REVIEW: Mountain Dew Holiday Brew

Mtn Dew Holiday Brew

I, for one, hope this holiday-themed Dew trend continues. Hot on the heels of the oh-so-patriotic DEW.S.A. from earlier this summer, PepsiCo’s now hoisting Mountain Dew Holiday Brew on us, which could be the tip of the iceberg.

Why not release a special Dew variation for President’s Day called Grape-raham Lincoln? Or a special edition Mountain Dew Rosh Hashanah Raspberry while they’re at it? (I can see the tagline already – “you’ll want to Yom Kippur another one.”)

While we’re probably a few years away from that Thanksgiving tie-in Pecan Pie Mountain Dew or a special Saint Paddy’s brew (might I suggest the namesake Dew-U-I?), we can all take solace in the fact this year’s Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s/Wright Brothers Day-themed beverage ain’t too shabby.

Mtn Dew Holiday Brew 2

As the product name and hue would lead you to believe, this special edition Holiday Brew is apparently one half Mountain Dew Code Red and one half regular old Dew. The beverage looks a little pinker than Code Red, though, and it doesn’t smell that much like either variation of Mountain Dew (I personally got a pureed cake batter vibe from mine, but your olfactory glands may detect something else.)

But taste-wise is where things get very interesting. As soon as the beverage hits your tongue, the taste is unmistakable – this stuff is Code Red Mountain Dew, straight up, with no additional flavorings. BUT when the aftertaste hits you, WHAM! It’s unmistakably the traditional green Dew flavor we’ve been slurping on forever. So we’ve got this downright bizarre mouthfeel thing going on where every five seconds or so, the flavor of the beverage shifts from Code Red to traditional Dew.

I can’t recall ever tasting a soda that did that, not even the aforementioned DEW.S.A. Whereas that tri-branded brew created a new synthesized flavor, the divergent flavors of Holiday Brew are pretty much locked in gustatory mortal combat – and that one-of-a-kind sensation might be worth purchasing the newfangled soda all by its lonesome.

Of course, if you never cared for either permutations of Dew in the past, I guess the prospects of Code Red Dew and normal Dew having a liquid kung fu fight on your tongue probably won’t convert you as a consumer.

I can’t say that Dew and Code Red Dew combined results in a better product than either as stand-alone beverages, but as far as Franken-sodas go, it’s still quite flavorful. That, and it opens the floodgates for even wackier novelty sodas in the future. Come on, Pepsi – you know you want to combine Pitch Black and LiveWire as All Hallow’s Eve Dew. You just KNOW you do. Or is that dew?

(Nutrition Facts – 20 ounces – 290 calories, 0 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 77 grams of total carbohydrates, 77 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Circle K
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: The alternating citrus/cherry flavor is unlike anything you’ve probably tried before. It’s a very thick and filling beverage. The packaging is festive.
Cons: It really doesn’t taste any better than Code Red or regular Dew. The cross-pollinated flavors aren’t as harmonious as DEW.S.A. Wondering which two brands Pepsi’s going to merge together for the inevitable Bastille Day Berry.

REVIEW: Burger King Farmhouse King

Burger King Farmhouse King
 
Usually when you order a fast food burger the product is considerably smaller than the item advertised. In the case of Burger King’s Farmhouse King, however, it’s just the opposite – as soon as the cashier handed me the bag, I thought they had accidentally dropped a napkin dispenser in there.

Be forewarned, the Farmhouse King is not for the faint of heart. Packing in a monstrous 1,220 calories, it surpasses the calorie count of Arby’s Meat Mountain sandwich. Indeed, this item could be considered the breakfast version of Arby’s aforementioned Noah’s Ark Sammich (since it pretty much contained two of each animal under its buns.)

We’ve got nearly a pound of burger going on here. That includes about half a pound of flame-kissed beef in the form of two Whopper patties, plus a heaping helping of smoked bacon, plus a double shot of melted American cheese, plus a handful of crispy onions and – the kicker – a fried egg capping the whole thing off like an angel atop a Christmas tree. And underneath the toasted sesame seed buns you’ve got a smattering of ketchup and BK’s proprietary “creamy sauce,” which to me, tastes a lot like honey BBQ sauce.

Burger King Farmhouse King 2

Needless to say, this stuff is intense. All by itself it makes up more than half of one’s recommended daily allowance of calories, and with more than 2,000 milligrams of sodium, it does constitute an entire day’s worth of USDA-approved salt intake. That said, it’s undeniably a yummy novelty burger, and if absolutely nothing else, one of the most filling single-serve fast food items in recent memory.

I suppose the first question most people would ask is whether the addition of the egg improves or worsens the product. To be perfectly honest, the taste of the egg itself is pretty hard to distinguish from the goulash of meats and sauce, which ultimately coalesces into this extremely tasty medley of BBQ sauce, beef, bacon, and onion (which, for whatever reason, most fast food places describe as “Western”). I mean, if you really focus you can pick up the yolky aftermath, but it’s nowhere near as prominent as you’d imagine. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the egg is superfluous, but it’s certainly downplayed once you start chowin’ down.

Burger King Farmhouse King 3

If you’re looking for a satiating sandwich, unless you’re a world class competitive eater, this sucker ought to have you down for the count. About halfway through my sandwich I was getting winded and by the time I finished the last bite, full-fledged the itis had set in. In hindsight, it wouldn’t surprise me if that BK “secret sauce” was actually Nyquil-laced Thousand Island dressing.

I wouldn’t want to down a Farmhouse King every week, but for a one-time, super-gluttonous fast food treat it’s downright marvelous. But if you’re going to eat it, be prepared; not only are you going to need a small army of napkins, you better have a pillow handy, too.

(Nutrition Facts – 1,220 calories, 720 calories from fat, 80 grams of fat, 28 grams of saturated fat, 3 grams of trans fat, 335 milligrams of cholesterol, 2050 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, and 63 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The beef, bacon, cheese, onion and BBQ sauce medley is downright delicious. It WILL fill you up. the egg taste is subtle, yet distinct.
Cons: The price point is pretty steep. Some might find the egg flavor too downplayed. Eating the sandwich at noon and having a duel to the death with The Sandman until 5 p.m. rolls around.

REVIEW: Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna-Roll Soda

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda

Autumn 2005 is one of the most pivotal moments in the history of soft drinks since it marked the arrival of Jones Soda’s infamous Holiday Pack. Featuring a wild medley of bizarre-flavored beverages (turkey and gravy, brussels sprouts, pumpkin pie, etc.), the strange soda set received heaps of media coverage, more or less putting the obscure cola manufacturer on the map.

Here we are 13 years later, and soda companies are STILL trying to replicate Jones Soda’s unusual (yet undeniably successful) marketing strategy. From upstart micro-cola companies to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo themselves, soda manufacturers continue to trot out unorthodox – and in some cases, downright disgusting – colas with the hopes that the (morbid?) curiosity of John and Joan Q. Consumer will be enough to turn a profit, or at least generate some free publicity.

Kroger’s Big K Candy Cane and Cinna-Roll Sodas are certainly emblematic of the weird-simply-for-the-sake-of-being-weird cola trend. Neither product is all that appetizing – nor do they even taste that much like their namesakes, for that matter – but the sheer kookiness of the drinks is appealing.

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda 2

The packaging has this ironic, half-hearted ClipArt feel to it, complete with two of the worst puns you’ll ever read in your life. And if nothing else, the soda hues are definitely cool; the candy cane one looks like mutated Hawaiian Punch (maybe lava lamp juice?), while the cinna-roll one is the same color of ultra thick maple syrup (or 10W30 motor oil?)

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda

Kroger Big K Cinna Roll Soda

Alas, aesthetics can only carry a cola so far, and in the one area that matters most, both these sodas fall flat. The candy cane variation is the better tasting of the two, but even then it just tastes like a jug of Sprite with about 50 peppermints floating in it. Granted, that’s not my bag, but if you’re a connoisseur of peppermint schnapps, you might foster a fondness for it.

Unfortunately, the cinna-roll one won’t impress anybody. First off, the smell is weird. Yes, it’s like a cinnamon roll, but one that’s really stale. Or a fresh one that’s in an old sock – I’ll let you judge that for yourself. Regardless, the taste isn’t there. Instead of tasting like a Cinnabon treat, it’s like thick ginger ale with a surfeit of sugar in it. In fact, both sodas are sugary to the point of being nauseating; one serving of either will net you a whopping 96 percent of your RDA of the saccharine stuff.

Kroger Big K Candy Cane Soda and Cinna Roll Soda 4

Alone, I wouldn’t consider either of these novelty colas worth going out of your way to experience. Just for the heck of it, though, I merged the two for science’s sake, and the coalesced Candy Cane-Cinna-Roll abomination actually tasted better than either standalone soda. Take note, Pepsi Fire fans (both of you) – combining these two off-kilter Kroger colas might be the closest thing you’ll get to reliving the magic and mirth of summer 2017. 

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 180 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of total carbohydrates, 48 grams of total sugars, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49 each
Size: 2 liter bottles
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Candy Cane)
Rating: 3 out of 10 (Cinna-Roll)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Both flavors combined)
Pros: The packaging is hipster-tastic; the colors of the sodas are really groovy. Combining the two colas together gives you (unofficial) Kroger Fire.
Cons: Both colas are excessively sweet. The cinnamon roll one has an off-putting smell (and carbonation that takes forever to die down). Realizing there’s no rational answer for when your significant other asks you why you’re putting them in the shopping cart.

REVIEW: Starbucks Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Latte (Bottled)

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte  Bottled

Is there any doubt Starbucks’ proprietary Pumpkin Spice Latte isn’t the single most influential fast food/junk food item of the 21st century? One look at the seasonal goods section of any grocery store in America ought to be all the proof you need.

Pumpkin spice cookies. Pumpkin spice marshmallows. Pumpkin spice cereal. Pumpkin spice vodka. For crying out loud, there are even pumpkin spice cough drops, and I’d be shocked if we aren’t a few years away from somebody selling pumpkin spice deodorant, pumpkin spice mouthwash, or pumpkin spice family planning products. So profound the impact of that one Starbucks beverage that, 14 years after the humble PSL was first introduced, the entire Halloween season has now become hardly anything more than a three-month bombardment of all things pumpkin spicy.

Although it’s fun to trudge through/lament the avalanche of PSL-inspired snack foods, the conversation inevitably leads back to the original beverage. While the PSL has been commercially offered in bottled form as a limited-time-only Frappuccino for several years now, Starbucks hasn’t offered the PSL as a one-and-done, glass bottled solo shot until this fall. Unfortunately, the big retail debut of arguably the most imitated foodstuff of the century isn’t exactly the cafe-to-store shelves success we were hoping for.

First, the good news. The bottle itself – with that nice ocher tone and regal lettering – is downright beautiful. Secondly, the scent on this sucker is pretty much a dead ringer for the “real” PSL. And thirdly, the latte’s aftertaste – that milky goulash of nutmeg and cinnamon – is very faithful to the in-cafe drink we all know and love.

Alas, this is still far from a perfect recreation of the classic PSL. There’s too much milk and not enough coffee flavoring, making the whole beverage taste more like a weird Yoo-hoo imitator than a Starbucks drink. And while the ingredients do add up to a more robust, flavorful “pumpkin spice” taste than most PSL-inspired seasonal products, I’m afraid it doesn’t stack up to the “real” stuff.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte  Bottled 3

The drink feels very watered down and the huge chunks of seasoning are a major turn-off (indeed, I almost choked to death on a nickel-sized wad of nutmeg at the bottom of the glass.) This is a drink designed to be ingested piping hot, with a thick layer of whipped cream atop it – and that’s something that can’t be replicated in a 14-ounce, refrigerated glass vase.

To be fair, it’s a much better grab-and-go PSL drink than most of the bottled pumpkin spice coffees out there, but it nonetheless feels like a pale imitation of, well, itself. As a glorified jug of chocolate milk with artificial pumpkin flavoring, it’s actually quite decent, but as the long, long awaited convenience-store-ready port of THE most copied seasonal beverage out there? It’s pretty hard to consider this iteration of the PSL anything but a disappointment.

(Nutrition Facts – 270 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 42 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 14 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Flash Foods
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: The container looks classy and dignified. The nutmeg and cinnamon taste is quite authentic. The scent is an almost perfect imitation of the “real” PSL. 
Cons: It tastes more like chocolate milk than coffee. The beverage doesn’t really “work” as a cold drink. Getting huge, pencil shavings-like clumps of seasoning caught in the back of your throat.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders with Signature Sauce

McDonald s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders 1

The way I see it, eating McDonald’s at two in the morning is the only way to eat McDonald’s. The atmosphere is so laid back and amicable.

The employees openly discuss their love lives and curse at each other. Everything is drowned out by the sound of old Lionel Richie songs and whatever’s airing on Fox Sports 2 (usually infomercials promising to improve your golf swing). And best of all, nobody even cares that there’s a guy in the back, taking pictures of his four-piece Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders meal like he was examining a C.S.I. victim — with the flash on and everything.

The more cynical sorts out there might take a look at these newfangled McProducts and immediately assume they’re nothing more than elongated nuggets. Not true. While the white meat may be indistinguishable from the McNuggets we all know and love, the breading tastes much different.

McDonald s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders 2

I pick up the subtle flavor of the buttermilk batter, and the overall coating is noticeably spicier than the average McDonald’s chicken offering. The texture is also a bit grittier than what we’re used to from the chain. Imagine a breading halfway between the regular Chicken McNuggets outer shell and Popeyes’ Handcrafted Spicy Tenders and you’ve got a fairly apt description of what we’re working with here.

McDonald s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders 4

But that’s not all. The all new chicken tenders also come with what McDonald’s is billing as its “Signature Sauce,” and all in all, it isn’t too shabby. I suppose the best way to describe it is a mildly tangier Catalina (French) dressing or a slightly spicier-than-normal blend of Thousand Island dressing. Regardless, it’s quite zesty, and the teensy-tiny hint of spiciness should be palatable to even the tamest of taste buds.

McDonald s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders 3

And even if you don’t particularly like the Signature Sauce, the cardboard chicken tender carrier case comes with a handy-dandy double slot so you can wedge in a pair of sauce containers. As an avid sauce connoisseur, I’d suggest pairing the tenders with both the Sriracha Mac Sauce and the McRanch dressing (a great chaser to offset the spiciness of the former, naturally.)

On the whole, I’d consider the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Tenders to be a fairly decent – albeit somewhat bland – addition to the extended McNugget family. The tenders themselves are surprisingly long (three to five inches, approximately) and they will fill you up fast, especially when doused in a goulash of sauces.

One word of warning, though: NOTHING goes well with the amalgamation of honey mustard, habanero ranch, and spicy buffalo sauce, except a bottle of Maalox.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 370 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of total fat, 3.6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 910 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 0 grams of sugar, 28 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 4-pieces
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: The breading has a unique taste and texture. The tenders are crisp, juicy and filling. It’s a lot of fun to test out how the tenders gel with all those sauces and dressings. 
Cons: The Signature Sauce is a bit too weak. The tenders probably would’ve benefitted from being just a smidge spicier. The horrified glare of strangers as they watch you mix the creamy southwest dressing with Sweet ‘N Sour Sauce.