REVIEW: Jack in the Box Wakey Bakey Hash Munchie Mash-Up

Jack in the Box Wakey Bakey Hash Munchie Mash Up

There’s something about intoxication that draws people back to the basics. Whether it’s been a long night at the bar or a lost weekend at Bonnaroo. By the end, everyone’s palate reverts to an almost childlike state. Cravings for the greasiest, saltiest, and cheesiest delicacies emerge.

No franchise is wiser to this trend than Jack in the Box, whose Munchie Meals have made a fortune out of serving the midnight masses. For their latest trend, Jack has brought a diner favorite – stuffed hash browns – into the fast food field.

Munchie Mash-Ups top the chain’s classic hash brown patties with an assortment of fix-ins smothered in a white cheese sauce. The Wakey Bakey Hash features a whole fried egg, bacon bits, cheddar cheese, and garlic butter, creating a sloppy sheet of breakfast standards.

Jack in the Box Wakey Bakey Hash Munchie Mash Up 2

As I was handed the hash in the drive through, I already had a sign of the meal to follow. The grease was visibly staining the brown paper bag. Opening the box revealed the culprit – the garlic butter had all pooled to a single corner. A yellow lake of greasy, salty delight. If the visuals of this box are off-putting, the taste won’t win you over.

Despite being smothered in egg, bacon, cheese, and butter – the hash brown patties were satisfyingly crisp down to the last forkful. Alone, these patties are rich and salty – dense with fryer oil. The egg, cheese, bacon, and butter weigh them down even further. Every bite is rich and fatty, full of similar flavors fighting to come out on top.

It’s the cheese sauce that typically proves victorious. When combined with the garlic butter, it creates an alfredo-esque flavor that saturates the palate like grease on a brown paper bag. Hearty and not half bad, but an odd pairing for a bacon and egg.

The egg is the same overcooked fried egg that ends up on most breakfast sandwiches, and the bacon bits are disappointingly small. They get lost in the trough of hash, which is a shame. A more pronounced protein may have been a better pick here, offering more contrast with the rich cheese and garlic.

In total, the Wakey Bakey Hash will satisfy those looking for something standard. It’s salty, cheesy, and has enough carbs to soak up the worst of hangovers. At $3, it’s also a satisfying value. But in the daylight, this hash doesn’t have the same appeal. Better versions of this same combination are available elsewhere, and won’t require you to say the words “Wakey Bakey Hash” out loud to another adult.

(Nutrition Facts – 790 calories, 570 calories from fat, 63 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 285 milligrams of cholesterol, 1400 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crispy potatoes. Good size for the price. Viable hangover cure.
Cons: Cheese sauce is overpowering and clashes with rest of dish. Extremely greasy. Garlic butter is unneeded.

REVIEW: Burger King Chicken Parmesan Sandwich (2017)

Burger King Chicken Parmesan Sandwich  2017

Sometime during our rich cultural history, America forgot what “Parmesan Cheese” is.

Once a noble hard cheese, the name now conjures images of tall green plastic cans. Industrial cylinders full of white dust, kept in the fridge long past all flavor has faded away. It’s now closer to a condiment than a proper dairy product.

It’s a hit job on a fine piece of Italian cuisine, executed by decades of corporate cheese ownership. So imagine my surprise when Burger King gave this proud cheese a primary placement on its Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, which is an updated version of the one that came out in 2012.

It starts with a crispy chicken patty, topped shavings of real Parmesan cheese, a slice of gooey mozzarella, and enveloped by two layers of marinara sauce. It’s all put between a toasted potato roll, for a thick and decadent sandwich. The chicken is the same as BK’s recently revamped Crispy Chicken Sandwich – a juicy whole breast fillet that tastes fresher than one would expect. It isn’t quite Chick-fil-A quality, but it’s impressive for the price point.

The first bite was concerning, as the side of the sandwich was coated in marinara sauce. A heavily acidic taste overtook my mouth, reeking of undercooked tomato. Fortunately, the sauce was more evenly distributed in the remaining bites – having soaked into the bun. Each bite delivered a satisfying blend of the soft potato roll, salty cheeses, and hearty white meat chicken. It’s a very rich sandwich, with the two kinds of cheeses and sweet roll creating a buttery mouthfeel.

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Since the chicken patty is the same as Burger King’s other premium chicken sandwich, it lacks the heavy Italian seasoning you’d expect from a more authentic chicken parm. But the King has crafted a workable version, largely thanks to a generous helping of Parmesan cheese. Forget the weak powder that stuffs the paper packets in pizza boxes; this is the real deal. The shavings are piled on thick, ensuring no bite goes without.

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The Parmesan is under a layer of mozzarella, which is notably more processed. Resembling a white Kraft single, it doesn’t get a satisfying melt. As a result, it serves only a structural purpose – gluing down the pile of Parmesan. It’s a necessary element, and nothing more.

Overall, Burger King’s “new and improved” Chicken Parmesan Sandwich is a success. Building on their strong Crispy Chicken base, this is a delicious offering that stands above most fast food chicken.

(Nutrition Facts – 570 calories, 25 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1340 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 32 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.99 (for meal with large drink and fries)
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Generous helping of real Parmesan. Delicious chicken patty. Soft, decadent potato roll.
Cons: Sauce is acidic and can be overwhelming in large doses. Mozzarella was under melted. Gross green can cheese.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chipsa

Few foods have been put through their paces like fried chicken. The ever-innovating fast food industry has turned the simple Southern dish of breaded and deep fried poultry into everything from dinosaur nuggets to sandwich buns.

Taco Bell is no stranger to this modern art of meat sculpture, having morphed a chicken patty into a Chalupa shell earlier this year. That dish’s spiritual successor – the Naked Chicken Chips – are available now. Compared to the carnival oddity of a taco built out of chicken, these chips seem blasé by comparison. But these triangular treats have some quirks of their own.

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips 2

The Naked Chicken Chips come in servings of 6 or 12, mirroring your average serving of nuggets. The chips are a bit thinner than your ordinary chicken nugget, stretched out to tortilla chip size.

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips 3

The interior is typical processed white meat, but the breading has quite a bit of pepper. Each chip has a generous layer of breading with a gratifying crunch. It’s not as aggressively seasoned as a Burger King Chicken Fry, but the Naked Chicken Chips are spicier than your average McNugget.

Young kids (the typical nugget audience) might be put off by the added spice, but adults shouldn’t have any concern. If anything, these chips feel underseasoned by Taco Bell standards. It doesn’t help that the only dip being offered with this dish is standard nacho cheese. The two make a satisfying pair – rich and savory. But there’s an inescapable feeling that this could be something more.

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips 4

Fast food chicken’s appeal is in variety. While the pieces are themselves bland, they can play host to a wide array of sauces and dips. By limiting these chips to cheese, Taco Bell isn’t realizing the full potential of these dippables. Spicier selections (like the chain’s beloved Lava sauce), or even existing spreads (such as Avocado Ranch) could make this a perfect showcase for Taco Bell’s sauce catalog. Even topping these with the same options as the existing Triple Layer Nachos would’ve been great.

At $2.29 for six, the Naked Chicken Chips are a reasonable addition to any Taco Bell order. They won’t blow anyone away, but could be a valuable long-term addition to the menu.

(Nutrition Facts – 6 chips – 390 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1110 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 6 chips
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Hearty side, slightly different from Taco Bell’s other offerings. Good deal for the price. Could be great as a protein option for burritos, etc.
Cons: Only offered with Nacho Cheese. Not as innovative as the previous Naked Chicken offering. Chicken nuggets are available pretty much everywhere.

REVIEW: Burger King Froot Loops Shake

Burger King Froot Loops Shake

Slowly, but surely, cereal is becoming more of a dessert than a breakfast.

While starting the day with a bowl of Fruit Loops is a time-honored tradition, cereal as a nightcap is gaining. It’s sweet enough to follow up a savory meal, but hearty enough to fill the role of a late night snack. Something about cereal at night just makes good mature sense. As a kid, a bowl of Fruit Loops was the one thing getting me out of bed to start the day. As an adult, cereal is how I get over the day.

Cereal is an indulgence. So it’s only fitting that Burger King is celebrating this luxury with the Froot Loops Shake. This treat blended loops of sweet fruity cereal immersed within a rich vanilla shake, and an invisible dash of flavored syrup. The result is a treat that tastes familiar, but feels remarkably unique.

At first glance, it’s easy to mistake the Froot Loops Shake for plain vanilla. But on closer inspection, the crumbs of multicolored cereal pop against the white cream. They also hold their color over time, meaning the shake never turns into a rainbow sludge. It stays consistently polka-dotted with reds, blues, oranges, and yellows.

The flavor is immediately reminiscent of cereal milk, the leftover “broth” that ends any morning (or evening) bowl. It’s creamy and lightly fruitful, boosted by occasional bits of cereal.

Froot Loops prove to be the perfect choice for this shake, as they stay crisp until the last sip. It’s a very pleasant texture, with a satisfying crunch. Shockingly, none of the pieces were large enough to lodge themselves in the straw – which often happens with other “chunky” milkshakes.

Overall, the Froot Loops Shake delivers on a simple premise. It’s a vanilla milkshake blended with Froot Loops. There’s no fancy presentation, or elaborate concept. But the real surprise comes from how satisfying this simple combination proves to be.

It’s definitely not a breakfast bite, and isn’t going to wash down a burger. But the Froot Loops Shake will feed that craving for cereal flavor, without the pretense of breakfast.

(Nutrition Facts – 720 calories, 190 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 126 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 103 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.59
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes exactly like a bowl of cereal, with added richness of ice cream. Delightful texture that doesn’t clog the straw. Colors don’t run.
Cons: Very simplistic. Doesn’t offer much of a surprise. A bit pricey if bought on its own.

REVIEW: Hostess White Fudge Ding Dongs

Hostess White Fudge Ding Dongs

Ding Dongs really are the laziest of the Hostess family.

Ho Hos have some level of technical achievement.

CupCake’s got the swirl.

But the Ding Dong? It’s just a puck.

It’s a slice of a chocolate cake tube, stuffed with creme, and coated in the most chocolatey of wax. Despite their cartoonish name, Ding Dongs are a distinctly utilitarian snack food and the most mathematically efficient delivery system for chocolate and vanilla flavors.

In their search to remove even more joy from their brand of sugar discs, Hostess have introduced White Fudge Ding Dongs. An all-white variation that subs the coating for white chocolate, and switches the cake from cocoa to vanilla. The resulting product is bleak, bland, and cynically sweet.

The waxy exterior of a classic Ding Dong cracks into sweet shards, unmelting as the tongue is distracted by the cake and creme. For the White Fudge variant, Hostess appears to have shelled out for an actual food product. The exterior melts, enriching the entire bite with a sugary swirl. For a packaged cake, the texture is pretty satisfying. However, it’s also very prone to melting after just a few seconds of being held. Prepare for sticky fingers.

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While the coating is good, it’s wasted on a cake that is already saturated with creamy vanilla. It’s white chocolate on yellow cake, surrounding white creme. The flavor profile is blindingly sweet, lacking any deeper notes to appreciate. The fudge tastes like an extension of the cake, which tastes like an extension of the creme. All binding into a single, monotone bite. These white pucks offer little more a profound head rush. With 33 grams of sugar between the pair, I struggled to get through both of them.

White Fudge Ding Dongs feel like the result of an algorithm gone wrong. The classic version is already so basic, and so simplistic – distilling it any further leaves nothing behind but sugar. White chocolate is best used as an accent for other, more bold items. Had Hostess kept the chocolate cake, something special would have been found with this white fudge coating. But as is, White Fudge Ding Dongs are difficult to recommend.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cakes – 310 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 33 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: 2.55 oz./2 cakes
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Coating tastes and melts like actual white fudge. Overflowing with creme. You won’t want to eat both, so they’re sharable.
Cons: Tastes like straight sugar and vanilla. Coats your fingers in melted white goo. Looks like prop food in a teen dystopian movie.