Archives for posts with tag: Sour Cream

Before the introduction of Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries, my biggest hang up with going to Taco Bell was their lack of fries. Since I can remember, and from what I’ve heard before then as well, fries have been my favorite food. I judge fast food and regular restaurants by the quality or lack thereof (I see you In-N-Out) of their fries. I will make substitutions if food I order does not come with fries. I have strong opinions on the best fry shapes. I have an ongoing desire to go to McDonald’s one day and eat a whole basket of fries and nothing else (around 3 large orders). So it goes without saying that as much as I love Taco Bell, when I ate there, I was choosing fast food, but foregoing the opportunity to eat fries, which always caused at least a small pang if regret if the Taco Bell wasn’t paired with a KFC or Long John Silver’s. With the introduction of their new fries, I no longer will suffer from that feeling. Without wasting any more time, let’s review into this important development.

Taco Bell offers the fries as a regular side with nacho cheese, and a nachos-like portion served in two sizes: Supreme (small) and BellGrande (large). The Supreme and BellGrande versions are fries “dusted with bold Mexican seasonings [topped with] seasoned beef, diced tomatoes, reduced-fat sour cream and that warm and magical Nacho Cheese Sauce.” The Supreme size is $2.49 and BellGrande is $3.49. You can also get a box of fries with a cup of Nacho Cheese Sauce for $1.

I ordered the BellGrande portion. Words can’t express my excitement as I waited for my food. I kept trying to peek into the kitchen to see when my order would be finished. After what felt like an eternity, but was probably only two minutes, I got a bag with the food. I rushed to my table to empty the contents, and my first emotion was disappointment. The size of the fries container was small in terms of both fries and toppings. I thought the BellGrande portion would be larger and I expected more toppings. At least at my initial glance, I’d rather have saved the $1 difference between the Supreme and BellGrande sizes.

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Getting into the actual food, these were standard fries.  Coming out of the kitchen, they were crispy and looked to have an extra layer of batter on them. Obviously, they weren’t cut in the back, but they seemed to be acceptable fresher type fries. There was a small amount of spice scattered on them, but I can’t recall it standing out in any way. I’d have liked a more aggressive shake of the seasoning because I think it could have really elevated the fries.

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After trying to fries alone, I tried one with just some Nacho Cheese Sauce. It was standard Taco Bell nacho cheese, a little spicy and kinda cheesy, which I generally enjoy. I thought the pairing went well together and would consider the $1 fries option in the future. The fries were still crispy after a dip in the cheese and the flavor complemented the fries. If you want something plainer, and control over the amount of topping on the fries (as well as the option to prolong the crispiness), the $1 option is a good order.

I then started digging into the meat of the dish, literally and figuratively. The tomatoes didn’t really add much. The BellGrande Fries are meant to mimic nachos. However, unlike chips, which have a broader base and can be used to scoop up other foods, the fries need the toppings to adhere to them. Tomatoes don’t adhere to fries at all, so I resorted to using a spork, which was a lot of effort for tiny tomato pieces that weren’t really necessary to the dish. They weren’t strong in taste nor did they have enough of a textural contrast to be there. If Taco Bell wanted to add a vegetable, I think a pepper would have worked better.

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The beef is standard Taco Bell ground beef. I can’t remember the last time I had ground beef on fries, but it’s a great addition and hit the marks I was expecting from the fries in terms of replicating a plate of nachos. In addition, not that I wanted the Nacho Fries to be filling since I was ordering a lot of other food, but if you were looking to make the fries a focal point of your meal, then the beef adds some heft to the plate.

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After a few bites, I realized I needed a utensil even when I wasn’t trying to eat the tomatoes. The fries were getting pretty soggy and messy, and using my hands didn’t seem to be a viable option anymore, especially since I was taking pictures and notes. Using the spork also let me mix and match bites to try out different combinations and prevented the fries from getting boring by replicating the same bites throughout the meal. I’ve complained before about food getting boring, but the choose your own adventure aspect here let me pick around and choose the best bites, which usually was the fries with the Nacho Cheese Sauce and some ground beef.

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I’m not a big fan of sour cream and don’t really need it on my nachos. The sour cream did nothing to persuade me to eat it more in the future. If you like sour cream, then it’s fine here, just like it is on nachos. Some guacamole would have been nice instead, and it would have had a similar texture.

The Nacho Fries become messier and messier as I went along and looked pretty gross as I was finishing. Nachos are never exactly an aesthetically appealing food, but with everything combined and congealing at the bottom of the plate, it was not pleasant to look at.

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When eating, I made the mistake of not eating the fries fast enough. I’m a slow eater in general, plus when I eat for the blog, I need to take notes and pictures as I go along. However, under the weight of all the toppings, the fries got soggy very fast. My recommendation is that if you order the fries along with other food, eat the fries first.

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The fries were more filling than I anticipated from initially looking at the container. Granted, before this Taco Bell order, I had eaten Burger King’s Flamin’ Hot Mac n Cheetos, but I still think these serve as a solid base for a meal.

The summary of the experience here is good and bad. It was a good first effort by Taco Bell on the fries front. The fries were acceptable, if not great, and I feel like the base components of the fries, Nacho Cheese Sauce and ground beef worked well together and provide a solid foundation from which to move forward.

The biggest negative is that the fries got soggy very fast. Even the fries that weren’t under a mountain of cheese and beef lost their crispiness fairly quickly. Unless you’re fine with soggy fries, these need to be eaten immediately. I wouldn’t even recommend ordering them at the drive thru at this point. After the fries lose their crisp, it’s a big soggy mess. I’m not sure if they need to fry these twice or if the sogginess is from a lack of quality, but they need to work on building a stronger fry.

Also, I don’t think this was a good value at the price. I must have misunderstood the commercial, because I thought it was available with chicken or steak. At the price point offered for BellGrande, I expected one of those meats. Ground beef as the only meat option was slightly disappointing. It’s also an easy fix. Chicken and steak would add another texture and really make the taste better while also reducing some of the mess. Taco Bell already sells those meats, so it’s just a matter of adjusting the pricing.

I offer a qualified endorsement here. Taco Bell has laid the foundation for future success with some small tweaks. If you’re excited like me to try the new addition to the menu, then it’s definitely worth your curiosity. I trust Taco Bell to make improvements to make these even better in the future.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.