread and the toppings, I’d have eaten the chicken patty on its own.

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As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge fan of McDonald’s bacon, because they make it but too crisp for my liking. However, it worked on this sandwich. I didn’t get the texture as much, so the smokiness just paired well with the overall spiciness of the sandwich.

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When I first saw that the sandwich included buffalo and ranch flavors, I assumed there was a buffalo ranch sauce. Nope. Instead we had two sauces added. I generally like buffalo sauce and am not a fan of ranch. However, on its own, the buffalo sauce was too spicy for the overall sandwich and it took over the taste. When I had a bite with both sauces, they combined really well. Still, it’s a little odd that McDonald’s didn’t spring for a single sauce.

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The only ingredient which detracted from the sandwich was the lettuce. To use the McChicken vs. the deluxe sandwiches as a point of comparison again, the Deluxe sandwiches usually have a large piece or two of lettuce, whereas the McChickens have cheaper shredded lettuce. Whether by design or worker indifference, this sandwich had too much shredded lettuce. I kept picking it off the sandwich because it was taking up too much of each bite. This would have been better served with one piece of iceberg lettuce to cool off the sandwich a bit. Nothing more.

Judged in isolation. the Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken was a worthy addition to the menu. They didn’t shy away from heat. The Bacon was good. The ranch paired well with the buffalo sauce, and I wish McDonald’s didn’t discontinue the spicy chicken patty

I think if McDonald’s wanted, it could pair the toppings with one of the premium chicken breast fillets and charge more for the sandwich. It’d be a worthy competitor to Wendy’s Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

The drawback was its awkward price point. It’s a fine snack, but it’s too small on its own to serve as the focal point of a meal, but also a bit too much sandwich to supplement a regular meal. As someone who always gets a value meal at McDonald’s, I’d need to juggle my usual ordering pattern if I wanted to order this particular sandwich, and I’m too set in my ways to do that. Maybe for the person who regularly picks and chooses items off the value meal, that’s a viable option, but I’d probably pass on this in the future. You know, if they still sold it.