REVIEW: Chick-fil-A Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich

Chick fil A Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich

It was a little strange to get the new summer-themed Chick-fil-A Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich on the day of an unseasonable May snowstorm in Salt Lake City, but fortunately deliciousness knows no season.

From top to bottom, the sandwich consists of a Hawaiian bun, honey smokehouse BBQ sauce, bacon with a brown sugar pepper blend, Colby-Jack cheese, grilled chicken, lettuce, and bun.

The Hawaiian bun is soft and pleasant, but I honestly didn’t notice it being too unusual for a bun. On one hand, that allowed me to appreciate the sandwich’s toppings without the bun getting in the way; on the other hand, it means it maybe didn’t need to be a special bun.

I tried to taste the barbecue sauce by itself, but much of it had soaked into the bun, so it was hard to isolate. On the sandwich, the flavor wasn’t overbearing, but it added enough of a zing to make it unlike other Chick-fil-A offerings. This sauce is different than the dipping BBQ sauce they offer —- it’s less sweet.

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I’m a fast-food heretic, because I don’t love bacon. I can take it or leave it. This bacon was of the crunchy variety, which is how I prefer it. As part of the sandwich, I didn’t notice its flavor, but it provided a nice texture. I nibbled a few pieces by themselves, and it seemed slightly more flavorful than ordinary bacon you might get elsewhere, though that might have been the sauce. If you are a bacon lover, you would want more of it than the three small pieces I got. Even I would have appreciated a little more.

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Even though the sandwich is named for the sauce and the bacon, it was the Colby-Jack cheese that stole the show. I got two slices. I don’t know whether that’s the recipe, or whether the workers didn’t want to peel them apart. Either way, I appreciated it, and the cheese melted slightly against the warmth of the meat. The flavor and the texture were both delightful.

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The chicken is grilled, probably because of the barbecue theme. It was like the chicken on all other grilled Chick-fil-A sandwiches, meaning it was as good as it gets at a fast food joint. There were no gristly pieces I had to spit out.

The lettuce is lettuce. I liked the crispness to counter the squishiness of the bun, chicken, and cheese.

When I ordered the sandwich, the cashier told me how good it was. Therefore, I expected its flavor to be much stronger. It didn’t “wow” me the way I anticipated. But if it had been stronger, I don’t think it would have been better. They got the components just right to be tasty but not overwhelming or gimmicky.

There was nothing bad about the sandwich. I felt like they played it safe, and they could have taken more risks to make an absolutely amazing item. But it works, and this might be my new favorite Chick-fil-A entrée.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 18 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1200 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.15 ($9.09 as part of a medium meal)
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tasty BBQ sauce but not too much of it. Perfectly melted Colby-Jack. Chick-fil-A chicken breast. Crunchy bacon. Soft Hawaiian bun.
Cons: The flavor of the bun and the bacon were not particularly noticeable. Not knowing whether I was supposed to have two slices of cheese. Playing it safe.

REVIEW: Hershey’s Eggs with Pretzel Bits

Hershey s Eggs with Pretzel Bits2

I’ve been insecure about eating pretzels ever since I took that university astronomy class six years ago.

One evening we had a test review session, and the TA explained, “The sun is lowest in the sky at the winter solstice.” One girl asked, in complete seriousness, “Is that in August?” She had an open bag of pretzels on her desk, so ever since that time, I’ve wondered if pretzels are the preferred snack of those who are a few stars short of a galaxy.

Nevertheless, my obsession for anything holiday related trumps my insecurities about pretzels, so here I am trying Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Eggs with Pretzel Bits.

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All of them are in the same blue wrapper, which is a bit boring in an Easter basket, don’cha think? I’m sure they did this either (a) because it’s cost prohibitive to make different wrappers for just one flavor of candy, or (b) because they want you to mix colors with their other flavors.

The answer is always money.

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When I take them out of the wrapper, my first thought is that they are ugly. They look more like footballs, complete with a seam, than they look like eggs.

But the real test comes in the eating. Are they any good?

Yes!

They have that familiar Hershey’s flavor you get in Kisses or those packages of six candy bars they sell next to the marshmallows and graham crackers. But this time, it’s crunchy. Me likey.

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I’ve let a few melt in my mouth so I can isolate the pretzel bits. I wondered if they’d be some pretzel-like imitation, but no, they’re the real deal, down to the salt. I don’t notice the salt if I crunch the whole egg at once, but with the pretzels by themselves, it’s definitely there. I can get my pretzel fix with these without feeling insecure about my knowledge of seasons.

Now, everyone knows that Hershey’s chocolate is never going to rival Cadbury Mini Eggs or Lindt bunnies. But these certainly beat those RM Palmer coins and eggs that were a staple of my childhood Easter baskets.

The biggest problem with these is their availability. I looked in nine different stores before I finally found them in the tenth. I think I encountered every other flavor on the way, but this pretzel variety is hard to find. But that’s fitting. They’re Easter eggs, after all.

(Nutrition Facts – 8 pieces – 200 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 20 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 10 oz. bag
Purchased at: Harmons
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Familiar Hershey’s chocolate with a crunch. Actual pretzels inside.
Cons: One color of wrapper. Look like ugly footballs. Hard to find. College students who don’t understand seasons and solstices.

REVIEW: Hostess Limited Edition Shamrock CupCakes

Hostess Limited Edition Shamrock CupCakes

I don’t eat green treats until after Valentine’s Day. But come February 15, I’m all about everything mint, pistachio, apple, lime, and even avocado.

(Seriously, mint is my favorite flavor, but why does “shamrock” have to mean mint? Why don’t other green flavors get to shine during March? Once I was talking about this with a college roommate, and he said, “Lime isn’t a St. Patrick’s Day flavor!” When I asked him to explain why mint was more relevant, he said that limes make him think of tropical places, whereas mint makes him think of…the Northern Hemisphere. I could tell he was just making things up at that point.)

On February 1, when I saw these Limited Edition Hostess Shamrock CupCakes, I had to have them, especially since they were the only box on the shelf, and especially since St. Patrick’s Day goodies are much rarer than their spooky, jolly, amorous, and hippity-hoppity cousins. I tucked them away until February 15 in my special drawer where the out-of-season treats wait their turn.

Hostess Limited Edition Shamrock CupCakes 2

I love how pretty these are: the familiar white squiggle on top, and this time it’s on a lovely chartreuse, with a beautiful filling to match!

I’m glad these are actually a unique flavor, not just a unique color. Only the filling has a mint flavor, as far as I can tell, and it’s subtle. You can tell it’s there, but it takes a backseat to the chocolate cake.

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That might be good if you don’t like mint, but if you don’t like it, you probably wouldn’t buy these anyway. Toothpaste-strong wouldn’t be good either, but I would have liked a mintier kick. The cake is just what you’d expect from a Hostess CupCake, soft but a little dense. The frosting is a waxy, flavorless substance.

Hostess products are hit and miss for me. I love the Pumpkin Spice CupCakes and the oft-maligned Sno Balls, but other products disappoint. They are so cute that I forget that they don’t always taste as good as they look.

So it is with this St. Paddy’s Day version of CupCakes. It’s a nice variation on the standard chocolate CupCake, but unlike the stereotypical March kite-flying weather, it won’t blow you away.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cake – 160 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 12.7 oz. box/8 cakes
Purchased at: Smith’s Marketplace (Kroger)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a standard CupCake with a bit of mint. Seasonal flavors. Lovely green.
Cons: Tastes like a standard CupCake. Mint is subtle. Waxy “frosting.” Bad puns in closing paragraphs. Why does it have to be mint for March, instead of other green flavors?

REVIEW: Malt-O-Meal Cookies and Cream Cereal

Malt-O-Meal Cookies and Cream Cereal

In the late 90s, I can remember watching The New Addams Family on Fox Kids on summer afternoons, and there were lots of Oreo O’s commercials with Bessie the cow. Until last summer, it was the only cereal I ever knew of that had a Fourth of July version. But then, as you likely know, the cereal was discontinued in the States, and everyone was sad.

Luckily, Malt-O-Meal has brought it back! Except now it’s called Cookies and Cream.

One of the requirements for reviewing this cereal was that I had to miss Oreo O’s. In full disclosure, I missed Oreo O’s before it went away. After it had been out a few years, they decided to add marshmallows to it. Even as a chubby adolescent who cared nothing about nutrition, I thought that was too much sweetness.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have any marshmallows. When I first tasted a piece dry, it totally seemed familiar, as if I’d just had Oreo O’s last week. In reality it’s been nearly two decades. So, if you miss Oreo O’s, rejoice! This is as close as it’s going to get.

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Pouring milk over them is really the way to eat it, and it tastes just like I remember. It’s one of those cereals where I feel like I could eat bowl after bowl. At the same time, though, there’s something not completely satisfying about it. Maybe it’s because it’s so airy and has giant holes in the middle, so it’s not terribly filling.

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The leftover milk looks like cookies and cream ice cream and has a sweetness to it, but not the same level of chocolatiness you’d get from Cocoa Puffs or Count Chocula.

When I brushed my teeth immediately after eating the cereal, my toothpaste spittle also looked like cookies and cream ice cream. (I was going to include a picture but decided not to. You’re welcome.)

So if you want the Oreo O’s experience again, definitely pick this up. It’s a worthy replacement.

If, however, you’ve never had Oreo O’s, it’s less important for you to try this. It’s a tasty, passable cereal, but don’t expect it to be like other chocolate cereals. It’s basically cookie-flavored Froot Loops. Does it taste like Oreos? I don’t think so, but it is reminiscent of them. And one cup of cereal still has fewer calories than two Oreo cookies.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 cup (30 grams) – 120 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1 gram of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 26 grams of total carbohydrates, less than one gram of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: $5.48
Size: 34 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like Oreo O’s. No marshmallows. Leftover milk looks like cookies and cream ice cream. Fewer calories than actual Oreos. 90s nostalgia.
Cons: Not very filling. Rough on the roof of my mouth. More sugar than most name-brand cereals. Doesn’t taste like actual Oreo cookies.

REVIEW: Brach’s Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts

Brach's Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts

Brach’s Dessert Hearts Conversation Hearts fill a niche we don’t need -— gourmet flavored chalk. (Actually, I know they’re not chalk, because I minored in geology, and coccoliths are not on the ingredient list.)

Many people hate conversation hearts. I don’t fall into the hating camp, but I do recognize that they’re far from great candy. They’re really all about Valentine’s Day tradition and nostalgia.

The yellow (“SMOOCHES,” or rather “SMOO-CHES”) is bananas foster. It has a banana note, but some other kind of flavor that I think makes it worse than plain banana would be. Bananas foster sounds like too fancy a dessert for someone who cares about conversation hearts, so they could probably make it any flavor and no one would know. If I’ve had bananas foster, I don’t remember what it tastes like.

The purplish one (“YOWZA”) is raspberry sorbet. It does taste like (fake) raspberry, but it also has a medicinal flavor to it, like cough syrup.

White (“FOR YOU”) is vanilla ice cream. I do taste a vanilla bean flavor, but it’s kind of bitter; I like real ice cream better. Vanilla is literally the simplest flavor there is. I wouldn’t say they blew it, but it could have been better.

The blue (“WINK WINK”) is blueberry pie. It also has a (fake) blueberry flavor, and some other notes that I guess could be a pie crust? This might be the most authentic one (which isn’t saying much).

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Then we get to the most annoying thing about these. There are two pinks, and they are very similar in color. It’s hard to tell them apart, especially if you’re not comparing them side by side. And the worst part is that one is the best flavor and one is the worst, so you can’t easily pick your favorites out.

The light pink (“MISS YOU”) is strawberry shortcake. It has the most desserty flavor, with a bit of strawberry and almost a buttery flavor. This one is my favorite.

The dark pink (“DREAM”) is cherry cobbler. This is the least flavorful and most medicinal one. It reminds me of those chalky Shamu vitamins I had in kindergarten.

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The primary purpose of conversation hearts is to look cute. It has never been about the flavor, so these will work just fine for most purposes, I guess. But I think you’ll be safer with more traditional flavors.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 pieces – 60 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 14 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Strawberry shortcake is a decent flavor. Valentine’s Day tradition. Cuteness. A for effort. Not really chalk.
Cons: Two similar pinks. Too similar pinks. Some words are hard to read. Ugly hyphens. Raspberry sorbet tastes like cough syrup. Cherry cobbler tastes like Shamu vitamins. Shamu vitamins.