Archives for posts with tag: Smoky

When I find myself at a fast food establishment, I generally lean towards ordering chicken. I do enjoy burgers, but I find that 1) chicken is generally more consistent across most locations (no surprise mayonnaise) and 2) I just love fried chicken. I’ve had the privilege of driving across the country four times, and on each occasion, I made specific plans to enjoy local delicacies, which frequently meant friend chicken. The drives also exposed me to the many great fried chicken focused fast food chains across the country. Unfortunately, these trips also opened my eyes to the fact that for whatever reason, we really don’t have much selection in New England. While Chick-Fil-A seems to be penetrating the market, the main options have always been KFC, and if you were willing to go out of your way for something special, Popeye’s.

Unlike its larger cousin, KFC, Popeye’s doesn’t seem to be as adventurous with its menu. While you’ll see KFC ads plastered all over your television (try the Georgia Gold and Nashville Hot!), I don’t see many ads for new Popeye’s products, but there is value in their consistency. Regular or spicy, chicken parts or tenders, the menu doesn’t change much but is always great.

Anyway, most of my fast food trips lately are going to a location with an order in mind: they have something new I want to try. But this trip to Popeye’s wasn’t prompted by an ad or tweet or reader request; I just wanted to go to Popeye’s. It wasn’t until I was staring at the menu, trying to figure out an order that would let me eat everything I wanted without spending $30 when I noticed the Smokehouse wings. I immediately decided to add them to my order, not substitute them for anything else. I’m not proud of how much I ate that day, but Popeye’s is worth it.

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Popeye’s Smokehouse Boneless Wings were $4.99 for a six piece meal which comes with a side, biscuit and drink. Unfortunately, I’m writing this too late to have an official description, but I’m sure it would have included words such as “boneless white meat chicken” “marinated” and “smoke”. Fast food mad libs are fun.

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As presented to me, the basket was a glorious mess of fried goodness. I could barely see the boneless wings underneath the mountain of fries (as a side note- Popeye’s fries are the biggest hit or miss fast food item since Wendy’s changed their fries; they’re either glorious or borderline inedible). I ate a few fries to create a path to the wings. Aside from the crazy amount of batter, the boneless wings were still huge. Normally I’d think of a boneless wing as something nugget-sized, but these were basically chicken tenders. I’m definitely not complaining, but it was much more food than I expected. A six-piece meal is more than enough without adding anything to your order.

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Into the wings themselves, my first impression was the great crunch and hint of spice. They were fried to perfection and not as spicy as Popeye’s regular spicy chicken/tenders, but I definitely felt some heat. The chicken itself was tender and juicy, as with all of their chicken.

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The Smokey flavor was more subtle and took a few more bites for me to notice. Eventually, that flavor cane out, and the best way I can think to describe it was like ham, which made for a weird experience. I’d take a bite and get the crunchy, spicy batter and juicy chicken… then a hammy aftertaste. If you ate a chicken tender then chased it with a small piece of ham, that maybe a replication of the experience.

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I love Popeye’s, if I haven’t made that clear, and I’m glad I finally got the chance to review one of their items. However, this was not a winner. The idea of adding a smoky taste to a medium spiced chicken tender is a worthwhile idea, but the execution fell short here. I couldn’t shake the ham taste as I ate, and that’s not a flavor I want to mix with my fried chicken. If they leaned more in a BBQ type smoked direction, I’d be willing to give the concept another chance, but as served, I’d stick to my regular order on my next Popeye’s visit.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.

 

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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!