REVIEW: Wendy’s Bacon Queso Burger

Wendy s Spicy Queso Burger

Historically, fast food “spicy burgers” have been pretty underwhelming.

Try as they may, neither Burger King’s Angry Whopper nor Carl’s Jr.’s El Diablo Thickburger lived up to the hype, and let’s not even get into the deluge of disappointing spicy-in-name-only chicken sandwiches that we’ve seen over the last couple of years.

Wendy’s themselves are no stranger to so-so spicy sammiches, such as the okay-but-that’s-about-it Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich from 2015. And while their latest and greatest tongue-torching burger makes a few noticeable improvements over their last foray into hot-ass hamburgers, the Bacon Queso Burger still feels more than a few degrees shy of being a truly top-notch, perspiration-inspiring product.

Wendy s Spicy Queso Burger 2

The quarter-pounder burger comes topped with a creamy poblano queso sauce, a heaping helping of fire-roasted salsa, three strips of Applewood smoked bacon, some chopped up red onions (an aside, but is it just me or do those things look more purple than red?), and a smattering of shredded cheddar cheese. And all of it is wedged between two roasted red jalapeno buns, which I didn’t even notice until I Googled the product after I already ate it, which, yeah, should tell you just how potent the jalapeno taste is here.

Wendy s Spicy Queso Burger 3

First, the good. Wendy’s has long had some of the best bacon in fast food, and this limited-time-only offering is no exception. Secondly, the beef is flavorful and doesn’t get lost amid the goulash of other ingredients. And thirdly, the poblano queso sauce has a unique taste and texture (thicker than aioli sauce but still not thick enough to be a traditional fondue) that doesn’t have an analogue at any other mainstream burger chain.

Unfortunately, there are more negatives than positives here. The salsa is way too pulpy and has virtually no spiciness, and it doesn’t blend that well with the queso at all (at first, I thought they just dumped a bunch of chili on the burger and called it good.)

Additionally, the onions feel (and taste) way out of place – that is, if you can even taste them at all after rubbing up against so many different sauces. And I was not a fan of the shredded cheese adornments – the icy cold taste and texture clashes with the rest of the burger AND every time you go for another bite it seems like half of the cheddar falls out.

Speaking of which, this might be the messiest non-Sloppy Joe sandwich I’ve ever eaten – forget tying on a bib; you’ll probably have to eat this one with a beach towel wrapped around your shoulders.

But the ultimate transgression of Wendy’s new burger, of course, is that it isn’t spicy enough. It’s unique and fairly flavorful and pretty filling, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to making good on that particular advertising point. And when you can’t deliver the primary thing your L-T-O marketing promises, can we really consider the offering as a whole anything less than a substantial disappointment?

(Nutrition Facts – 550 calories, 290 calories from fat, 29 grams of total fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,140 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 33 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: Single patty (also available in double and triple versions)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: The bacon is juicy, plump, and delicious. The hamburger patty is flavorful and filling. The queso tastes unlike anything else you’ve probably had at a big name burger joint.
Cons: The product isn’t spicy – at all. The salsa is too clumpy. The shredded cheese adds nothing to the experience (and in fact, detracts from it). Realizing beard + queso burger = shame the hard way.

FAST FOOD FLASHBACK: Pizza Hut Priazzo Italian Pie

Pizza Hut Priazzo

We’ve all got our favorite foods. If I had to pick just one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it would definitely be Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

I mean, it’s pretty much the perfect food – you’ve got an infinite amount of cheese to work with, all kinds of sauces to add to the equation and a practically unlimited number of topping possibilities. Which is why I’ve always been surprised that pies of the like have so seldom been offered by the big name carry-out pizza chains. Granted, they take longer to prepare, but you mean to tell me there isn’t any consumer demand for stuffed pies and that middle America would rather eat pan pizzas with pigs-in-a-blanket crust instead?

Yes, we do have quasi-deep dish pies available today at Little Caesar’s and Papa John’s, and in the past, big name chains like Domino’s have given the concept the old collegiate try. But it’s always been a bit suspicious that Pizza Hut has largely steered clear of deep dish offerings over the last 15 years.

Indeed, the last time Pizza Hut even attempted to go national with the idea was in 2002 with their short-lived Chicago Dish Pizza…which, as fate would have it, was far from the Hut’s first tango with heavyweight pies.

Enter the Priazzo Italian Pie.

In 1985 Pizza Hut unveiled not one but four deep dish offerings. Now technically, they weren’t 100 percent traditional deep dish pizzas – rather, they were sort of a fusion between a deep dish and a stuffed pizza. Regardless, the format of the pies were the same: you had one layer of sauce, meat and extra ingredients with another layer of crust atop it, which was then doused with even more sauce, cheese and toppings.

There were four variations, as briefly outlined below:

ROMA – Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, beef, pork and onion topped with mozzarella and cheddar.

FLORENTINE – Ham and spinach topped with cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheese.

NAPOLI – A mix of cheddar, mozzarella, Parmesan and Romano cheese topped with tomato slices.

MILANO – Bacon, beef, pork, pepperoni and Italian sausage topped with mozzarella and cheddar.

Interestingly, some Internet sleuthing suggests the Hut actually tested a fifth Priazzo product – a sausage, pepper and onion strewn variation codenamed the Portofino. Regardless, all four (five?) pies were not long for this earth, and the Priazzo line-up got 86’ed – ironically enough – in 1986.

Internet hearsay and musings from old-school Hut employees indicate the pies were just too much of a hassle to remain menu staples. The pies took much longer to prepare and required costlier equipment to cook correctly, and apparently fast food consumers circa ‘85 just weren’t keen on pizzas that took upwards of 40 minutes to prepare.

Still, the Priazzo pies have developed quite the cult following over the years, perhaps because it’s a concept that neither Pizza Hut nor its top competitors have since attempted to resurrect. But with so many retro-food-fanatics rediscovering the Priazzo online, is it only a matter of time until Pizza Hut is goaded into relaunching the fabled array of proto-artisanal pies?

Hey, if Internet fandom can bring Crystal Pepsi back to life, anything’s possible.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen M&M’s Treatzza Pizza

Dairy Queen M M s Treatzza Pizza

Released in the mid-1990s, Dairy Queen’s Treatzza Pizza was one of those decades-defining consumer events – a’la Reebok Pump shoes and the Nickelodeon Time Blaster Alarm Clock – that seemingly EVERYBODY but me got to experience back in the day.

The commercials did a five-star job explaining why the $6.99 delicacy was more than a fast food gimmick – it was literally marketed as edible pop culture and digestible ephemera. Missing out on this was like missing out on Yikes! pencils and Pop-Qwiz popcorn – absolutely unforgivable.

Since I never tried the product in my youth, I assumed I would NEVER find out if the Treatzza lived up to all the hype. So when I heard the long discontinued product was coming back, I was ecstatic.

Even now I’m not entirely sure how long the Treatzza (which came in four glorious versions – more on that in just a bit) was sold. Some sources say the thing hung around as late as 2008, but I certainly don’t remember seeing the product on sale since at least 1999 in my neck of the woods. Obviously, I can’t tell you how the relaunched Treatzza compares to the original taste-wise, but it sure as sugar passes the eye test – this thing looks EXACTLY like it magically materialized from a 1995 sales circular ad.

Dairy Queen M M s Treatzza Pizza 2

Just like in the good old days, the Treatzza comes in four permutations: one topped with Heath bar chunks, one topped with Reese’s cups, a “Choco-Brownie” one and – my personal fave – one sprinkled with diced M&M’s.

The featured iteration has a fudge cookie crunch base, vanilla soft serve as the “sauce,” and is complemented with a fine chocolate drizzle. The pie is divvied up into eight fairly consistent slices, so it’s easily enough to feed two people or provide quick snacks for at least four.

Dairy Queen M M s Treatzza Pizza 3

Naturally, the fog of nostalgia could impair my judgement, but regardless of its retro appeal this thing is just delightful. We’ve all had brownies topped with ice cream before, but the Treatzza feels like an entirely different kind of dessert. Here, the cookie, ice cream, fudge, and M&M’s merge into a delicious singularity. Conceptually it might be nothing more than an open-faced ice cream sandwich, but all the ingredients just gel into blissful, congealed harmony. It’s yummy, it’s filling, and I’d swear eating it automatically transported my taste buds back to the DQ of my youth, circa the opening night of Batman Forever.

Dairy Queen M M s Treatzza Pizza 4

Yes, it’s just a giant frozen cookie with an entire M&M’s Blizzard dumped atop it, but I suppose that’s what makes it beautiful. Considering the $10 price point and (presumably) low consumer demand – not to mention it takes up so much space in the freezer – there’s no way this one’s going to be around for more than a few months.

All I can say is try it while you can, folks – that is, unless you feel like waiting around to 2037 to get your third chance.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 slice – 200 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 85 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $9.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: The totally phat crunched up M&M’s taste both boss and fly on your tongue. The vanilla ice cream IS all that and a bag of chips. You and seven of your homeboys can share a pie while blasting a cassette tape of “Gangsta’s Paradise” on a loop for an hour in the parking lot.
Cons: The $10 price tag is inflation-tastic. The cookie crust might be a tad too hard to chew for some consumers. Wondering if this will or will not bring us one step closer to the resurrection of Dunkaroos and/or a Hootie and the Blowfish comeback.

REVIEW: Arby’s Liger Shake

Arby s Liger Shake

Heading into this limited-time-only product, I knew three things about ligers:

  • It’s the technical name for the offspring of a male lion and female tiger (the inverse, in case you were wondering, is called a tigon.)
  • There’s a famous Japanese wrestler named Jushin “Thunder” Liger, who was inspired by a short-lived anime of the same name (why he has a head shaped like a demonic pinata, though, I can’t explain.)
  • It’s Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite animal.

It’s an unorthodox name for a novelty milkshake, but after you’ve tried Arby’s newfangled beverage it all makes sense. The Liger Shake isn’t called that just because it looks like a pair of Cincinnati Bengals Zubaz workout pants in drinkable form – it truly is the harmonious synthesis of two distinct flavors that you’d never expect to merge together so well.

Arby s Liger Shake

The Liger Shake’s hook is pretty straightforward. It’s half orange cream – think, a ritzier version of that sherbet stuff we all ate in elementary school – and half Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream, with several rings of sludgier, in-house chocolate syrup tying everything together. Naturally, there’s also a hearty dollop of whipped cream to top things off, which makes comparisons to the beverages sold at a certain ubiquitous coffee chain all but unavoidable.

Unlike the Unicorn Frappuccino, however, this competing, swirl-centric offering from Arby’s is a classic milkshake through and through. While I’ve never been particularly fond of orange or chocolate-flavored shakes, combining the two makes for an unexpectedly satisfying combination. I guess the best thing to liken the Liger Shake to are Terry’s Chocolate Orange products – you know, those aluminum foil wrapped delicacies on store shelves every Christmas – mixed with the traditional Wendy’s Frosty.

Arby s Liger Shake 3

The shake has a very nice congealed consistency and the flavors mingle together quite well without either becoming too dominant. Somehow, someway, the fast food wizards at Arby’s managed to keep the orange-to-chocolate flavor ratio at an even-keel, and the end product is certain to please chocoholics and citrus-holics alike.

If I had to be a nitpicker, I’d take a few points off for the whipped cream (it has a nice aesthetic, but it gets milky fast and muddles with the flavor a bit) and the perhaps too sludgy chocolate swirls, which have a texture and overall mouthfeel that just doesn’t gel with the rest of the ingredients. That said, those minor flaws can easily be overlooked seeing how yummy the product taken as a whole is, and for less than three bucks, you simply can’t complain about the volume you’re getting here.

And as a nice bonus, this is one of the few fast food shakes that seems impervious to freezer burn. My leftover Liger Shake tasted just as flavorful and filling after two nights in the freezer as it did fresh out of the drive-thru lane – an attribute we can only pin on the product’s sturdy, crossbred genetics, perhaps?

(Nutrition Facts – Large – 680 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of total fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 116 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 104 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Large
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The drink has a nice, creamy consistency. The orange and chocolate flavors mix together surprisingly well. Even the smaller version will fill you up.
Cons: The whipped cream doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience. The chocolate “rings” don’t complement the rest of the shake as well as they could. Wondering how long it’ll be before Arby’s rolls out their Zebroid, Wholphin and Beefalo follow-up shakes.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Jelly Donut Oreo Cookies

Limited Edition Jelly Donut Oreo Cookies

The scene: Nabisco’s headquarters. Half a dozen marketing executives are sitting at a table.

“Alright, guys, we really, really have to hit this one out of the park,” the leader of the brainstorming session says. “It’s summer, and Walmart demands we outdo the Root Beer Oreo.”

“How about, uh, ice cream-flavored Oreo cookies?” one suit proposes.

“What about, um, a chili pepper Oreo?” suggests another.

“Would it be possible to test a pot brownie Oreo in the Denver market?” inquires yet another.

The rest of the team shakes their heads.

“No, we really have to think outside the box,” the team leader says. “Seriously, what’s something unique and summery we can work with here?”

A long silence follows. Then, at the very end of the table, the newest member of the team speaks.

“Maybe…jelly donut flavored Oreo cookies?”

A mile-wide grin stretches upon the team leader’s lips. “Kid – you’re a genius.”

The room bursts in applause, confetti falls from the ceiling and the celebratory jugs of milk doth spray.

And scene.

Limited Edition Jelly Donut Oreo Cookies 2

Okay, so I’m not entirely sure that’s how Jelly Donut Oreo Cookies came to be, but it’s probably pretty close. Coming up with an infinity number of twist-top sandwich cookie variations can’t be easy, and it’s way easier to go wrong (cough SWEDISHFISHOREO cough) than go right with the gimmick.

In the rich panoply of limited time only (LTO) Oreo cookies, I’d say these Walmart exclusives are in the top 30 percentile. They’re no match for the pumpkin spice permutation, but they’re definitely superior to B-leaguers like watermelon and cotton candy.

Limited Edition Jelly Donut Oreo Cookies 3

According to Nabisco, these things are supposed to taste like an amalgamation of custard and raspberry. Oddly enough, the cookies at first bite taste indistinguishable from the rank-and-file Golden Oreos – and technically, they are save that smidge of raspberry goop (which I thought tasted more like grape than anything else) in the middle. I didn’t really get a distinct custard flavor from the creme, but I certainly got a mouthful of artificial fruit flavoring, which – to my taste buds, at least – tasted remarkably similar to the molten jam stuffed inside a Frosted Wild Grape Pop-Tart.

I guess the best LTOreo to compare this one to is the fruit punch version from a couple of years back. It has that same sugary-yet-still-quasi-believable fruit taste, except slightly more tart. So if you were a fan of that one and have been desperately, direly praying for the product’s return, this is probably as close as you’ll ever get to reliving the wonder and whimsy of 2014.

Granted, it may not taste too much like your favorite Dunkin’ Donuts staple, but it’s nonetheless pretty yummy. And regardless how you feel about the deluge of seasonal Oreo cookies hitting the store shelves, we can at least take some comfort in Nabisco appearing to pursue more subdued flavors than in years past – sorry, those of you still patiently waiting for those Limited Edition Macaroni and Cheese Oreo Cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 150 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 80 milligrams of sodium, 10 milligrams of potassium, 21 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 10.7 oz. package
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: The artificial jelly flavor is pretty good. The interior creme has a rich taste and texture. The Golden Oreo “toppers” allow you to eat it without your teeth looking like a collapsed coal mine.
Cons: The “donut” flavor is faint. It doesn’t taste that much different from a few previous LTOreos. Burning your fingertips trying to dip ‘em in a cup of piping hot extra-dark roast coffee…over and over again.