REVIEW: McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Do you like plain things? Is average your goal in life? Do you adorn your car with rejected foodeism bumper stickers such as, “Bacon Makes Only a Select Few Things Better,” or “Please Pass the Crackers But Not the Cheese.” Are you frequently drawn to buzz words that are three years out of style? If so, then the new McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich might be for you.

It didn’t have to be this way. Contrary to popular belief, a grilled chicken sandwich isn’t predestined to damnation on fast food menu boards.

Often mocked as a dry alternative to beef for those watching their waistline, its real problem, if you ask me, is more the off-putting chewy texture and brothy taste fast food companies use to guard against the dry and insipid stereotype. That and the five worst words in the history of the English language: Chicken Breast with Rib Meat.

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 2

The new “Artisan” chicken sandwich supposedly leverages a fresher take on the traditional chicken breast, one “free of preservatives and artificial flavors“ and including a seasoning blend of “salt, garlic and parsley.” A vinaigrette, Brioche-style bun, and the proverbial tomato and leaf lettuce round out the party, which is one of the calorically lighter offerings on McDonald’s menu. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least flavorful.

Having enjoyed McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Grilled Chicken Sandwich for some time now, I had high hopes for the synergy of the new buns and the new chicken. It certainly looks like a better product than previous McDonald’s grilled chicken sandwiches, although pegging it as “Artisan” is about as accurate as labeling McDonald’s “fine-dining.”

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 3

Not surprisingly, the sandwich really misses the bacon, cheese, and grilled onions that the Bacon Clubhouse version of the grilled chicken has. Mostly, the Artisan Chicken tastes boring and plain. The chicken isn’t dry, but it has a stringy interior and still suffers from a somewhat chewy texture, perhaps accentuated by an overly basted coating of the olive oil mixture McDonald’s prepares it with. Worse yet, there’s a fake butter flavor which predominates the toasted bun, which in my case was slightly burnt on both sides.

The vinaigrette is somewhere between gloopy and runny. It has a flat garlic and oil taste with very weak hints of citrus, but it really doesn’t carry a connotation of light or fresh. It was just kind of there, and if anything it’s more an annoyance because it sogs up the bottom bun, which causes it to squirt out from the sandwich and onto my pants when I take a bite from it. The bun’s taste was okay aside from the fake buttery flavor, but it felt small in containing the chicken breast, and wasn’t sweet or rich enough to balance out the sandwich’s other components.

McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich 4

If there’s one overwhelmingly positive aspect about the sandwich, it’s that its lower-calorie status makes one feel less guilty when downing it with a large combo meal. Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot to get excited about, and nothing comparatively “artisan” about it. It’s good to see McDonald’s revving up menu developments again after slashing a number of items earlier in 2015 (RIP: Southern Style Chicken) but in this case it’s going to take more than overused buzzwords to win my approval.

(Nutrition Facts – 360 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Decently fresh produce. Not dry. Good source of protein. Less guilt when eaten as part of a large combo meal.
Cons: Fake butter flavor. Doesn’t actually taste grilled. Stringy chicken. Kinda slimy, actually. No wow factor.

REVIEW: Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Cherry Starburst Gum

Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Cherry Starburst Gum

Over the past ten days, I’ve been trying to make Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Cherry Starburst Gum smell like vomit. I imagine two thoughts are popping up in your head right now. Why? And why don’t you just vomit on them to make them smell like vomit?

Why am I doing this? I’m doing it because a number of folks have left comments with our original post about the gum saying the Cherry flavor smells like vomit. I should note there’s also a strawberry flavor, but there haven’t been complaints about it smelling like puke.

So over the past ten days I’ve had this pack of gum either in my pocket or desk drawer, trying to bring out its worst. I even slept with it, hoping my body heat trapped under a blanket would activate something. But I have yet to be successful and the gum continues to smell like Cherry Starburst.

So far I’ve gone through nine of the 15 red sticks in the pack. And after chewing those sticks made of sorbitol, gum base, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, malic acid, citric acid, mannitol, sucralose, acesulfame K, fumaric acid, red 40, red 40 lake, aspartame, and BHT, I think Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Cherry Starburst Gum is great…for a few fleeting moments.

Wrigley's Juicy Fruit Cherry Starburst Gum Closeup

The first couple of chews don’t remind me of Cherry Starburst, but by the third, it has that familiar candy flavor. I’m amazed this gum’s flavor is spot on. It’s like I’m chewing on a softer Cherry Starburst, and I want to swallow it.

But I don’t because all that wonderful flavor is gone within two minutes, and my desire to swallow it is replaced by the urge to spit it out. It goes from flavorful to flavorless in an amount of time I’ve only experienced with Fruit Stripe gum. The gum loses it’s flavor so quickly that I think it takes me longer to eat an actual Cherry Starburst candy.

While this gum tastes like Cherry Starburst, its short lasting flavor and the possibility of it smelling like barf will stop me from buying another pack.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 stick – 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, 2 grams of sugar alcohol, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit Cherry Starburst Gum
Purchased Price: $1.12
Size: 15 sticks/pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Even though it’s sugar-free, it tastes like Cherry Starburst. Soft chew.
Cons: Flavor doesn’t last very long. Might smell like vomit. Sleeping with gum.

REVIEW: Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato

Few people recognize cookie dough’s versatility.

Your kids ate all the Play-Doh? Give those rascals some cookie dough. Out of plumber’s putty? Use a bit of cookie dough to fix that leaky faucet. Need a quick stuffing for your Thanksgiving turkey? Shove some cookie dough up its poultry-hole and call it a day.

Maybe none of those are good ideas. Maybe Google Image searching “poultry-hole” wasn’t a good idea either. Maybe I’m unsure how to transition from talking about turkey orifices to gelato, so I’m just going to pretend I never wrote these first two paragraphs and start over. Were you expecting Pulitzer Prize writing here? Because I’m pretty sure any writer who uses the word “poultry-hole” more than twice is instantly disqualified, and I just hit number three.

One of seven new Talenti flavors for 2015, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough seduced me with visions of a cookie dough gelato base speckled with plenty of chocolate chips. Due to the container’s lack of a description aside from the flavor’s title and ingredients list, this is what I was expecting.

I was wrong.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 2

Instead, this flavor features a vanilla bean gelato with swirls of dark butter fudge, mixed with bits of chocolate chip cookie dough.

Sugary sweet in scent, the vanilla gelato base possesses the strong vanilla flavor and subtle bitterness of a vanilla extract — different, but not undesirable. The fudge swirls’ sharp cocoa flavor alludes to watered-down chocolate syrup, but winds up choked by the potent vanilla gelato.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 3

Worst of all, the cookie dough bits are the Waldo of this flavor; I’m looking, but I just can’t seem to find ‘em. After consuming more than half the pint, I had encountered around five chunks of cookie dough. Their chocolatey, brown sugar flavor suggests a spot-on rendition of cookie dough, but what’s the point if they’re barely present?

At least I can say one good thing about this gelato: according to the Talenti website, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor is both kosher and vegetarian. Rest assured, people. You will find no meats inside this pint. You won’t find very much cookie dough either. Hrmph.

Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato 4

For a flavor titled “Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough,” the cookie dough really seems to take a backseat here. This flavor needs at least twice as much cookie dough to live up to its name. Frankly, Talenti’s new Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough gelato feels more like a pint of glorified vanilla ice cream.

This is one dessert I’ll be keeping out of my poultry-hole, I mean, mouth-hole.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Item: Talenti Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Gelato
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Stop & Shop
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Gelato flavor is similar to vanilla extract. Kosher and vegetarian. No meat inside here.
Cons: Fudge swirls are choked by vanilla flavor. Very few cookie dough bits. Excessive use of poultry-hole.

REVIEW: Mountain Dew Kickstart Hydrating Boost (Pineapple Orange Mango and Strawberry Kiwi)

Mountain Dew Kickstart Hydrating Boost

When I saw the bizarre, trippy commercial for Mountain Dew Kickstart Hydrating Boost energy drinks during the Super Bowl, I got pretty excited. An energy drink with some kind of hallucinogen in it? WOOHOO! Well, at least that’s what the commercial led me to believe, but I was intent on finding out for myself.

The description on the bottles are kind of interesting. Flavored sparkling juice beverage blend from concentrate with other natural flavors. I was under the impression it was a normal energy drink, but right away I noticed they weren’t as acidic and sugary as others on the market.

It has coconut water, contains 10 percent juice, and with the can being only 12 ounces and 60 calories per can, it’s definitely healthier than a lot of other energy drinks.

It comes in two flavors, Energizing Strawberry Kiwi and Energizing Pineapple Orange Mango. Did they really need to use the word “energizing?” I mean, it’s called Kickstart, and it’s sold amongst other energy drinks. And they use the same term on both flavors. They should use different ones, like, I don’t know, “Pump You Up Strawberry Kiwi.” Just my thoughts.

Mountain Dew Kickstart Hydrating Boost Orange Pineapple Mango

Pineapple Orange Mango beats out Strawberry Kiwi big time in the taste department. It has three fruit flavors, and though you might think something would get lost in the mix, all three flavors actually come through, with pineapple and orange being the most prominent. It drinks like a mix between a soda and a sparkling juice, and isn’t as carbonated as much as normal energy drinks are. It was very pleasant to drink.

The cans say, “with just the right amount of KICK” because they have 68 milligrams of caffeine.

But they don’t say anything about containing acid or some other drug that will make my cat dance or my statues come to life and have deep philosophical conversations with me, but I saw the commercial. I know what’s going on here.

Mountain Dew Kickstart Hydrating Boost Strawberry Kiwi

The Strawberry Kiwi was kind of weak. I really just tasted strawberry, and since the flavor wasn’t nearly as potent as the Pineapple Orange Mango, the carbonation is more noticeable and it just doesn’t work as well as its companion flavor.

Both contain coconut water, but it must not be much. I couldn’t taste a hint of the distinctive flavor in either. But I’m not really complaining, as coconut water doesn’t have the greatest taste.

I drank half of each so I could see what was up with the energy boost I was supposed to receive, but honestly I didn’t really get too much of the kick I was promised. Now you may drink this and get a decent kick, but it didn’t do much for me.

But despite the lack of boost, I did find the hydrating part to be true. I would normally stay away from an energy drink if I needed a thirst quencher, but these drinks were darn refreshing.

As for the hallucinating… well, it never came. That commercial was so misleading. Promising me free drugs in a can that would make me dance and hallucinate, on top of giving me an energy boost. And what do I get? Nothing. Well, I did get a tasty Pineapple Orange Mango drink that I would have again. And I gained the knowledge that Strawberry Kiwi isn’t worth my time.

But most importantly, I realized that you shouldn’t seek out hard drugs inside cans of Mountain Dew energy drinks. You should just call your shady friend Peanut and see if he’s currently in or out of jail and whether or not he can hook you up.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 ounces – 60 calories, 0 grams of fat, 130 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of sugar, 0 grams of protein, 68 milligrams of caffeine, 0 grams total fat, 130 mg of sodium, 15 grams total carbohydrate, 14 grams sugars, 0 grams protein, 68 milligrams of caffeine, 75% vitamin c, 60% niacin, 60% vitamin b6, 45% pantothenic acid, 10% phosphorous. Strawberry Kiwi – )

Item: Mountain Dew Kickstart Hydrating Boost
Purchased Price: 2/$3.79
Size: 12 oz. can
Purchased at: Gulf Gas Station
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Pineapple Orange Mango)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Strawberry Kiwi)
Pros: Pineapple Orange Mango was quite tasty. Less sugary and acidic than typical energy drinks. Only 60 calories per can. Having a shady friend named Peanut.
Cons: Strawberry Kiwi was pretty weak. Drinks did not offer much of a kick. Misleading commercials. Having a shady friend named Peanut.

REVIEW: Arby’s Jalapeño Hushpuppies

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies

Deep inside an underground bunker somewhere near Pocatello, Idaho, the nation’s preeminent potato growers and their army of lobbyists recently gathered. The following is an unconfirmed transcript of the meeting that followed. Names have been modified to protect the innocent.

Derek J. Russet, Chairman of the Confederacy of Potato Advocates: Ladies and gentlemen. We gather today amidst news that threatens the very existence of our industry. Reports indicate one of our longtime allies in the fast food world has threatened to disown the humble spud as a side item.

Silence

Russet: Yes, it’s true, and I’m afraid it’s not the usual challenge from the Onion Ring Hegemony again. Thankfully Burger King continues to showcase the alliance of alliums in an objectionable light, but this new threat is much greater.

Timothy L. Fingerling, CFO: Sir, surely our market share can withstand a minor blip. Our research has long indicated customers sometimes go for so-called ‘healthier options,’ but once the New Year’s Resolution high subsides, they’ll return to their french fries and chips with renewed vigor.

Russet: I do not know, Fingerling. Reports are still vague, but apparently Arby’s has introduced Jalapeño Hushpuppies as part of their limited time only, pre-Lent menu. Hushpuppies…with fish! The nerve of these people. What would our English brethren and their fish and chips say? In any event, knowing how trendy Southern food is and how customers are always begging for something to set their mouth on fire, this is a threat we cannot overlook. Dare I say it, if these are successful, we could see multiple fast food companies ditching fries for balls of fried cornmeal in no time.

Gasps!

Amanda W. Yukon, Director of Nefarious Tuber Operations: Not so fast, sir. I have firsthand reports on the quality of these hushpuppies, straight from one of my freelance field operatives. In my hands is an intelligence estimate courtesy of Lawrence Sweet, who has just eaten at Arby’s.

Fingerling: By all means, Ms. Yukon. Major Sweet is one of most trusted and objective operatives. If it weren’t for his work on those Arby’s Cheddar Pretzel Nuggets during the spring, we would have never been able to sabotage them with laxative inducing cheese sauce. Please, read the report.

Yukon: He begins as follows: “I entered Arby’s with an open mind. My love of potatoes aside, I’ve traveled to the Gulf Coast in the past and have frequently eaten, and enjoyed, hushpuppies. There’s just something so perfect about them, so distinctly Southern in their crispy outside texture, moist interior, and tangy sweetness. Given how well Arby’s has done some other regional specialties like brisket, I expected these to be a worthy rendition.”

Silence permeates the room, broken only by a few nervous clicks of someone’s pen.

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies 2

Yukon: He continues: “I was pleased to find the hushpuppies crisp and non-too greasy, but an almost blackened color was cause for concern. A cornbread batter can be unforgiving for a fry cook, and the blistered craters, while perhaps making a fine 1:100,000,000 scale model for an asteroid, revealed they might’ve spent too much time in the fryer. Not surprisingly a burnt flavor was impossible to overcome on first bite, although a mild and moist cornbread filling did dissipate the burnt exterior somewhat.

Arby's Jalapeno Hushpuppies 3

Still, there was something off about the flavor. The jalapeños were immediately noticeable, but instead of a spicy bite, the small chunks carried a bitter and vegetal flavor. They tasted old and canned, while the chunks of corn also had a dulled, diluted flavor which wouldn’t win a taste test with Del Monte.”

Russet: Interesting. So they’ve not only botched the execution, but used sub-par ingredients. But everyone knows even a limp French fry can be resuscitated with Heinz or Fry Sauce. I’m still unconvinced these aren’t a threat.

Yukon:/b> I think we’re safe on that front too, sir. Sweet reports there’s no natural pairing for hushpuppies. They should have enough balance in the buttermilk tang, the corn sweetness, and the heat of the seasoning to be eaten on their own. Even ketchup can’t save them, and Sweet thinks ketchup is good on everything. Besides, he claims they’re too small to leave customers happy. And obviously, they lack the appeal of a curly fry.

Fingerling: Dare I say we’ve dodged a bullet! Once again, fast food has outthought itself.

Russet: Indeed. Send our thanks to Sweet, Yukon. Arby’s Jalapeño Hushpuppies won’t satisfy those longing for a homemade taste of the Gulf Coast, and pose little long-term threat to the supremacy of the spud.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 hushpuppies – 290 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 790 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 gram of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Arby’s Jalapeno Hushpuppies
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: 5 pieces
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Mainstream fast food embracing a taste of the south. Crunchy exterior and moist cornbread-like interior. Real whole kernel corn and jalapeños in batter. Moderate and building back-heat. The survival of the potato industry.
Cons: Tiny and hard as a rock. Burnt flavor overpowers the cornmeal. Bitter, vegetal-like quality to the jalapeños. Corn kernels taste dull and canned. Lacks obvious condiment pairing. Freelance work for world potato cabals.