REVIEW: Domino’s Specialty Chicken (Classic Hot Buffalo, Sweet BBQ Bacon, Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple, and Crispy Bacon & Tomato)

Domino’s Specialty Chicken

My favorite review items manage to be both repulsive and intriguing; ideally, they’d launch pearl-clutching pieces about the state of food, draw some whimsical coverage on Gawker, and get shoehorned into a head-scratching tech tie-in. A product as outrageous as “ fried chicken crust pizza” has predictably checked all the boxes.

Fortunately for the pearl-clutchers (though disappointingly for me), it’s not really fried chicken and it’s not really pizza. I would actually describe Domino’s Specialty Chicken as chicken nuggets-as-nachos. Domino’s just takes a bunch of standard boneless chicken bites, arranges them in a loosely-packed rectangle, and covers them with various toppings. There are four varieties: Classic Hot Buffalo, Sweet BBQ Bacon, Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple, and Crispy Bacon & Tomato.

To review all four without consuming up to 2400 calories and 120 grams of fat, I ordered these into the office in hopes of persuading a few coworkers to weigh in. Hilariously, I hadn’t realized I was ordering on Earth Day, when everyone brought in snacks and drinks that were organic and environmentally-friendly. The only way I could have brought less organic and environmentally-friendly pizzas would’ve been to go back to school, get a degree in agricultural biochemistry, genetically modify and chemically fertilize my own tomatoes and grains, cut down a rainforest tree to power my pizza oven, and deliver those pizzas in a Hummer. Despite my thematically inappropriate food contributions, several coworkers tried the Specialty Chicken. The consensus would be best summarized as, “better than you’d expect, but you won’t be able to eat too many at once.”

Domino’s Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Closeruper

Domino’s Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple Closeup

Let’s start with the overall problems before jumping into each specific type. The chicken bites were quite salty, much more so than, say, a pizza crust or a nacho chip. We couldn’t eat more than a few bites before having to chug water. Don’t treat these as a full meal – they’ll definitely work better as side dishes. Also, the Specialty Chicken all had structural challenges with keeping the toppings intact. Because each chicken bite was small and oblong, the cheese and accoutrements fell off as soon as we tore it from the rest. You’ll need a fork and knife not to make a big mess (and you’ll probably make a moderate mess anyway).

Domino’s Specialty Chicken Spicy Jalapeno-Pineapple

The Spicy Jalapeño-Pineapple was my personal favorite. The jalapeño and pineapple slices joined a dousing of cheese and mango habanero sauce. The flavors were interesting and well-balanced, with the pineapple sweetness/tartness and jalapeño spiciness offsetting the saltiness of the chicken and cheese. Having the fruit and sauce likely contributed to chicken that was moister than some of the other Specialty Chickens.

Domino’s Specialty Chicken Crispy Bacon & Tomato

The Crispy Bacon & Tomato was also well-received, though I hated the name. (The first rule of food naming should be the same as the first rule of writing: “show, don’t tell” me that the bacon is crispy, which is an adjective on a different plane of uselessness than the flavor descriptors of spicy, sweet, or hot. This rule is why I write all these personal side-ramblings to show, and not tell, you that I’m very self-involved.) The diced tomato played well with the parmesan-garlic cream sauce, and I must begrudgingly admit that the bacon was, in fact, quite crispy. I was pleased with the combinations of flavors and textures, and these chicken bites were also moist and juicy.

Domino’s Specialty Chicken Sweet BBQ Bacon

Domino’s Specialty Chicken Classic Hot Buffalo

The Sweet BBQ Bacon and Classic Hot Buffalo could be described together – they were both too dry, too salty, and a little boring. The Sweet BBQ Bacon just had bacon, barbecue sauce, and noticeably less cheese. The sauce was weak and the chicken was dry. The Classic Hot Buffalo came off saltiest, as the buffalo and ranch sauces compounded the saltiness of the cheese and chicken without bringing much extra tang to the table. These really were like chicken nuggets that I could’ve dipped in barbecue or ranch sauce myself.

Though I clearly enjoyed two of the four varieties of Domino’s Specialty Chicken, I wouldn’t recommend that you run out and order them immediately, especially since the price ($5.99 each) feels a little high. Still, if you’re already ordering Domino’s, you should tack on a Jalapeno-Pineapple or Crispy Bacon & Tomato, just to see for yourself what all this fuss over “fried chicken pizza” is about.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 pieces – Classic Hot Buffalo – 170 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 1070 milligrams of sodium, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 11 grams of protein. Crispy Bacon & Tomato – 230 calories, 16 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 750 milligrams of sodium, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 13 grams of protein. Spicy Jalapeño-Pineapple – 170 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 610 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein. Sweet BBQ Bacon – 190 calories, 9 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 710 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.)

Item: Domino’s Specialty Chicken
Purchased Price: $5.99 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Domino’s
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Classic Hot Buffalo)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Sweet BBQ Bacon)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Spicy Jalapeño-Pineapple)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Crispy Bacon & Tomato)
Pros: Tastier than you’d think. Jalapeño-Pineapple had interesting and well-balanced flavors. Bacon & Tomato had good combination of flavors and textures. Bacon was, in fact, crispy. Chicken of these two varieties were moist and juicy. An actual fried chicken pizza would be awesome. Earth Day. “Show, don’t tell.”
Cons: Too salty to be main dishes. Structurally unsound for holding toppings. A little on the pricy side. BBQ Bacon and Classic Hot Buffalo were too dry, too salty, and kind of boring. Pearl-clutching. Useless adjectives. Not contributing more to TIB.

REVIEW Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Ron Burgundy’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Ron Burgundy's Scotchy Scotch Scotch Ice Cream

The first Anchorman movie – technically, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – came out the summer of 2004. The world was a very different place back then.

Steve Carell was still a correspondent on The Daily Show. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell were just beginning their comedic partnership. And I was constantly saying, “I love scotch, scotchy, scotch, scotch, here it goes down, down into my belly” despite having consumed alcohol just one single time in my life. (Bacardi 151 in my friend Josh’s basement before a Sweet 16 party. I couldn’t believe alcohol tasted that awful and swore that I’d never touch the stuff again.)

Things have certainly evolved since then. Steve Carell is a bona fide movie star. The McKay/Ferrell team has created Ricky Bobby, the Funny or Die website, and that video of the adorable little girl cursing out Will Ferrell. Single malt scotches are now my drink of choice – I’m writing this review with a bottle of Glenlivet 15 year on my desk.

One thing that hasn’t changed: I still routinely say “scotchy scotch scotch” whenever I drink anything out of a whiskey glass. More generally, I’ve probably never gone a week without quoting Anchorman at any point in the last decade, and, for a certain demographic, phrases like “I’m in a glass case of emotion” and “60% of the time, it works every time” are now among the most recognizable idioms in the American lexicon. (Full disclosure: I just spent 30 minutes deciding which Anchorman quotes to use in the previous sentence. I imagine that’s what picking your favorite child is like, if all your children were hilarious, perfectly delivered, and always extended you invitations to the pants party.)

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Ron Burgundy's Scotchy Scotch Scotch Ice Cream Top

All of which is to say, we are long overdue for a new Anchorman movie. With Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues coming out soon, I am absolutely willing to support any and all Anchorman-related promotional tie-ins, especially if they callback my favorite quote and incorporate my favorite liquor. (I’m also planning to test drive a Dodge Durango this weekend.) Last night I purchased a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Ron Burgundy’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch ice cream with great excitement.

In preparation for eating some scotch-flavored ice cream, I had created a whole list of moderately pompous scotch-related adjectives to use in this review. (In my mind, that ice cream’s late palate was going to be complex and peaty, with an oaky yet balanced finish.) Alas, Scotchy Scotch Scotch actually has no scotch flavoring; rather, it’s butterscotch ice cream with butterscotch swirl. I got over my initial disappointment and tried a couple scoops anyway.

Ben & Jerry's Limited Batch Ron Burgundy's Scotchy Scotch Scotch Ice Cream Bowl

Scotchy Scotch Scotch is very tasty in small servings but likely too rich to be enjoyable in larger doses. The butterscotch ice cream base was extremely creamy, sweet, and flavorful. That base by itself would have already done butterscotch proud, but then I got a taste of the crunchy ribbons of candy and, boy, that escalated quickly.

The experience was almost nostalgia-inducing, given how much the ice cream tasted like a Werther’s Original butterscotch. I really liked the textural contrast between the cream and the butterscotch candy bits, but altogether it was relentlessly sweet. I could’ve used some saltiness or sourness to add a little balance, à la Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby or Cherry Garcia.

I wouldn’t recommend you buy a whole pint, but if you happen to be near a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, you should definitely drop by and try a scoop of Ron Burgundy’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch. In small servings, it’ll take you to Pleasure Town. (Yes, I really had to drop in one last Anchorman quote. Don’t act like you’re not impressed.)

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 280 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 105 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch Ron Burgundy’s Scotchy Scotch Scotch Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $6.50
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Ice cream base was flavorful, sweet, and creamy. Crunchy candy swirl provides great textural contrast. Tastes just like a butterscotch hard candy. Single malt scotch. Those Dodge Durango commercials. Anchorman 2 is coming soon!
Cons: Relentlessly sweet. Could’ve used some saltiness or sourness. Not actually scotch flavored. Scotch-related pomposity. Picking your favorite child. Bacardi 151. Using Anchorman quotes way too frequently.

REVIEW: Popeyes Chicken Waffle Tenders

Popeyes Chicken Waffle Tenders

Living in New York, I’ve watched firsthand fried chicken get gentrified. Over the last few years yuppies and foodies and rich people have been trying to perfect fried chicken.

It’s akin to making the best mafia movie or writing the consummate coming-of-age novel or creating the perfect sports moment when, in this very world, there already exists The Godfather II, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Mark Sanchez Buttfumble, respectively. Why pay $100 for the Momofuku fried chicken when you could get on the L train and get a bucket of Popeyes, the perfect fried chicken, for one-tenth the price? (For the record, I have tried the Momofuku fried chicken dinner – feel free to skip it.)

I’m glad to see Popeyes is reclaiming the fried chicken media spotlight with a brand new product. Thankfully they’re making no claims on improving their already perfect fried chicken; Popeye’s is clearly just unveiling the new Chicken Waffle Tenders to try and capitalize on the recent chicken & waffles flavor craze. Their chicken breast strips are marinated in the regular mix of spices before being battered and fried in a “waffle-style coating”. I already like the chicken tenders on Popeyes everyday menu, so I was excited to taste their latest limited time item.

Popeyes Chicken Waffle Tenders Comparison

A coworker joined me in my recent foray to Popeyes, as I figured his British accent and sensibilities might add additional snark to the already snarky process of review writing. Our combo meals came with three Waffle Tenders, along with a biscuit, small side, fountain drink, and cup of honey maple dipping sauce. A Waffle Tender was noticeably darker in color and oilier in texture compared to the regular tender I bought as a point of comparison, though both had the same delicious, but depressing smell of fast food grease (I’m sure they came out of the same fryer).

Popeyes Chicken Waffle Tenders Innards

As for taste, the Waffle Tenders were really quite good. The meat was moist and well-seasoned, and pieces with concentrated areas of batter had a faint but distinctive sweet, yeasty flavor. While regular Popeyes tenders tend to taper off at each end, resulting in dry and almost too-crunchy parts of chicken, the waffle ones had more uniformity in the width of the meat, so they were consistent in their moistness and crunchiness.

I also enjoyed the Honey Maple dipping sauce. For some reason I had expected something with a mustard base, but the sauce was thick with the consistency and color of actual honey. The dipping sauce was sweet without approaching saccharine and even added a touch of tanginess to the proceedings.

What about the opinion of my cheeky coworker? He claimed, “It was like eating a sponge filled with grease, but in a very good way.” He had a point – the Waffle Tenders were clearly greasier than the regular ones, and I felt a little sick after eating all three.

Still, it’s something of a silly complaint since no one goes to Popeyes expecting to down a healthy meal that soothes an upset stomach. If that’s what you’re expecting us to review, maybe you should go start your own quasi-review website. (FYI, thedeliberateandsensiblebuy.com is available for $10.99 on GoDaddy.) Stay away from the gentrified fried chicken places, get down to your local Popeyes, and try the Chicken Waffle Tenders as soon as you can.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on Popeyes’ website.)

Other Popeyes Chicken Waffle Tenders reviews:
Grub Grade
Brand Eating
Thrillist

Item: Popeyes Chicken Waffle Tenders
Purchased Price: $5.99 (for 3 piece combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Popeyes
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Meat was tasty and well-seasoned, with consistent moistness and crunchiness. Sweet, yeasty flavor occasionally shone through. Honey Maple dipping sauce was sweet and tangy. Waffle Tenders combo meal is a great deal. Mark Sanchez jokes. British snarkiness. Everything at Momofuku except for the fried chicken.
Cons: Really greasy. You’ll probably get a stomachache. Gentrification of fried chicken. Being a Jets fan. Forcing your coworkers to go to Popeyes. Thedeliberateandsensiblebuy.com.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Smoky Honey Mustard & Asiago Ranch)

Wendys flatbread_honey

If you’ve watched more than 10 minutes of live television in the last few weeks, you’ve almost certainly seen the ubiquitous commercials for the new Wendy’s Flatbread sandwiches. And if you’ve already seen the commercials, then you invariably have two questions. These are the two answers:

1) Yes, the sandwiches are actually quite good.
2) The redhead’s name is Morgan Smith Goodwin.

If you want to learn more about 2), you’ll have to go down that internet wormhole for yourself. I do, however, have plenty more information on 1).

Let’s start with the Smoky Honey Mustard Flatbread. The simpler of the two sandwiches, it’s got grilled chicken, mixed greens, two slices of tomatoes, and a whole lot of honey mustard inside the flatbread. The flatbread itself really is the star of the show here – with various grains and seeds offering some crunch to complement the otherwise thick and chewy bread, it’s tasty and filling and just feels healthier than everything else on the menu.

The greens are also useful in that regard, with leafier and presumably more nutritious varieties than plain old iceberg lettuce. All good news if maybe you’re getting a late jump on your spring diet, and maybe your friend is throwing a too-early-in-the-season-and-no-one’s-swimsuit-ready party in the Hamptons soon, and maybe your mother recently told you your pants look tight from the extra pounds in your butt. These are all complete hypotheticals, so you definitely didn’t hurt my feelings, Mom.

Wendys flatbread_honey_open

The nomenclature of these new products is weird but appropriate; perhaps the flatbread comes before the grilled chicken because there’s so much more of the former than the latter. The chicken was juicy and well-seasoned and generally very tasty, but there just wasn’t enough of it. Each flatbread contained what looked to be half a grilled chicken fillet sliced into four or five strips, which couldn’t cover the entirety of the sandwich.

I took several bites that consisted of only bread and honey mustard, particularly around the hinge of the flatbread. And speaking of the honey mustard, I couldn’t detect any smokiness at all. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was the exact same honey mustard as the dipping sauce for the chicken nuggets. I guess “smoky mustard” is one of those phrases that gets thrown around but actually means nothing, like “elegant wine” or “corporate values” or “do you know who I am? I’m Reese Witherspoon!”

Wendys flatbread_asiago

The Asiago Ranch Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwich has a couple more ingredients than the Smoky Honey Mustard, with three strips of bacon, asiago cheese, and ranch dressing instead of honey mustard. As you might expect, this sandwich had a much stronger taste.

Wendys flatbread_asiago_side

The excellent-as-usual Wendy’s bacon added texture and flavor, while the cheese and ranch dressing made for a very rich combination. Again, I thought there was too little chicken. Also, the extra toppings here made for a much messier eating experience, which should be an extra consideration if your spring diet is a subset to the overall life goal of being less of a slob.

Wendys flatbread_asiago_bite

I liked both of the new Wendy’s Flatbread Grilled Chicken sandwiches, and each of them would make for a decent-sized meal on its own (I bought them at the same time but saved half of each for lunch the next day). If I had to choose just one, I would probably go with the Smoky Honey Mustard Flatbread – it’s cheaper ($3.59 vs. $4.19) and has fewer calories (370 vs. 530), and its milder flavors suited my taste buds better than the richness of the Asiago Ranch. I’d recommend you go try either one for yourself. If nothing else, Wendy’s franchises seem to have lots of Morgan Smith Goodwin cardboard cutouts these days.

(Nutrition Facts – Smoky Honey Mustard – 370 calories, 150 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 550 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 22 grams of protein. Asiago Ranch – 530 calories, 270 calories from fat, 30 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 30 grams of protein.)

Other Wendy’s Smoky Honey Mustard Flatbread & Asiago Ranch Flatbread reviews:
Grub Grade
Foodette Reviews
Brand Eating
Man Reviews Food

Item: Wendy’s Flatbread Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Smoky Honey Mustard & Asiago Ranch)
Purchased Price: $3.59 (Smoky Honey Mustard)
Purchased Price: $4.19 (Asiago Ranch)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Smoky Honey Mustard)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Asiago Ranch)
Pros: Flatbread is thick and chewy. Grains and seeds make it feel healthier. Chicken is juicy and well-seasoned. Greens are leafier than regular iceberg lettuce. Wendy’s bacon is always excellent. Both sandwiches have relatively few calories. Morgan Smith Goodwin is an Alyson Hannigan lookalike. Celebrity DUI jokes.
Cons: Not enough chicken. Honey mustard wasn’t smoky at all. Asiago Ranch was a little too rich for me. Asiago Ranch was very messy to eat. Spring dieting. Yes, fine, I didn’t wait for lunch to finish the sandwiches. Please don’t steal any Morgan Smith Goodwin cutouts.

REVIEW: Magic Hat Saint Saltan and Ticket to Rye

Magic Hat Saint Saltan

I know you all think the life of a part-time junk food/fast food review writer is incredibly glamorous, but really I’m exactly like you.

I spent my Sunday working through a totally normal checklist. Doing some laundry. Catching up on the last few episodes of Top Chef. Carefully inspecting all the frozen food aisles at ShopRite and harassing the stock boys. (“Do you have the newest flavors of Ben & Jerry’s, and if not do you know when you’ll get them, and if not can I speak to ShopRite’s manager of frozen confectionery products?”)

I couldn’t find a good item to review, so I reacted much as you would to minor inconveniences – I shrugged my shoulders and went looking for my favorite beer.

Luckily, my search for a 6-pack of Magic Hat #9 guided me directly to a solution. Magic Hat has released a spring variety pack that introduces two new brews, the German-styled Saint Saltan and Ticket to Rye, an IPA. And since “I have to drink all this beer for work” is an excuse my girlfriend somehow bought, I’m now able to review these new seasonal products.

I started with the lighter Saint Saltan. It’s a Gose, which is a type of German beer that I’d previously never tried before. A quick Wikipedia search told me to expect saltiness and helped explain the origins of the Saltan name. The beer was a clear golden yellow with a white head and smelled heavily of coriander.

Taste-wise, it was very crisp and refreshing with moderate carbonation. The coriander was again a primary flavor, yet I could definitely taste the sweetness and maltiness from the lemon and wheat flavors, respectively. The saltiness manifested mostly in the after taste, which certainly made the beer more interesting but didn’t spark some divine revelation of a beer-drinking experience.

At 4.6% alcohol by volume, the Saint Saltan goes down very smoothly, almost like a wheat ale. I could imagine myself throwing one or two back on a hot summer evening, but I could just as well imagine the salty flavor losing its appeal very quickly.

Magic Hat Ticket to Rye
Moving on to the second new offering: even the most casual music listeners would recognize “Ticket to Rye” as a play on a song title, but Beatles fans might remember that the phrase was rumored to be the original title of “Ticket to Ride,” with Rye referring to a small town in England. I don’t know which reference Magic Hat intended, though I do know that I intend to come off as both a beer snob AND a music snob in this review.

In any case, Magic Hat’s “Spring Fever Mix” variety pack’s packaging is very much music-themed. Their marketing has always been fun and a little wink-wink, and I loved all the small touches on the box that represent performing equipment and radio buttons.

As for the actual beer, I thought Ticket to Rye was very, very solid. It was a dark amber color with no haze whatsoever in the pouring. As expected from an IPA, it smelled hoppy but also had a nice pine scent with some spiciness from the rye. The first thing I tasted was the spiciness, which was followed with some pine and citrus and maybe a little bit of caramel. The beer was nicely hoppy without being overwhelming so, but I thought it lost carbonation a bit too quickly. Anyone who generally enjoys IPAs would definitely find that this one goes down easy, though at 7.1 percent ABV, you’ll want to take it slow.

I enjoyed both of these new offerings, and along with the old Magic Hat standbys of #9 Not Quite Pale Ale and Pistil Dandelion Beer, they make for an excellent variety pack. These Magic Hat 12-packs were on promotional display at my local ShopRite, so you probably won’t even have to harass the stock boys to find them – go pick one up the next time you’re at the supermarket or liquor store.

Other Magic Hat Saint Saltan reviews:
Behind the Tap
Good Beer Better Hats

Other Magic Hat Ticket to Rye reviews:
Behind the Tap
Good Beer Better Hats

Item: Magic Hat Saint Saltan and Ticket to Rye
Purchased Price: $12.99 (Spring Fever Mix Variety 12-pack)
Size: 12-pack (12 oz. bottles)
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Saint Saltan)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Ticket to Rye)
Pros: Saint Saltan was light and crisp. Nice coriander and lemon flavors with interesting salty after-taste. Ticket to Rye was nicely hoppy with great rye spice, pine, and citrus flavors. Magic Hat marketing and packaging. Top Chef on the DVR. The glamorous part-time junk food/fast food reviewer lifestyle. My girlfriend doesn’t actually mind drinking on Sundays anyway.
Cons: Saint Sultan’s salty aftertaste could lose its appeal quickly. Ticket to Rye lost its carbonation a bit too quickly. Not finding any of the new Ben & Jerry’s flavors. I don’t really know anything about music.