REVIEW: Wendy’s Berry Burst Chicken Salad

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad

As a marketing writer for a semi-large organization, and as a perpetual bullshitter, I tend to appreciate the subtle ability of words to transform the same old thing into something completely different.

Let’s put our cards on the table: a straight description doesn’t work anymore. Nobody wants what is. Everyone wants what is ideal.

Case in point, what was the Wendy’s Berry Almond Chicken Salad seven years ago became the Summer Berry Chicken Salad two years ago and now has morphed into the Berry Burst Chicken Salad.

Granted, there are some slight variations, but who actually remembers a slight switcheroo in a cheese or a berry or a dressing?

For what it’s worth, what is basically the same salad from 2011 and 2016 is still delicious. Although, perhaps to stay consistent with the times, we should say it’s still delicious AF. Regardless, the salad has that rare ability to make you stop and say, “Wait, that came from Wendy’s?

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad 4

If you still haven’t had Wendy’s revamped grilled chicken, which debuted two years ago, get with the times, man. It’s juicy, succulent, and it has flavor like something grilled on one of those short-season Food Network summer grilling shows. I can’t believe I just said that about white meat. Anyways, the chicken is more than passable and a few notches above any pre-packed salad you’d find in the grocery store.

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad 3

I was really impressed with the berries, particularly the strawberries, which had a slightly macerated taste and texture that was sweet without being cloying or overripe. The blueberries were by and large plump and ripe, their modest sweetness pairing nicely against the salty feta cheese. Both the cheese and the smoky, crunchy almonds, give the salad a hearty feel — perhaps even a burst.

The biggest drawbacks are the dressing and the amount of lettuce. The sweetness of the dressing tends to be a little too much with the berries. It’s like putting ketchup on my ketchup flavored potato chips -— both delicious, less so together. As for the lettuce, I feel like Elaine Benes might be cool with it, but when I’m fairly full and there’s still a forest staring back at me, sans chicken and berries, the ratio is a little off.

Wendy s Berry Burst Chicken Salad 2

I told myself I wasn’t going to look at the past reviews of Wendy’s Chicken/Almond/Berry salad combos when scoring the Berry Burst Chicken Salad. Well, lo and behold I have no self-control and saw past scores of 8 and 9. Given that nothing much has changed, but more importantly, given that this is still a great salad, a 9 seems more than appropriate.

(Nutrition Facts – Full size – 460 calories, 17 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1090 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 29 grams of sugar, 7 grams of fiber, and 41 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.79
Size: Full size
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: “Lots of fresh strawberries and blueberries” — literally ripped this line from the 2011 review, which is still applicable. Grilled chicken is a step above 2011 version. Well composed salad with super fresh ingredients. Crunchy almonds and feta cheese create good contrasts in flavors and textures.
Cons: Raspberry vinaigrette is like putting ketchup on ketchup potato chips. A little too much greenery. Lingering debate over the connotation of “chicken salad” vs. “salad with chicken.”

REVIEW: KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich

I’ve often wondered why KFC doesn’t join the 21st century and put a regular chicken sandwich on its menu. And no, I’m not talking rectangular-ish chicken sliders or carbless heart-attacks-waiting-to-happen, I’m talking about a regular-sized bun with a decently-sized fried, all-white chicken breast in the middle.

The introduction of the new Crispy Colonel Sandwich ends my hypothetical smatterings when it comes to this question; available in variations featuring KFC’s various chicken flavors (Nashville Hot; Georgia Gold; Smokey Mountain) it’s also available in a regular extra crispy version with mayo and pickles, the seemingly now standard fare when someone decides to put fried chicken between a bun.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 4

The good news is that the chicken steals the show and lives up to its crispy billing. Actually, I was blown away by how good the all-white meat chicken patty was. Granted, calling it a patty is a bit of a misnomer -— think a supersized extra crispy tender, or perhaps a boneless, skinless chicken breast. But the balance of crispy breading and moist interior meat nailed the texture element, while KFC’s much-beloved herbs and spices provided more than enough flavor.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 3

The problem is that it’s a rather kindergarten-ish attempt at sandwich construction, at least as far my local KFC is concerned. The bun – already ridiculously thin, tasteless, and crumbly – was absolutely murdered with mayo, which both drowned out the pickles and failed to enhance the flavor of those famous 11 herbs and spices.

With the laws of physics working against me, I abandoned the soggy underside, which had already marred the underneath crispiness of the chicken. While I realize mayo can be more divisive than cilantro (which I decline to comment on at this time), I do try to keep an open mind to such things. But I have to say the addition and amount of the globby mayo brought the sandwich down a few notches.

KFC Crispy Colonel Sandwich 2

And yes, for the record, a simpler treatment, such as Chick-fil-A’s buttered bun, would have been preferable. As for the comparison, everyone seems to want when it comes to these chicken sandwich faceoffs? It’s hard to say; Chick-fil-a cooks their chicken differently, in different oil, and with different spices. In some ways, it’s an apples to oranges comparison. I will say, though, that from a chicken element alone, I like KFC’s Crispy Colonel more than similar offerings from Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.

All in all, KFC’s rather pathetic treatment of everything outside of the chicken in its long-awaited chicken sandwich answers a lot of questions for me. Namely, why KFC hasn’t committed to a regular sandwich in the past. That said, the execution of a nearly perfect chicken patty — crispy outside, juicy inside, plenty of flavor in the breading — makes me wonder if the colonel just needs to plan a different line of attack — one that pairs his famous chicken with a bun and condiments that enhance and don’t detract from the sandwich.

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 25 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 24 gram2 of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99 (sandwich); $5 (Fill-up Box)
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Excellent balance of extra crispy breading and juicy, moist interior chicken. All white meat. 11 herbs and spices. Good value as a $5 Fill-up Box.
Cons: Bun is a complete afterthought. Mayo detracts from flavor of the sandwich and reduces underside crispiness. Expensive as just a sandwich. A bit small. Not being able to give a 7.5 rating.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Signature Crafted Garlic White Cheddar Burger

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar

Less than a football field away from the closest McDonald’s to my apartment is a Wendy’s. Said Wendy’s has a sign touting fresher is better. Said sign corresponds to a commercial Wendy’s runs about their fresh never frozen beef. Said frozen beef is a reference to the McDonald’s 90 yards away.

Correction: Was.

In case you haven’t heard, McDonald’s is making the great leap forward. And, apparently, that leap to fresh beef starts with the rollout of the Signature Crafted Garlic White Cheddar Burger.

Which is convenient because if the moon is made out of cheese, and the cow jumps over the moon, it really is one small leap for mookind. But I digress.

Say what you will about fast food burgers in general, but McDonald’s burgers have (had?) a specific taste and texture that some people happened to like in a kind of lowbrow comfort fast food sort of way.

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar 2

The new patties are definitely a step away from that. With visible surface browning and what appeared to be sea salt on the patty, the beef looked like something I could have made at home. And the taste is altogether beefy —- more nuanced, rounded, and meaty than I remember. But the patty, aside from tasting drier than the average Quarter Pounder I’ve had in the past, didn’t taste well-seasoned or particularly succulent. As someone who grills a lot of burgers myself, I’d compare it to ground sirloin. Beefier, yes, but noticeably leaner and less flavorful.

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar 3

The good news is the burger construction is engineered for what my friend calls the executive bight. Carefully placed lettuce and tomato, as well as the slightly sweet bun, do wonders to round out the taste. Meanwhile, the garlic chips and aioli leave a distinct and savory garlic flavor that brings together all the flavors and makes your breath smell like the equivalent of three roasted heads of garlic.

McDonald s Signature Recipe Garlic White Cheddar 4

While I wanted to love (and I mean LOVE) the sharp white cheddar cheese, its flavor on the burger is less impressive than its flavor on its own. Unlike past McDonald’s “cheddar” cheeses, the slice actually has a bit of funk, but within the burger it gets lost amidst the beef and the garlic aioli and chips. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s sort of a waste of an otherwise perfectly good slice of cheese.

There was a time when I might have said $5.19 is too much for a burger. Well, that time was in college and considering I’m about to be 30 and no longer use “adult” as a verb, I’m willing to pay $5.19 for a good fast food burger. And make no mistake about it, the Signature Crafted Garlic White Cheddar Burger is a good burger by fast food standards.

Just be prepared to eat a Tic-Tac afterwards.

(Nutrition Facts – 620 calories, 300 calories from fat, 33 grams of total fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 95 milligrams of sodium, 49 grams of total carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugars, and 31 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.19
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Beefier fresh beef patty than traditional McDonald’s burgers. Excellent double whammy of garlic taste. High quality ingredients make $5.19 price tag a bargain.
Cons: Leaner-tasting patty lacks juiciness and richness. Quality of cheese is lost against garlic flavor.

REVIEW: Chick-fil-A Frosted Sunrise

Chick fil A Frosted Sunrise

Orange you glad Chick-fil-A parlayed their popular Frosted Coffee and Frosted Lemonade formula into orange sherbet form?

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Actually, while the concept of the new Frosted Sunrise (a combination of Chick-fil-A’s soft-serve Icedream and Simply Orange orange juice) follows the same premise of the chain’s existing drink/soft-serve mashups, the marketing plan appears totally different.

Take, for example, the listing of the Frosted Sunrise under the “drink” section of Chick-fil-A’s menu and not the “Treat” section. Even the name, Frosted Sunrise, conjures up images of a 100 percent of your daily vitamin C and lasting energy to embrace your eight hours of sedentary office work.

In a word: wholesome.

And, as it happens, the Frosted Sunrise does taste more wholesome, which is exactly the last thing I want in my orange-flavored frozen dairy drinks.

Perennial child of the 90s I am, I just can’t get Orange Flintstones Push-Up treats out of my head. Together with orange sherbet, this tag-team of artificial citrus formed approximately 71 percent of my dessert intake from the ages of 7-10.

That’s not to say I don’t love me a good Florida orange (or a clementine for that matter). But when it comes to combining oranges with cream, there’s a certain level of socially-engrained flavor balance that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, Chick-fil-A’s Frosted Sunrise skews too far toward the fresh-squeezed orange, creating a clashing matchup of full-bodied and slightly bitter orange with a weak soft-serve flavor.

Overwhelmed by this cognitive dissonance, I trudged on. As I slurped more and more sunrise (note: save that phrase for a future poem) I noticed the flavors being a bit evener. The initial strong natural orange flavor, which in this application was not exactly optimal, quickly dissipated to the point where the milky sweetness of the Icedream became the guiding flavor.

Chick fil A Frosted Sunrise 2

Childhood sherbet equilibrium obtained, I was content (I also had a brain freeze, although I take full responsibility for that). Still, the fact that the flavor shifted so dramatically struck me as problematic, especially when Chick-fil-A’s Icedream lacks the rich milkfat to tame the initial heavy citrus bursts.

Overall, Chick-fil-A’s Frosted Sunrise does a lot of good things and has elements that will please both natural orange enthusiasts and artificial orange nostalgics like me. However, in doing so, it fails to leave both completely satisfied throughout, making it less enjoyable than Chick-fil-A’s Frosted Coffee and Frosted Lemonade.

(Nutrition Facts – Small – 320 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 47 grams of sugar, 7 grams of protein, 25% calcium, and 60% Vitamin C.)

Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Small
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Strong orange sherbet finish. Healthier breakfast alternative to a milkshake (which technically you can get at breakfast but…) Clean, strong refreshing flavor.
Cons: Natural orange flavor clashes and overwhelms the dairy for half of the drink. Slight bitterness can be off-putting. Not enough richness in the dairy. Inconsistent flavor.

REVIEW: Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, Ginger Lime, Twisted Mango, and Zesty Blood Orange

Diet Coke Feisty Cherry Ginger Lime Twisted Mango and Zesty Blood Orange

Diet soda drinkers are not exactly a fickle lot. Some people swear by Diet Pepsi without aspartame. Others with aspartame. Tab people are still kicking it like it’s 1985 and any true Texan wouldn’t be caught dead with a Mr. Pibb Zero over Diet Dr Pepper.

Which is all to say that Coke’s decision to launch a new flavored Diet Coke line is a bit of a head-scratcher.

As a diet soda drinker myself, I can understand the dividing lines of low-calorie beverages. We’re creatures of habit; obsessive compulsives; generally curmudgeonly and resistant to change. Also, we’re all going to get cancer and metabolic disorder and blah blah blah BUT STILL we’re willing to at least try a new diet soda, especially with the help of some (relatively) exotic names.

I love most orange-flavored things. However, unlike my childhood hero Kel Mitchell, I’m not crazy about the taste of orange soda, which lacks the body of a cola. Diet Coke Zesty Blood Orange cures all that; the orange flavor is robust but not bitter, lingering on as a component of the aftertaste but not stripping the soda of its cola roots. Why it took Coke this long to use orange as a flavor in a bottled or canned soda, I have no idea. But I’m happy it’s finally here.

I don’t know what twisted is supposed to convey as an adjective. Perverse? Physically contorted? Changed ever-so-slightly from the original intent that the word is basically meaningless? The last one seems to be the case when it comes to the taste of Twisted Mango. Meaningless adjectives aside, this is a good soda. Crisp, fruity but not overly tropical, with a sweeter finish than traditional Diet Coke, it just works. I can see Diet Coke with Lemon fans liking this one, which has a good mix of conservative Diet Coke appeal and unique flavor.

Moving right along, Feisty Cherry seems like a weird name for a soda. A 90s pop-rock artist or Kentucky Derby horse? Okay, I can see that. But a soda? Not really. In any event, the flavor comes across as a slightly muted black cherry, but it never really overcomes the carbonation. Where there was a distinct sweetness with Zesty Blood Orange, Feisty Cherry has a more traditional Diet Coke aftertaste, which I guess can be either a good or and thing depending on your preferences. Personally, I found it a less suitable imitator to Diet Cherry Dr Pepper, which I’m allowed to say because of the two years I lived in Texas.

Ginger Lime should have been the most exotic tasting flavor, but instead of some piquant and spicy flavor, it tastes like Diet Coke watered down with a generic (read: not Canada Dry) ginger ale. Not that I’m complaining, but the lack of ginger ale crossover makes this a disappointment.

Diet soda drinkers are not exactly a fickle lot, and because of that, I’m not sure how well received the new Diet Coke flavors will be, especially when Feisty Cherry and Ginger Lime fail to deliver on their aggressive names.

However, maybe that’s the point.

Since Diet Coke drinkers default back to the standby of Diet Coke, the generally non-offensive flavors probably won’t turn anyone off. That said, at least with the exception of Blood Orange, I doubt they’ll turn anyone on.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 oz – 0 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 5 milligrams of sodium, 160 milligrams of potassium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.68
Size: 12-pack (12 oz. cans)
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Blood Orange)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Ginger Lime)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Feisty Cherry)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Twisted Mango)
Pros: Blood Orange has a crisp, sweet finish that tastes like a natural addition to traditional Diet Coke. Twisted Mango brings a tropical flavor to cola without overdoing it. Varied spectrum of flavors for those who don’t have access to a Coke Freestyle machine.
Cons: Aside from Blood Orange, flavors don’t necessarily wow you. Feisty Cherry tastes mostly like Diet Coke with Cherry. Ginger Lime fails to deliver the long-expected ginger ale-cola hybrid. Curmudgeonly Diet Coke drinkers.