REVIEW: Mtn Dew Ice

Mtn Dew Ice

The whole “translucent soda” thing isn’t exactly the freshest idea. Nor is it exactly a novel turn for the Mountain Dew brand, which already went clear in 2015 with the limited time only DEWShine. Which, by the way, is still being sold in convenience stores down here in Atlanta, despite the product allegedly being discontinued over a year ago.

Alas, this newfangled Mtn Dew Ice isn’t exactly the same old same old. It’s an all-new Mountain Dew variation that boasts of a lemon-lime flavor and (direct quote, right off the label) “a splash of real juice.” Or, as the ingredients list puts it, “clarified lemon juice concentrate,” which I suppose is accurate enough to keep the F.D.A. off their heels.

So obviously, Mtn Dew Ice is an attempt to cut into Sprite’s customer base (apparently, Mist Twist hasn’t been up to the task). And at first taste, I’m not sure how to describe the product. After a couple of preliminary swigs, I reckoned the stuff tasted like regular Dew, albeit a little thinner and slightly less sugary. By the time I got halfway through the bottle, though, I started to pick up that advertised “lemon-lime flavor” – which, yes, is pretty much a dead ringer for the aforementioned Mist Twist.

Mtn Dew Ice 2

What we’ve ended up with is a beverage with a serious identity crisis. It’s probably a bit of a stretch to say Mtn Dew Ice is basically the merger of Mountain Dew with Mist Twist, but it’s still close enough to get the gustatory point across. Instead of giving us a more Sprite-like Mountain Dew variation, Pepsi has bestowed upon us a beverage that tastes like it’s a 50/50 split between the two.

Even weirder, it’s like the two dueling tastes refuse to gel with one another. Sometimes when I take a sip, there’s a more pronounced Mountain Dew vibe and with others I swear I took a gulp of Sprite.

There’s been some caustic feedback about the product’s artificial sweeteners, but to be honest I didn’t notice anything out of the norm. While, again, it does taste slightly less sweet than normal Mountain Dew, it’s significantly sweeter than Sprite. So if that’s a turnoff for you, don’t say you weren’t warned.

Mtn Dew Ice 3

Aesthetically, there isn’t much to look at – you know, because the soda itself is the same color as Crystal Pepsi, Tab Clear, and any of the Zevia cola offerings. The packaging isn’t all that impressive either – a light green palette with a few swatches of black and yellow here and there. But the canned iteration of the drink looks a bit snazzier.

While fairly predictable (if not flat-out boring) in taste and presentation, Mtn Dew Ice is a good (but not great) soft drink. Outside of the whole “it’s a caffeinated version of Sprite” hook, I’m afraid there isn’t much worth going out of your way to experience here.

(Nutrition Facts – 20 ounces – 160 calories, 0 grams of total fat, 90 milligrams of sodium, 41 grams of total carbohydrates, 41 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: 20 oz. bottle
Purchased at: Kroger
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: It’s a decent citrus-flavored cola with an all right caffeine kick. The hybrid Mountain Dew/Mist Twist taste is definitely intriguing. I guess it won’t stain the carpet as badly if you spill it?
Cons: The competing flavors never really come together all that harmoniously. The packaging is lame. Wondering if Pepsi meant for it to subconsciously remind consumers of Smirnoff Ice or if it’s just me?

QUICK REVIEW: Burger King Rodeo Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Burger King Rodeo Crispy Chicken Sandwich

Well, it had to happen sooner or later. After a year and some change of photographing the gooiest, greasiest, and goopiest fast food known to man, I finally managed to drop my camera, lens first, into a review item.

And, of course, it just had to be Burger King’s new Rodeo Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Twenty-four hours later, and my camera STILL smells like barbecue sauce and mayonnaise.

Outside of making my Canon smell like an explosion at the condiment aisle, I can’t think of too many negatives about BK’s newfangled burger. The ginormous offering includes a thick, crispy chicken patty coated in melted American cheese, topped with a handful of fried onion rings and three half-strips of bacon, with the whole shebang topped off with a smattering of BBQ sauce and mayo.

Burger King Rodeo Crispy Chicken Sandwich 2

The BBQ sauce/mayo combo gives the sandwich an extra kick. It’s subtle, but it adds a layer of gustatory intrigue to what otherwise would be a predictable “Western” style burger variation. The chicken fillet is also surprisingly juicy, with the carapace of melted cheese definitely giving the patty an extra level of zest.

Burger King Rodeo Crispy Chicken Sandwich 3

The bacon is crispy and flavorful and the onion rings (while inconsistently shaped and sized) never got too mushy for my liking. And – not that you need me to tell you this – the humongous, almost softball-sized sandwich is undeniably filling.

Of course, it’s also an extremely salty sammich, and one of the sloppiest you’ll eat in this or any other year. Seriously – we’re talking Arby’s Meat Mountain levels of splashback here, so definitely keep the napkin dispenser nearby for this one.

There’s nothing too creative about the burger, but considering its robust flavor and ultra-filling nature, it’s hard to shower this unoriginal but satisfying L-T-O with anything but praise.

Purchased Price: $5.29
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: 960 calories, 60 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 2230 milligrams of sodium, 72 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, 33 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Arby’s Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich

Arby s Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich

Like everybody else, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight (My goal? Drop 20 pounds by March.) Of course, being a professional fast food reviewer, I suppose that means I’m going to have to do double the number of crunches to hit pay dirt.

Thankfully, however, Arby’s is doing its part to provide customers somewhat healthier menu options as 2018 begins, as evident by its recently launched Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich.

Similar in nature to KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken, Arby’s variation (it’s Alaskan Pollock, in case you were curious) comes speckled with a hearty coating of what tastes like crushed up cayenne pepper. Alas, since the official Arby’s website lists the secret spices simply as “Nashville Hot Seasoning,” who knows what’s really going into the breading process. The quasi-Creole flavor seems to suggest there’s some paprika and garlic in there, too, but again that’s just conjecture on my part.

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The fish patty is surprisingly big – so big, in fact, that half of it juts from the sides of the bun like spicy bicycle handles. In terms of overall tongue tingle, it’s at least a five out of ten; hot enough to maybe take an extra swig of soda, but not warm enough to force you to rub a napkin all over your tastebuds to soothe the pain. The fish itself is quite crispy on the outside and pretty juicy on the inside. On the whole, I’d consider it one of the better big name fast food fish patties out there – it’s at least as good as the top tier Gorton’s fillets at your local grocer.

Arby s Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich 3

Arby s Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich 5

As for the rest of the fixins’, we’ve got a clump of iceberg lettuce, a very nice parmesan peppercorn ranch mayonnaise and not one, but four pickle slices to round out the sandwich. All in all it’s a pretty good combination, although the product would have benefited from a slice of tomato and some kind of cheese (which, interestingly enough, pretty much is the M.O. of Arby’s other ongoing “Hot Fish” offering, the King’s Hawaiian Nashville Hot Fish Deluxe.)

Arby s Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich 4

On the plus side, though, the sandwich – as is – is very flavorful and quite filling. Packing less than 600 calories, you’d have to wander far and near before you found a fast food sandwich this appetite-satiating with fewer cals. And, as always, you’re guaranteed lots of fun mixing and matching Arby’s proprietary sauces to see which packet compliments the fish burger best (a weird one, I know, but I thought the Horsey Sauce paired astonishingly well with the newfangled L-T-O sammich.)

The Nashville Hot Fish Sandwich isn’t exactly a bold new sojourn for Arby’s (nor well-traveled fast food aficionados, for that matter) but what it lacks in originality it mostly makes up for in simple, no frills deliciousness. Despite the name, it won’t set the fast food world on fire, but for less than $4, it’s a worthwhile purchase.

(Nutrition Facts – 540 calories, 210 calories from fat, 23 grams of total fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 1000 milligrams of sodium, 63 grams of total carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, 21 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: It’s a (relatively) calories-light alternative for burger junkies. The fish is both satisfactorily crunchy and chewy. The parmesan peppercorn ranch sauce is downright fantastic.
Cons: It’s not really that spicy. The lack of cheese and tomato is disappointing. Having to wait until Thanksgiving for the inevitable Nashville Hot Turkey sequel.

REVIEW: Coke Freestyle 2017 Holiday Mixes (North Pole Magic and Arctic Chill)

Coke Freestyle 2017 Holiday Mixes

One of the more understated junk food rites of the holiday season has to be Coca-Cola’s seasonal Freestyle mixes. Since they’re not ubiquitously marketed like everything else Coke does, they always seem to sneak up on you as quaint, L-T-O surprises at the local cineplex or friendly neighborhood Burger King.

Well, if you fancied previous seasonal flavors like Secret Santa and Mistletoe Flow, you’ll probably get a yuletide kick out of the latest additions to the Coke Freestyle family – the aptly named North Pole Magic and Arctic Chill.

Aesthetically, there isn’t much to say about either beverage. They both have a pleasant, reddish brown hue, with the Arctic Chill variation looking lighter than North Pole Magic. In terms of scent, they smell practically identical – as soon as your olfactory glands whiff the drinks, the aroma is unmistakable. You’ve got orange, you’ve got vanilla and you’ve got something else that you can’t quite put your finger on for the initial sniff. But that becomes very apparent once the drinks start tangoing with your taste buds.

Coke Freestyle North Pole Magic

We’ll start with North Pole Magic (NPM) because it’s the stronger of the two (both in terms of figurative quality and literal flavor). The beverage tastes pretty much the same way it smells. I’ve read some Internet posts that say NPM is one part vanilla, one part cherry, and one part root beer, but I beg to differ. To these tastebuds, anyway, NPM is one part Coca-Cola, one part orange creme and one part vanilla – in short, sherbet-flavored Coke.

In all my years I’ve never once imagined what a Yabba Dabba Do Orange Flinstones Push Up-flavored Coca-Cola variation would taste like, but I’ll be tickled pink if NPM isn’t one of the most delicious Coke permutations I’ve tasted in quite some time. This stuff is too yummy to be relegated to those bright red touchscreen terminals – Coke definitely needs to put this in bottle and can form come next Christmas.

Coke Freestyle ArcticChill

Arctic Chill (AC) – which is fighting under the less calorie-dense Coca-Cola Zero umbrella – is pretty much the same thing as NPM, except…well, not as flavorful.

I hate to use the term “watered down,” but that’s precisely what AC tastes like compared to NPM. It’s still pretty good, but the Coke Zero taste completely overwhelms the sherbet flavor. In fact, you only get the sherbet flavor as a ghostly aftertaste – almost as if you were drinking a Coke Zero in a cup somebody momentarily used as a holster for a creamsicle for about five seconds. Again, it’s not a bad soda by any stretch, it’s just that compared to NPM it feels like a mild imitation.

Regardless, you really can’t go wrong with either flavor. And Coke definitely needs to be commended for thinking outside the box for these holiday mixes – thank goodness they eschewed the all too predictable gingerbread and candy cane flavors in favor of one that’s great, no matter the time of year.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: 20 oz. cup
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10 (North Pole Magic)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Arctic Chill)
Pros: A robust, creamsicle flavor. You’ve got options if you’re trying to count calories. The theoretical ability to combine each flavor with Diet Dr. Pepper and peach Sprite, because Y.O.L.O.
Cons: Arctic Chill tastes pretty watered down compared to North Pole Magic. Only being able to drink the sodas at the movies or while you’re shopping at the grocery store. Wondering how much it would cost to bribe the store to look the other way while you fill up a water cooler jug.

REVIEW: Burger King Flamin’ Hot Mac N’ Cheetos

Burger King Flamin Hot Mac n Cheetos

It’s an almost universally acknowledged fact that fast food marketers are about four years behind the rest of civilization. How else can you explain the packaging on Burger King’s new Flamin’ Hot Mac N’ Cheetos, which describes the item as “lit?” Jeez, you might as well throw in a “#BAE,” a “these are CRUNK” and maybe a couple of “shizzles,” for good measure.

Burger King Flamin Hot Mac n Cheetos 2

Regardless of the groan-inspiring “no, we’re hip and with it, for sure, dawg” artwork, I can assure you the recently revamped Mac N’ Cheetos are much better than the paper container they come in. For those of you who have never tried the regular BK Mac N’ Cheetos, I’d liken them to humongous, deep fried cheese sticks – which, as the name suggests, comes with a hearty smattering of Cheetos-flavored dust on the batter. Well, this variation ups the ante with a thick coating of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos spices, and it tastes pretty much identical to the puffed cornmeal snacks we all know and love.

Burger King Flamin Hot Mac n Cheetos 3

The exterior shell of these Mac N’ Cheetos is pretty dry, and the overall chewiness varies from piece to piece. Some pieces are fairly crunchy, while others are so hard it’ll snap the prongs off your plastic fork (which is what actually happened when I gave the product a taste test.) In terms of spiciness, I’d give it a respectable four or five out of ten, so if you don’t have a high tolerance for the hot stuff, you should still be able to enjoy them without breaking out the Tums or Kleenex.

Burger King Flamin Hot Mac n Cheetos 4

On the inside, the macaroni noodles are squishy but otherwise unremarkable. I’m almost 99.8 percent certain that’s Velveeta cheese spread on the inside, and that flavor is extremely powerful. So if you’re not a fan of gooey, buttery processed cheese, there’s your warning.

Overall, the snacks are tasty and surprisingly filling, with a spiciness that’s a tad more potent than you’d probably expect. Alas, they’re not without their demerits. First off, these things are EXTREMELY dry, with a sodium count the equivalent of swallowing half a teaspoon of table salt. And be prepared to dust red flakes off everything, because that Cheetos detritus flies like confetti every time you take a bite.

The big problem is that this five-count product desperately, direly needs a dipping sauce to accompany it. None of the usual Burger King sauces complement it all that well, and if you’re going to sell something containing half a day’s recommended daily allowance of salt, you at least owe us some on the house dressing to lubricate that stuff down our esophagi.

Which raises the question – what are you supposed to dip Cheetos in? Not that I’m trying to influence BK or anything, but Frito-Lay does already have a soy sauce-flavored Cheetos permutation in Japan.

(Nutrition Facts – 390 calories, 22 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of sugar, and 9 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: 5 pieces
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: The cheesy interior is really hearty and flavorful. The Cheetos dust is respectably spicy. They’re basically humongous fried macaroni sticks, and I won’t ever complain about that.
Cons: These things will dry your throat out fast. Not having a decent dipping sauce option afforded to you. Wondering why the packaging is all but devoid of Chester Cheetah iconography.