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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Classic Chicken Sandwich

McDonald s Classic Chicken Sandwich

Despite its oblong-shaped filet, squished profile, and two perfectly-centered pickles, McDonald’s Classic Chicken Sandwich is not as good as Chick-fil-A’s namesake chicken sandwich.

That said, it’s a better and more economical showcase for McDonald’s buttermilk chicken than the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich and a dramatic upgrade over the McChicken.

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It’s built similarly to the bygone Southern Style Chicken Sandwich, but skips the butter and steamed bun for a regular bun and McDonald’s signature sauce. Otherwise, it makes no attempt to shy away from borrowing a page from Chick-fil-A’s book.

Overall, its minimalist approach works great. I’ve had McDonald’s buttermilk chicken on three or four occasions and always thought it was okay if not a little out-of-place in the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Sans mayo, tomato, and lettuce (and $1.89 cheaper) the buttermilk flavor really comes out.

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With a crispy, uniform breading, the buttermilk chicken checks the prerequisite boxes for adequate juiciness and flavor, although it doesn’t wow you. Nevertheless, a slightly spicy aftertaste, with strong notes of black pepper and garlic powder, tastes wonderful with the tangy-sweet signature sauce, which like a mustard-spiked ketchup. The pickles add a nice layer of crunch, but otherwise go unnoticed.

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It’s good, but not Chick-fil-A good, lacking the succulent, plump texture from Chick-fil-A’s pressure cooking, as well as the sweet and nutty flavors imparted by the peanut oil and seasonings. Additionally, I found myself missing Chick-fil-A’s buttered bun, as well as the steamed effect when you get it to go in one of those specially-designed pouches. Still, the Classic Chicken Sandwich is probably the most enjoyable McDonald’s chicken sandwich I’ve ever had, and at 45 cents cheaper than Chick-fil-A’s, it’s a good value.

That said, I’m not crazy about the national rollout of the $1-$2-$3 menu at McDonald’s, which killed the 2 for $3 and 2 for $4 deals that had been staples at my local restaurant. Pressed between spending $3 on a medium fries and double cheeseburger or spending the same amount on the Classic Chicken Sandwich, I’d choose the latter 9 out of 10 times, if only because of its modest size.

All things considered, if you love McDonald’s buttermilk chicken, you’re going to love this sandwich. I can only hope the Golden Arches finds a way to increase the value a bit more by including it on the 2 for $5 menu.

(Nutrition Facts – 510 calories, 210 calories from fat, 23 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1040 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, 25 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Chicken is both crispy and juicy, with strong buttermilk flavor. Tangy and sweet signature sauce pairs well with the kick of the chicken’s seasoning. Cheaper than most similarly sized chicken sandwiches.
Cons: Not as good as Chick-fil-A’s. Bun is lackluster and would be better steamed and buttered. Moderate size and not the greatest deal if you add a medium fries, which McDonald’s somehow decided to leave off the value menu.

REVIEW: Arby’s Oreo Bites

Arby s Oreo Bites

Generally speaking, there are three ways companies try to make something better: make it bigger, make more of it, or transform it in such a fundamental way that it becomes something completely different, like the crap direction Disney is taking the Star Wars Universe in.

As you can tell by my feelings on the last option, none of these strategies are foolproof.

Fresh off putting brisket, pork belly, and Bambi’s mom into a sandwich, the people who practically trademarked the plural version of “meat” have set out to transform an Oreo cookie into a doughnut hole.

Surprisingly, the results are pretty good.

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Arby’s advertises these as “doughnut bites,” but the texture defies such a simple classification. The bites lack the light shell and spring of a yeast doughnut hole but also the sturdy and firm interior of a cake doughnut hole. Instead, they have a sort of partially deflated volleyball texture.

As horrible as that sounds, the chocolate cures all. The exterior has a warm, moist give that has that characteristic deep flavor of an Oreo wafer and then some. Served hot, each bite reminded me of a chocolate lava cake, while the dusting covering each bite could have been from the bottom of a bag of mini Oreo cookies.

While the deep chocolate flavor nails, and perhaps even improves, the classic Oreo wafer, the crème is about as disappointing as Rian Johnson’s treatment of Luke Skywalker.

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“Goo” would be a better way to describe the crème, which is slightly thinner than an Arby’s milkshake. Served warm, it has a kind of melted marshmallow mouthfeel (say that fast 10 times) and a moderate vanilla flavor. But there’s nothing overly sweet about it, which means there’s no dramatic contrast with the chocolate bite. Put another way, the chocolate-to-crème ratio borders on reduced fat Oreo standards —- a far cry from the ideal Double Stuf Oreo we all love.

Arby s Oreo Bites 4

Complicating things, the goo sloshes around the bite and all too easily squirts out. It creates a Gushers effect in cookies and crème form. All things considered, the crème neither delivers on its own or in a complete bite with the rest of the Oreo elements. It would make a pretty lit coffee creamer, though.

All things considered, Arby’s Oreo Bites do an amazing job of enhancing the deep cocoa appeal of the Oreo wafer. That said, if texture matters at all to you or if you’re a crème kind of girl or guy, the bites are going to fall a little short of expectations. But don’t worry, it’s not quite The Last Jedi short of expectations.

(Nutrition Facts – 330 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 115 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Purchased at: Arby’s
Size: 6-pieces
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Excellent chocolate flavor combines the best of an Oreo wafer and Devil’s Food cake. Larger than your standard doughnut hole. Oreo dust. Didn’t leave me as disappointed as The Last Jedi.
Cons: Crème is more melted milkshake than actual Oreo crème. Balance of chocolate and crème is out of sync. More expensive than doughnut holes. Accidentally squirting white goo all over my pants.