REVIEW: Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

Sonic loves screwing around with their hot dog menu. That may sound like an insult, but it’s not; it’s a compliment. Keeping a fast food menu fresh and rotating earns you high marks in my book. That is, unless you discontinue something I love; then I hate you.

To give you an idea of Sonic’s wiener range, they’ve played with such toppings as blue cheese dressing, Fritos, guacamole, garlic parmesan sauce and crispy onions. They’ve also played with their buns, introducing pretzel, cheesy bread, and now croissant varieties.

The new croissant bun hot dogs come in two varieties: the Original, which comes topped with mustard, and the Bacon Double Cheddar, which I chose because it sounded infinitely more interesting. Here’s how Sonic describes it:

“SONIC’s Croissant Dogs take a new, gourmet twist on a Sonic classic hot dog. We start by baking a soft roll, with all of the flakey goodness and buttery taste of a delicious croissant. Then, we nestle the juicy premium beef hot dog in the croissant and top it off with cheddar cheese and bacon.”

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog Bun

Of all the different types of breads out there, I wouldn’t have even thought of turning a croissant into a hot dog bun. Croissants are for breakfast. Although, now that I think about it, how long has Pillsbury been telling you two wrap tiny hot dogs in their croissant dough? Well-played, Sonic.

Since the crux of this new menu item is the bun, I immediately tried it on its own once it had been procured. I found it to be flaky like a croissant, but quite a bit denser than the dainty bakery product you would consume with an espresso. It also had a tiny bit of buttery flavor, but there was no buttery sheen or greasiness to the bun itself.

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog Innards

When I bit into the dog, I could see the layers that are one of the signatures of the croissant. However, in addition to being more dense than a traditional croissant, the bun was also quite thick. As I worked my way through the hot dog, the bun didn’t compress like some cheap buns – it retained it’s fluffiness throughout.

And it’s a good thing, too, because the Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog is loaded with toppings. I couldn’t even see the hot dog under all that cheese and bacon.

While the subtle buttery taste of the bun immediately disappeared due to the toppings, the texture still worked and the bun managed to both not sog and actually contain the toppings, which I figured would be all over my hands by the end of my meal. Unexpectedly, it was the bun that wound up making the most mess – it flaked off all over the place, which would leave you with a lap full of crumbs if you were to eat this on-the-go.

As for the toppings, as I mentioned, they were ample. However, they diverged rather mysteriously from both the description on the website and the picture. First of all, it’s called “Double Cheddar”, and the picture on their online menu clearly shows both cheese sauce and melted shredded cheese. However, mine only came with cheese sauce.

If there was anything “double” about it, it was the amount, which was a heaping ladle full. Again, I was impressed that the croissant bun was able to contain that much oozing cheese.

The cheese sauce was incredibly artificial-tasting, but what do you expect from a fast food joint? It’s one of those situations where you either like or you hate that kind of unnatural orange goo. I personally enjoy it.

Another deviation from the menu description is the addition of brown mustard. While not mentioned or pictured on their website, my Croissant Dog came with a little squiggle of brown mustard on top of the cheese sauce. It added a nice little twang and a bit of a kick to the hot dog.

Speaking of the dog itself, I wasn’t going to say much, because I’ve been through the Sonic hot dog experience several times and found them downright unremarkable. This time, however, I was struck at how juicy the dog was. I’ve never had a Sonic dog this good. I don’t think they changed their dogs, so maybe I just hit them on a good day, but either way – good job, Sonic!

The real star of the Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog was the bacon. Thick, crispy and wonderfully flavorful, it tasted just like it had come straight from the cast iron skillet on my stove at home. And there were a lot of the pieces, too. This has to be some of the best fast food bacon I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much praise for Sonic before!

Overall, Sonic’s Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog was one of the most satisfying fast food hot dogs I’ve ever had. I prefer natural casing hot dogs, but this dog was juicy and satisfying. The toppings were more than generous, which is a minus if you hate processed cheese sauce, but the bacon was fantastic.

Of course, the whole point of this new dog is the croissant bun, which I declare a fine substitute to regular buns that can easily fall apart. While the buttery qualities got masked by the toppings, you can see the layers when you bite into the dog, and it is both fluffy but sturdy at the same time. While your toppings won’t land in your lap, watch out, because flakes from the bun certainly will. Just use a napkin, you savage, and enjoy your dog!

(Nutrition Facts – 510 calories, 310 calories from fat, 34 grams total of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 1670 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugars, 18 grams of protein, 15% calcium, 30% iron, 6% vitamin A, and 2% vitamin C.)

Item: Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog
Purchased Price: $3.87
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Bun was fluffy but sturdy. Making weiner and buns jokes. Bacon was both plentiful and excellent quality. Hot dog was juicy and flavorful. Lots of cheese sauce.
Cons: Cheese sauce was very artificial. I congratulated Sonic way to many times in this review. Croissant bun flakes will get everywhere. Whoah, that’s a lot of fat for one hot dog! Mysterious deviations from the menu description – where’s my double cheddar?

REVIEW: Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla

Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla

When I first heard that Taco bell was adding Crispy Chicken to their list of ingredients, my first thought was, “Why didn’t they do this sooner?” Then, “Well, that’s not exactly a staple of Mexican cuisine. And then, “Yeah, but neither are Cinnabon bites,” which ultimately led me back to my first thought.

In line with Taco Bell’s style, they didn’t just introduce Crispy Chicken, they sprayed it all over their menu like a frat boy hovering over a toilet after too much Pinnacle Cinnabon Vodka. You’d think this review was about Cinnabon, but it’s not.

The Bell has done everything from the simplicity of wrapping chicken in a tortilla and calling it a Griller, wrapping it in a biscuit and calling it a Biscuit Taco, and throwing it in a Crunchwrap and calling it a Chickstar.

And, not to leave any corner of the menu untouched, we come upon the subject of this review: the Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla. Why is this one Double? I wondered that myself, until I noticed the tiny, tiny asterisk on Taco Bell’s website that explains “*as compared to the 1.5 oz. Chicken Quesadilla.”

Oh, okay.

Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla Inside

Taco Bell says the Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla “features new premium all-white-meat crispy chicken that’s marinated in bold Mexican spices, rolled in a crunchy corn tortilla coating, and crisped to perfection combined with a three cheese blend and a creamy jalapeño sauce all folded in a freshly grilled tortilla.”

True to the name of this site, I impulsively bought two of them. I don’t usually do this with new items, but…well, I was hungry. And I like quesadillas. And I live on the edge. The edge of not knowing if this quesadilla would suck.

The first quesadilla I tried (which is the one pictured) was quite disappointing. Almost completely lacking in both cheese and sauce, it just tasted like chicken and tortilla, which was dry and sad.

Fortunately, my second quesadilla, despite being purchased in the same order, was much better! There was a decent amount of cheese and creamy jalapeño sauce, which to me tasted more like The Bell’s already-existing Fire sauce in a cream base (probably the sour cream that I’m pretty sure they squirt out of pastry bags). It was still quite tasty, and added both spice and moisture.

As for the Crispy Chicken, whatever “bold” Mexican spices they use as a marinade, they don’t shine through at all in the finished product. The tortilla coating, however, added a nice crunch that didn’t get soggy even when exposed to sauce, and it added a flavor that differs just enough from other fried chicken to make it notable.

Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla Half

Even though the chicken inside the quesadilla amounts to nothing more than chicken strips in regards to structure, I feel that Taco Bell lived up to their “double” promise. There was a hearty amount of chicken in almost every bite (I don’t count the ends because the ends of fast food quesadillas are always a wasteland), and the meat was moist and tender.

All things considered, Taco Bell’s Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla is a pretty middle-of-the-road offering. I like the new crispy coating and was impressed by its ability to stay crunchy, but the sauce didn’t taste very unique (although it did add some heat). The overall product was somewhat boring.

Plus, my first quesadilla was really disappointing, and when you’ve only got three ingredients to showcase inside your tortilla, I think you should make sure they’re all up to par. If you’re a big fan of the new Crispy Chicken and like quesadillas, it’s worth a try, but maybe more as a side item to the rest of your order.

(Nutrition Facts – 720 calories, 380 calories from fat, 42 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1660 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Double Crispy Chicken Quesadilla
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tortilla coating was a little different and stayed crispy. Impulsively buying two paid off. Lots of chicken that was moist. Sauce had a bit of kick.
Cons: Sauce wasn’t unique. Spewing cinnamon bun vodka. One of my quesadillas lacked cheese and sauce. Are sour cream pastry bags a pro or a con? A somewhat boring menu item. Holy crap, that’s a lot of fat in one quesadilla.

REVIEW: Haagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream

Haagen Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream Contianer

What first springs to mind when you see the word Brigadeiro? If you’re like me, which you probably are not, what springs forth is the picture of a Spanish military officer wearing a kickass uniform that probably has epaulettes.

What should spring to mind, however, is a chocolate truffle originating in Brazil that is apparently both famous and beloved and is often used for celebrations. At least, that’s what the Internet told me.

Listen, the point is that Häagen-Dazs has a new Artisan Collection. Each flavor says the ice cream company “collaborated closely with notable culinary artisans from around the country”, according to their press release. I chose Tres Leches Brigadeiros because tres leches is delicious and I guess I was still enamored with the idea of epaulettes.

By the way, in case you’re reading this review out loud to your kids as a bedtime story, Brigadeiro is pronounced bree-gah-day-ro. I was adding a few extra syllables in there before I learned that little fact. How silly I would look at the office if I hadn’t. Because Brazilian truffles are a trending water cooler topic, you know.

Häagen-Dazs decided to team up with My Sweet Brigadeiro for this artisanal flavor. They are based in New York but also sell their handmade Brigadeiros online. They specifically chose their Happy Couple for the ice cream.

With all this talk of truffles and cakes, you might expect Tres Leches Brigadeiros to contain chunks, but Häagen-Dazs actually deconstructed the Happy Couple for this creation, resulting in an ice cream that is completely smooth.

Haagen Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream1

My Sweet Brigadeiro’s website describes the Happy Couple as “white and chocolate Brigadeiro and it’s called Casadinho in Portuguese”. And, in case you’re not familiar with tres leches, it’s a cake that utilizes, you guessed it, three different types of milk: evaporated, condensed, and heavy cream.

Now that we’re completely caught up on terminology, let’s get to the ice cream itself. As mentioned before, Tres Leches Brigadeiros (I’m just gonna call it TLB from now on) is a really smooth and creamy ice cream. It’s got chocolate ribbons running through it, which is meant to represent the Brigadeiro.

When I saw the chocolate on my spoon, I expected a burst of rich flavor when I put it in my mouth. Not so. The chocolate flavor is present, and actually tastes high-quality, but it’s very faint. As for the white chocolate, I couldn’t taste it at all.

Where TLB really shines is the tres leches part. With three different kinds of milk in the ingredients, it created a sweet ice cream with great depth that also managed not to overwhelm with richness.

Haagen Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream2

This results in a carton of ice cream that you can dig into and finish off during an episode of Game of Thrones and suddenly go “Oh…oops.” In fact, I barely had time to take pictures before my carton of TLB was finished.

All this results in a bit of a conflict when it comes to my opinion of Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros. On the one hand, I adore both the light but deep flavor and the smooth texture, with the added bonus of a hint of chocolate ribbon.

On the other hand, I feel like anyone who is familiar with Brigadeiros will be disappointed. While I’ve never had one personally, I have to believe that the Happy Couple Brazilian truffle offers up more flavor than what’s been showcased by Häagen-Dazs. It seems like this should just be called “Tres Leches with a Hint of Chocolate”.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup — 270 calories, 15 grams of total fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 gram of dietary fiber, 26 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 10% vitamin A, 10% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Tres Leches Brigadeiros Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.33
Size: 14 oz.
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Delicious tres leches flavor. Epaulettes. Not too rich and super smooth. Learning about other cultures’ foods. Hint of chocolate works with the tres leches.
Cons: Brigadeiro flavor seems highly muted. Embarrassing mispronunciations. Way too easy to eat all 52.5 grams of fat in a single sitting. Happy Couple sounds like Chinese food. Brazilians may feel their favorite truffle is misrepresented.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s first wave of Core ice creams consisted of ice cream surrounding a core of ooey, gooey stuff that was sort of like eating a sundae straight out of the pint.

The idea was pure genius and highly successful, if you ask my freezer, which currently contains three pints of the stuff. If you ask my freezer, also inquire as to what’s in the Ziploc in the back of it, because I forgot to label it before I threw it in there and now I’m scared because I think it’s been in there for some years and I should probably just throw it away.

Now they’ve come out with three different Cookie Core varieties. The Boom Chocolatta version sounded like way too much chocolate for my taste, and I still don’t really understand what Speculoos are, so I figured my best bet would be to try Peanut Buttah Cookie Core.

Ben & Jerry’s describes it as “Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Crunchy Peanut Butter Sugar Bits, Peanut Butter Cookies & a Peanut Butter Cookie Core”. This raised Peanut Buttah above just “default flavor” status, because just reading that description probably made those with peanut allergies reach for their EpiPen.

Speaking of EpiPens, have you ever seen the commercial that advertises them? “Ask your doctor about EpiPen today!” What person with a severe allergy doesn’t already know about EpiPens? I imagine someone watching the commercial and saying to themselves, “Wait, you mean I don’t have to take an ambulance ride to the emergency room with my throat closed up every time I accidentally eat something that came in contact with shellfish? This is amazing, and I’m going to get a new doctor since I should have heard about this years ago!”

Sorry, I just had to share that. It’s been bugging me for a while now.

I’ve always considered the gold standard of peanut butter cookies to be my mom’s, who always baked them at Christmas time. Since you probably haven’t tried my mom’s homemade cookies, I give second place to Grandma’s brand, which has the bonus of being available year-round but doesn’t make the kitchen smell awesome.

All other peanut butter cookies pale in comparison, and I hate the taste of artificial peanut butter flavoring, so I approached Peanut Buttah Cookie Core with caution. I also wondered why we had to go with the unnecessarily dorky “Buttah”.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream Open

The only weak explanation is the description on the carton: “For p.b. fans & cookie spread-heads who want it all, here’s a flavor that delivers it, from the creamy to the crunchy to the peanutty core of crushed-cookie stuff that spreads like buttah (and tastes even bettah).” I feel like New Yorkers are going to be insulted by this mockery of their accents. Then again, they do love insults. Eeeey!

I’m happy to report that every bite of Peanut Buttah Cookie Core is the essence of all that is good about peanut butter cookies. The ice cream alone tastes like it, but I dare you to catch a bite that doesn’t contain some evenly-dispersed chunks of delicious peanut butter cookie.

The same goes for the “crunchy peanut butter sugar bits”, that strike me as more grainy than crunchy. “Grainy” doesn’t usually sound like a positive descriptor for food, but in this case it’s representative of the sugar bits that are big enough to crunch and add an extra layer of texture to the ice cream.

Ben & Jerry's Peanut Buttah Core Ice Cream Top

As for the core, it’s like the distilled essence of a peanut butter cookie. Smooth yet crunchy, cookie yet buttery, it is rich, delicious and everything that a Cookie Core should be.

I only have two complaints about Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream. The first is that it comes off as having only one note of flavor. Trust me, if you love peanut butter cookies, you’ll love this ice cream. And the various textures come through in each bite. But it lacks the mishmash of flavors that Ben & Jerry’s is so well-known for.

The second is that it’s so rich. With all that peanut butter cookie going on, after just a few spoonfuls I felt like I’d already overindulged. This may not be a problem for some, but to me, I could only eat it in small doses.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup — 320 calories, 190 calories from fat, 21 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 140 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 8% vitamin A, 10% calcium, 2% iron.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Buttah Cookie Core Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Absolute peanut butter cookie taste. EpiPens saving lives. Plentiful peanut butter cookie chunks. Wonderful blend of textures.
Cons: Bit of a one-trick pony. Mystery freezer items. Too rich for prolonged consumption. Insulting New Yorkers. Peanut allergies.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year and Papa John’s is getting into the holiday spirit.” – Press release for Papa John’s new Philly Cheesesteak Pizza

“What the hell do Philly Cheesesteaks have to do with the holidays?” – Me

Yes, Papa John’s has decided that the best way to show their Christmas/Hanukkah/whateveryoucelebrate spirit is to offer a limited-time Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Rejoice! Sound the trumpets!

Or, if you’re from Philadelphia, shake your fist angrily at yet another pizza bastardization of your beloved sandwich. At least, that’s what I imagine people from Philadelphia are doing. While they can’t seem to decide who offers the best cheesesteak within their own city, they can probably all agree that Philly Cheesesteak Pizza is bullshit.

Not that Papa John’s is the first offender in this regard, and I’m sure they won’t be the last. But they do seem especially fond of taking other foods and turning them into pizzas. The Fritos Chili Pizza had barely been released before the Philly Cheesesteak came along, and earlier this year they released a Double Cheeseburger Pizza.

Papa John’s describes their Philly Cheesesteak Pizza as “hand-tossed pizza crust layered with creamy garlic sauce, steak from the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, fresh onions and green peppers, then covered with mozzarella and provolone cheese.”

Before you oo-la-la over the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company, know that they offer bulk steak that’s been fully cooked and blast-frozen, including a Value Pack, which is described as “The economical choice—marinated with Soy Protein for maximum value.” But hey – at least it’s actually from Philly, right?

Before I get to the bad, I’ll address the good parts of the Philly Cheesesteak Pizza. Don’t worry, it won’t take too long.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Slice

The steak – sorry, the Original Philly Cheesesteak Company steak – was sliced thin and was tender; I didn’t have to wrestle with it like it was beef jerky. The onions and green peppers added a nice bit of crunch for contrast. There was plenty of gooey cheese topping the pizza.

Okay! Moving on. First off, the steak, which I would consider the most important part of the pizza, was practically tasteless. It wasn’t even salty. While the onions added a little bit of their flavor, the green peppers were tasteless, and I only knew they were on the pizza because of their color and crunch.

Papa John's Philly Cheesesteak Pizza Close-Up

The real food crime that took place here was the creamy garlic sauce. From the first bite onward, it overwhelmed the rest of the toppings. I love a good, garlicky white pie, but this sauce just made me sad. It tasted extremely over-processed and bitter.

In fact, it took me a bit to figure it out, but I was finally able to pinpoint that the most off part of it was that it had the taste of bile. I know that sounds gross and extreme, but that’s the most accurate way to describe it.

All of the toppings on Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza were tasteless or unimpressive, but the worst offender by far was that creamy garlic sauce. It took this pizza from underwhelming to straight-up unappealing. Hell, if you’re going to use a processed sauce on a cheesesteak pizza, why not just use Cheez Whiz? To state that Cheez Whiz would have improved any pizza should let you know that you should pass up on this holiday offering. Bah humbug.

(Nutrition Facts – Nutrition Facts not available on website.)

Item: Papa John’s Philly Cheesesteak Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 1 out of 10
Pros: Onions and peppers add crunch. Angry fist-shaking. Steak is tender.
Cons: Steak is generally flavorless. Peppers are flavorless. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile. Wishing there was Cheez Whiz on my pizza. Creamy garlic sauce tastes like bile.