REVIEW: Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini (Canada)

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini

Do you like salt? Do you love salt? Tim Hortons Steak & Cheese Panini will test you. Even if you think you have a high tolerance for very salty foods, this one will take you to the limit; it will stare deep into your soul and find you wanting.

Just as Pizza Hut has a Meat Lover’s Pizza, this should be called a Salt Lover’s Sandwich.

The nutritional info claims it has 1440 milligrams of sodium, and as high as that is, it’s gotta be a conservative estimate. It is aggressively, unpleasantly salty.

But then again, even if it weren’t a 40 megaton salt bomb, it still wouldn’t particularly be worth eating.

Most egregiously, the name of the sandwich is pretty misleading — the meat here bares very little resemblance to anything even close to any kind of steak that I’ve ever had. It’s roast beef. That’s a small distinction, but an important one.

But I like roast beef, so who cares what they call it, right?

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini Topless

It also tastes pretty lousy. Have you ever had any bottom of the barrel supermarket cold cuts? You know, the ones that taste more of nitrates and salt than anything you’d identify as any kind of meat? That’s this “steak” in a nutshell. It’s kind of chewy and salty and there’s not much more to it than that.

The cheese was even worse; it was quite possibly the most odiously waxy processed cheese I’ve ever had.

Look, I’m aware that I’m coming off as a complete snob here, but let me make this clear: I don’t mind processed cheese. In particular, on a griddle-cooked, fast-food-style cheeseburger, it’s the only type of cheese there is; it’s perfection.

But even if processed cheese were appropriate for this sandwich (and it’s not — Cheddar or Provolone or Swiss or pretty much anything else would have worked much better), this was a particularly shoddy variety of processed cheese, with almost zero cheesy flavour.

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini Side

It wasn’t horrible in the first half of the sandwich, when it was still hot and melty. But by the time I got to the second half, the sandwich had cooled somewhat, and the cheese rapidly congealed into a plasticky morass of saltiness and agony.

And that’s pretty much all there was to this sandwich. Just salty but otherwise tasteless “steak” atop a waxy, cheese-like substance. There are red onions, and they add a little bit of crunch and a mild oniony bite, but their flavour was almost completely unable to stand up to the barrage of sodium.

I should note that I attempted to order the chipotle version of this sandwich, which also comes with a spicy chipotle sauce. In fact, I did order that sandwich — it was on my receipt and everything — but they either forgot to include that sauce, or it was so subtle that I couldn’t taste it (and certainly, that’s not altogether implausible; the panini so incredibly salty that any other flavour attempting to make a dent will get completely annihilated).

I contemplated returning at a later date and ordering another sandwich, making sure that I got the chipotle version this time. But I couldn’t. The idea of eating this again — in any form — was more than I could bear. I’m not strong enough.

And let’s face it, a sauce would have to be mind-blowingly amazing to make this sandwich even borderline edible; I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the sauce isn’t mind-blowingly amazing.

To keep this from being a complete hate-fest, I will say this: the bread was pretty good. It was perfectly toasted, with a nicely crispy exterior and a soft, fresh interior. I liked it quite a bit. I just wish it was filled with literally anything else.

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1440 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 4 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of protein.)

Item: Tim Hortons Steak & Cheese Panini
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Fresh, perfectly toasted bread. Ben Affleck gives the best performance of his career in Gone Girl (that has zero to do with this sandwich or this review, but I figured I needed at least one more pro).
Cons: Salty, otherwise flavourless “steak.” Salty, waxy processed cheese. Salt, salt, salt. Salt.

REVIEW: Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt

Some memories are best left in their own time. Case in point: Third wave ska, Disney Afternoon cartoons, JNCO pants. Let them be. Revisiting these things is a risk, a danger to the fond nostalgia they might evoke at this point in time. This is because they are objectively poor (and memories are unreliable), composed of a multitude of components and emotions, including the way we picture our younger selves—hopeful, untainted, resilient. Memories are a trick. We’re all on the same page here, right? Memories are a trick. Got it? Good.

Cue the time machine. Sometimes it’s a phone booth, sometimes it’s a DeLorean, and sometimes it’s a British phone booth. In this case it’s a supermarket freezer, packed full of frozen treats, yearning to be consumed. The colorful packaging displaying giant carb pills chock full o’ meat ‘n dairy tantalize and beckon, ready to send you back ten, fifteen, twenty years. Whatever you like, master. Look, it’s even a fixed run! Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt. What a beaut.

Remember Hot Pockets?

Flaky crust injected with beef or pork — an inside-out pizza, a sandwich with no edges. An afternoon treat before soccer practice, or during a Mortal Kombat II jam sesh. Enjoyed with a cold Fruitopia. Mom, stop trying to make phone calls, I’m on AOL! Aw, man I got Hot Pocket all over my hip-hop Looney Toons t-shirt. I know, I know. We just went over this. Memories are lies, yeah yeah. … Eff it, we’re going back! It’s a time machine, bro. You can’t not go. It’s a time machine. Don’t be lame. Let’s do it. Start it up!

The Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt sucks. The box promises Angus beef, portabella mushrooms, provolone and mozzarella and “soft-baked bread.” The bread is soft, yes, sort of like a ciabatta or something. It’s also super soggy after the requisite minute and fifty seconds in the microwave. Maybe there’s a conventional oven plan we can put this on? The box has no instructions for that. All the best, we’ve seen microwavable burritos. We don’t have 40 minutes to sit around waiting for a Hot Pocket to thaw.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt Innards

There are a few hits of “premium meat” flavor and mushroom taste, which is somehow immediately fleeting, taken over by steaming hot filling that tastes like nothing. The photo on the box is stuffed with beef and cheese, and the bisected reality is one of a space worm from Dune that feeds on bad choices and nostalgia. The beef on the box is sliced and layered. The beef in the actual pocket is chopped into bits, resembling the leftover bits from a deli slicer. Even the box has memories that lie.

Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt Closeup

The worst part is that it’s not substantial at all. It barely registers as a snack. If you’re not gonna make it good to eat at least food coma us so we can dream about a Hot Pocket that is satisfying on some level. It was a bad omen when taking it out of the microwave, the Hot Pocket looked like a pet gerbil that had made a doodie mess out of its backside all over the plate. It looked shameful, like it had made a mistake. It’s not your fault, though. The mistake was all ours.

As the time travel effects wear off and we slingshot back to the present, we see a whirlwind of our past: First girlfriend, favorite teacher, Chuck Berry’s cousin Marvin Berry, wife of multiple time travelers Rachel McAdams. Reflecting on our trip, Prophet Gaffigan was right. We should have never gone back. Now the entire past is up for scrutiny. Maybe everything in the past sucks, except for Batman the Animated Series, Starter jackets, and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The question is: Did the Hot Pocket get worse, or was it never good in the first place? The answer doesn’t matter. In 2014, it’s garbage. We’re all about e-cigs, Teslas, and Google Glass now. Perhaps it was a fine product for children. But we’re adults. We’ve had sushi. We’ve eaten Ethiopian food. This is not for us anymore. Forget it, Jake. It’s Hot Pockets.

(Nutrition Facts – 270 calories, 90 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 490 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Hot Pockets Limited Edition Angus Beef Melt
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 2 sandwiches/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Very cheap at a buck a piece. Maybe one bite of okay flavor.
Cons: Not substantial. Contents eventually taste like nothing, like a waste of product. Should be at least filling if not tasty, but is neither.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Sausage Breakfast Burrito

Taco Bell Sausage Breakfast Burrito Outside

The breakfast burrito encompasses everything that is a guilty pleasure. Eggy richness covered with melty cheese and salty bits of luscious fatty meat, all wrapped in a convenient flour tortilla. Like a grilled cheese sandwich, it echoes comfort and its simple ingredients combine together to create a complex equation of deliciousness.

Long story short, a breakfast burrito (like a grilled cheese) balances on a thin line between awesome and Shitsville.

Taco Bell has toyed with the idea of a breakfast menu longer than Dan Aykroyd has tinkered with endless versions of Ghostbusters III. I remember when I was an undergrad, the Taco Bell in the student union had makeshift breakfast burritos with tater tots, eggs, and cheese in them. I have no idea if these were sanctioned or official but I knew I ate those bastards without consideration to anything, including my girlfriend’s stupid vegan rule.

Every time I heard Taco Bell was testing its breakfast menu, I would pray to the Bell loudly that Orlando would be chosen, but to no avail. And now a few years or so, everyone gets their chance to partake in this once mythical menu.

We all know by 2032, as Demolition Man taught us, that Taco Bell wins the fast food wars; sex involves no touching and sleek headgear; and Wesley Snipes did more than skipping out on taxes. I’m going to make an educated guess that the breakfast burrito was not one of the contributions that led Taco Bell to win that war.

Taco Bell Sausage Breakfast Burrito Inside

As soon as I bit into the burrito, I knew I made a mistake larger than the last woman who dated Chris Brown. Cheap shot aside, the eggs were chalky and powdery tasting. Normally in a breakfast burrito, the eggs are the binding ingredient that amplifies the other flavors. However, this egg was gritty, bland and just sat there like it gave up on doing much.

Taco Bell states you get a “double portion of fluffy scrambled eggs.” They couldn’t even get that right because my portion was more like Keira Knightly-sized, let alone fluffy.

Collapsing even further was the dreadful, droopy and less than present flavor of the cheddar cheese. There is more cheese flavor to be found if you sucked your cousin’s fingers after they ate a bag of cheese puffs. The cheddar cheese was mostly crusted up which only served to emphasize the boring and apathetic eggs.

You do get a choice of bacon or sausage for your breakfast burrito. I decided on sausage to avoid the old trap that bacon makes everything taste better. It does not…but in any case, I just wanted to stay away from the sweet crispy lull of bacon.

The sausage was as depressing as the rest of the other elements. It was like Ron Jeremy. Greasy, hard in some parts, and unpleasantly fatty. The sausage was also dull and devoid of the punch of spices we are accustomed to in fast food sausage.

To call this a letdown is as much as an understatement as if I said, “I’m sad” after catching my wife getting jackhammered by the mailman. I was in disbelief that a chain that can make fast food burritos well, screwed up this badly. I think if I chewed on my Fleshlight, there would be more flavor.

What about the positives? Frankly, the only one I can think of is that it’s served until 11:00am, or at least the one in my area. The flour tortilla kept everything warm, so I suppose that’s a mediocre plus.

I have a rule that has guided me very well in general regarding going out to eat. If a restaurant can’t make a staple dish well, most likely the rest of their menu is going to suck. For example, if you go to a Chinese restaurant and the egg rolls or fried rice are damn awful, you can bet the Peking duck is going to flatline harder than M. Night Shyamalan’s most recent movie. I mean if you go to your neighborhood Italian restaurant and the eggplant parmesan tastes like crap, do you really think the kitchen can handle the acqua pazza? Hell no!

Taco Bell Sausage Breakfast Burrito

Bottom line, Taco Bell couldn’t make their breakfast burrito rise like a morning woodster, which stinks because I am less enthused about trying their other breakfast offerings. This review made me realize two things. One, I think I’ll stick to what Taco Bell knows best, the “fourth” meal that comes after a night of hard drinking involving lots of scotches and martinis. Two, movies based on the future are stupid lies.

(Nutrition Facts – 470 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 210 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 14 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Sausage Breakfast Burrito
Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: It’s served until 11:00 a.m. The flour tortilla keeps everything nice and warm. The girlfriend who is now my wife. Makes you appreciate the regular menu. Wesley Snipes in Expendables III (it’s not out but who cares, that movie looks awesome!!!)
Cons: That they serve this at all. The gritty eggs. The flavorless cheddar cheese. The girlfriend who made me eat vegan foods. The grizzle of the sausage. Wesley Snipes in Blade III.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza

Being fortunate enough to live in an area with a large number of mom ‘n’ pop pizza shops, I’ve seen the cheeseburger pizza road before. (But not an actual Cheeseburger Pizza Road – if I saw that, I would move there immediately.)

I’ve found that small pizza joints tend to have a wider variety of toppings and, thus, a wider variety of specialty pizzas, ranging from cheeseburger to taco to gyro to something with pine nuts and Hoisin sauce. Okay, I made up the last one, but it’s not out of the question.

Comparatively, most chain specialty pizzas and toppings in general are pretty pedestrian. I consider myself lucky if I can even get white sauce as an option. If they do decide to branch out, it tends to be towards Crazy Town, like shoving hot dogs or seven different cheeses into their crusts. In fact, a lot of the insanity in chain specialty pizzas involves shoving shit into the crust. I’m looking at you, Pizza Hut.

Papa John’s went a different direction with their Double Cheeseburger Pizza, however. They put the crazy on top, not in the crust.

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza Slice

Here’s what Papa John’s has to say about the Double Cheeseburger Pizza: “Featuring a zesty burger sauce covered with a double layer of 100% real beef, dill pickle slices, fresh cut roma tomatoes and 100% real cheese made from mozzarella.”

I have several points of contention with this description. Let’s start with the burger sauce.

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza Burger Sauce

First off, the words “zesty burger sauce” are both generic and sound like they should be about five miles away from my pizza. Upon tasting, I uphold this idea. On its own, the flavor of the sauce was distinctly mayo mixed with ketchup, aka the poor man’s Thousand Island dressing. Call me crazy, but fresh-from-the-oven hot mayonnaise is not appealing.

Next we have the double layer of real beef. “Double layer” is a questionable quantity, and that really showed here, as I found the beef pieces to be rather sparse. Furthermore, the pieces of beef were small and remarkably flavorless, which is a bad trait for a pizza that’s supposed to taste like a burger.

Papa John's Double Cheeseburger Pizza Pickles

The tomatoes and cheese were just fine, but the real issue was the pickles. While the beef had a weak showing, the pickles certainly made up for it in spades. It appeared that Papa John’s used the same pickles you’d find on a regular fast-food burger, which sounds promising on paper but did not translate at all to a burger party in my mouth.

I could not escape the pickles. There was a slice in every bite. After I’d done my duty for the purposes of this review and eaten the pizza as-is, I tried removing the pickles in an attempt to have a slice of pizza that did not taste like a jar of brine. It was impossible. Even with the pickles themselves gone, the juice had been absorbed deep into the crust.

I would like to officially rename Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza to Papa John’s Precariously Plentiful Pickle Pizza. With sad beef, warm mayo sauce, and so many brined cucumbers that it made me want to make about 15 Pickles the Drummer jokes throughout this review, I cannot in good conscience call this a cheeseburger pizza.

To use a forced basketball analogy, Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza needs to work on its fundamentals. For right now, I’m benching it.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 260 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, 8 grams of protein.)

Item: Papa John’s Double Cheeseburger Pizza
Purchased Price: $6.00 (on sale: regular price $12)
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: I got it for 50 percent off. The tomatoes and cheese were fine. Metalocalypse. I only ordered a small. If you put pickles on everything you eat, this is your dream come true.
Cons: Pickles overtook everything. A chain restaurant that left the crust alone but still made an awful specialty pizza. Warm mayo/ketchup sauce. I wish I was actually good at basketball. The double serving of burger was a double serving of sadness.

REVIEW: Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt

Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt 1

We live in an interconnected world. Elvis walked into the White House and shook Nixon’s hand. Abbott and Costello met Frankenstein. Steve Urkel annoyed both Uncle Jesse and Patrick Duffy. I once sat in a Ford Explorer with Eddie Bauer logos on it. We’re all star stuff, guys. It’s exciting.

When titans meet, it’s a reminder that we’re all on the same team, that we all indeed occupy the same universe. Tommy Lee Jones was Al Gore’s college dorm mate, y’all. Betty Crocker uses Hershey chocolate in its mixes! The Justice League fought the Avengers. Doritos Locos Tacos!

So when Subway unveiled its Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt, I was eager to get one in my maw. I mean, I had already been manually putting chips on my sandwich for years. Wait. Sorry. We’ve already been manually putting chips on our sandwiches for years. (Right? Right?! High fives all around.) Now two giant corporations are joining forces to put chips on a sandwich.

They have research teams and focus groups and everything. This thing should be a masterpiece. I bought a lobster bib and scratched out the picture of a lobster and replaced it with a drawing of a smiling lobster eating a sandwich with chips on it. I’m ready. I’m cheering in my seat.

Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt 5

Unfortunately, I am loath to report that Subway and Frito-Lay came together and birthed the half-breed antichrist of sandwiches. It gurgled and writhed in pain and asked me to put it out of its misery, and after I ate it, I asked the same of myself.

The tragic journey begins in the Subway assembly line. “I want to make it look like the poster,” I say. The sandwich artist grumbles something incoherent and conjures a foot-long flatbread from the ether. The chicken comes pre-sauced and looks all wet. Two (2!) small bags of Fritos are dumped onto the sandwich. “Whoa, I’ve never seen that before,” cries out the guy behind me in line. Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles are the ingredients I saw on the poster, so that’s what I get.

Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt 4

The Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt looks weak. The flatbread gives it a limp disposition, and it’s wider than the regular loaves, so the ingredients look scattered like they were dumped into the bottom of a garbage can. Taking the first bite, though, is not bad. The flatbread is chewy and floury like a pita. Going forward, however, the hot part of the sandwich has warmed over the should-be-cold lettuce and tomato (Gross!). The slightly sour pickles tasted out of place in what is, I guess, a Subway version of a soft taco.

The barely spicy enchilada sauce on the chicken has rendered the chicken tasteless—the protein is purely there for texture. Worst of all, the Fritos have strangely become soggy in the five-minute journey from bag to sandwich to mouth. It kind of tastes like if you crushed up a Double Decker Taco Supreme (with chicken, hold the sour cream) into a sandwich bag and then left it in the sun for an hour. The sickly nuclear warmth of the concoction stuck to my stomach for a good 45 minutes.

Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt 3

Elvis died on a toilet and Nixon had to resign from being president. Frankenstein has to be depicted in I, Frankenstein. Steve Urkel never worked again. Eddie Bauer filed for bankruptcy. Titans meet but sometimes the story doesn’t always have a happy ending. Sometimes it’s more like when Freddy meets Jason or when Alien fights Predator, or like whenever they try to make a movie with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Sometimes it just ruins chips on a sandwich.

(Nutrition Facts – 6 inch sandwich – 580 calories, 240 calories from fat, 26 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 1170 milligrams of sodium, 60 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 25 grams of protein.)

Item: Subway Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt
Purchased Price: $6.50
Size: Footlong
Purchased at: Subway
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Flatbread was flat, chewy.
Cons: Fritos do not stand up well to sauce. Pre-sauced meats at Subway are all gross. Cold parts of sandwich were warm. Badly constructed, looks like a mess.