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.

Hostess White Fudge Ding Dongs 2

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.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

For being their titular item, I rarely find myself craving Taco Bell’s tacos. While I’m a lover of their items, the standard crunchy taco has always felt skimpy. A paltry line of beef, a cascade of limp lettuce, and a sprinkling of unmelted cheese – it’s forgettable.

So thankfully, the Bell has pumped them up for their latest iteration. Taco Bell’s Double Stack Tacos bulk up their classic standard tacos by wrapping the corn exterior with a flour tortilla, slathered in sauce and cheese. With an extra layer, each one is hefty – especially for a $1 item. Two of these could make a comfortable meal, something that can’t be said for the Bell’s un-enhanced tacos.

Taco Bell Cool Habanero Double Stacked Taco

First up is Cool Habanero. The taco is the same as you’d expect, but with a generous hit of sour cream. Around it is wrapped a flour tortilla with a spray of habanero sauce, alongside melted cheese. The intention is for the sour cream to counteract the spice, though the balance isn’t quite there. There’s more sour cream than habanero by a healthy margin, and the sauce isn’t all that potent. As a full bite, it came off blander than most Taco Bell items.

Taco Bell Nacho Crunch Double Stacked Taco

The Nacho Crunch Double Stack adds a layer of red tortilla strips to the basic taco, then surrounds it with a duet of nacho and shredded cheese. If you’ve lost count, that gives this one item three different forms of tortilla – and three total servings of cheese. Predictably, it tastes like tortilla and cheese.

The meat and lettuce are lost in this fatty carb bomb, smothered in gooey yellow. It’s puzzling why this option dodges the habanero sauce of the other two tacos, which would’ve given this a needed a kick of flavor.

Taco Bell Spicy Sweet Double Stacked Tacos

Most interesting of the trio is Spicy Sweet, featuring a sweet chili sauce unique to the item. The red sauce has a loose texture, saturated with chili flakes. It’s very sweet, but was applied conservatively across the meat. While the first bite was initially heavy on sugar, it was countered by the savory beef.

Once the habanero sauce broke through, all three flavors really clicked. The sweet chili sauce has a light heat of its own, and a bit of a fruit jam flavor. This tasty blend is spread a bit thin, though. Between the lettuce, corn tortilla, flour tortilla, and double helping of cheese – the serving of meat and sauces feels underwhelming.

Taco Bell Double Stacked Tacos

Overall, the Double Stacked Tacos are mostly notable for their price. The Nacho Crunch and Cool Habanero tacos are cheaper and bulkier than their counterparts – making them a solid pickup. Spicy Sweet is the real highlight though, and is definitely worth a try.

(Nutrition Facts – Cool Habanero – 350 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 630 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Nacho Crunch – 380 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Spicy Sweet – 340 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 640 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00 each
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Cool Habanero)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Nacho Crunch)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Spicy Sweet)
Pros: Very hearty for the price, while delivering classic Taco Bell flavor. Spicy Sweet variety is unique, and nails the sweet/savory/hot mix. Spices up otherwise boring tacos.
Cons: Cool Habanero needs more heat. Nacho Crunch should be Haberno Crunch. All three could use more meat.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Chicken McGriddle

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle

McDonald’s has been stuck in a rut. The clown king of fast food may still push billions of burgers a year, but a dipping sales trend and changing cultural attitudes have investors shaken. Attempts to produce higher-end burgers have flopped, leaving the Golden Arches with few options.

But in a sea of dry mozzarella sticks and sexy Hamburglars, one promotion was an undeniable hit. All-Day Breakfast broke the morning menu free from a 10:30 a.m. cutoff, and brought the Golden Arches a much-needed PR win.

So it wasn’t long before cross pollination of the breakfast and dinner menus began, and bore fruit.

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle 2

Currently available in select markets as part of a 2 for $3 promotion, the Chicken McGriddle is hilariously basic. It’s a standard McChicken patty, slapped between the syrup-infused McGriddle buns. No condiments, no cheese, nothing but what the name promises. A sweet and savory hybrid, echoing the ‘Chicken and Waffles’ pairing that headlines so many late-night food porn binge sessions on the Food Network. But in practice this sandwich is too simple to offer anything but novelty.

The issue is that McGriddle buns aren’t quite sweet enough to harmonize with the chicken. When getting a plate of fried chicken and waffles, it’s common to see fried breasts smothered in sweet maple syrup. The Chicken McGriddle has only a few artificial pockets of maple brown sugar to offset a peppery chicken patty.

You’ll get a nice sweet hit at first, and cinnamon taste that lingers on the tongue – but the meat of the bite is all about the chicken. I found myself longing for some sort of maple spread, or even a slice of cheese. Anything to give the sweet side more of a leg to stand on.

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle 3

It’s hard to understand where the Chicken McGriddle fits into the average McDonald’s order. The taste it leaves behind is too sweet for a large soda, but far too heavily seasoned for coffee. It’s not going to fit in at breakfast, but seems too simplistic for lunch. As such, it makes sense for this to be part of a combo promotion. Paired with a Double Cheeseburger or Spicy McChicken, it works as an interesting novelty. Failed experiment or not, it’s worth it to see McDonalds trying something undeniably odd.

(Nutrition Facts – 390 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1000 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Unique offering by McDonald’s standards. Cheap enough to try on a whim. Watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives at 4 a.m. while not wearing pants.
Cons: Not sweet enough to offset the savory. Hard to pair with a beverage. Very bland.