REVIEW: Arby’s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich

On a confidence scale of 1-10, with 1 being the Browns winning the Super Bowl and 10 being the chances we get too many pumpkin spice-flavored products every fall, my confidence in Arby’s making a good chicken parmesan sandwich is about a 5.

On one hand, it’s Arby’s, which means A) It’s not Taco Bell, and B) The meat should be good. On the other hand, it’s Arby’s, which means the marinara is probably sitting in a box in the back and not simmering in a pot with fresh herbs and minced garlic while being stirred by someone’s nonna.

But then again, Arby’s new chicken parm sandwich is no ordinary one —- it’s a chicken parm sandwich with meat. Now I commend Arby’s for taking the Ron Swanson approach of eating several different animals in one bite with its Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich, but the pepperoni ruins this sandwich.

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich 2

It’s not the pepperoni’s fault, per se. I mean, we’re above Hormel quality here and under other conditions the pepperoni’s salty, unctuous flavor would be optimal. But it’s so loud and salty that it dominates each bite.

Arby s Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich 3

This is an issue because the rest of the sandwich’s components fail to stand out. The buttermilk chicken is bland, tasting mostly of soggy breading and onion powder. I expected the marinara to pick it up, but even though the much-feared saccharine tomato taste wasn’t there, the sauce was flat and (again) too salty, lacking any memorable tomato flavor.

Even the bun, which Arby’s has paired so wonderfully with various brisket and brown sugar bacon sandwiches, is just sort of there, like the mindless carbs of a forgettable bread basket at a dying chain restaurant.

The one exception is the mozzarella, which is beautifully melted to that stretchable texture and has a nuanced flavor you’d expect from a panini. But here again the pepperoni dominates, canceling out what should be a premium ingredient.

I tend to give Arby’s the benefit of the doubt, and I’m a huge fan of the quality they’ve committed themselves to. But considering the run of successful brisket, brown sugar bacon, and pork belly sandwiches they’ve strung together, the Chicken Pepperoni Parm Sandwich is a letdown.

It feels weird typing this, but this may be one case where we have the meats might be we have too many meats for our own good.

(Nutrition Facts – 610 calories, 28 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 1900 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Not want for meat. Really good melting action on the mozzarella. Moist and plump chicken breast. Marinara wasn’t horrible for fast food. Great if you love pepperoni.
Cons: Forgettable chicken. Overpowering pepperoni. Marinara sauce lacks balance. Virtually impossible to eat and not spill sauce on yourself.

QUICK REVIEW: Dairy Queen Royal Reese’s Brownie Blizzard

Dairy Queen Royal Reese s Brownie Blizzard

In the interest of full disclosure:

  • The true answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is not 42, it is in fact, peanut butter.
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the George Washington of the Candy Mount Rushmore.
  • Brownies make cake their bitch.

That should put in perspective how excited I was for the latest Royal Blizzard, and why I hope you heed my warning. Dairy Queen took the awesome Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard, tossed in average brownie pieces, and added a glob of what I can only imagine Mr. Peanut’s excrement must taste like — an incredibly cheap, artificial tasting peanut butter that is salty enough to make a 60’s Star Trek salt vampire reach for a glass of water.

The Blizzard certainly makes a good first impression with both peanut butter cups and brownie pieces giving you their best come hither from the top of the vanilla soft serve. When isolated, the brownie has a slight fudgy quality but is unremarkable in every way.

Dairy Queen Royal Reese s Brownie Blizzard 2

The Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are perfection incarnate as always, but the peanut butter core is nothing like the uniform comet shape shown online. Instead, a glob of the creamed legume rested just beneath the surface. This ended up being a blessing in disguise as, to put it bluntly, the poor distribution prevented it from entirely ruining the rest of the treat. A Reese’s-only bite is outstanding, but that entirely defeats the purpose of this Royal Blizzard.

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Be aware that while this is the October 2017 Blizzard of The Month, it has been consistently on the menu for a few months now. Regardless, don’t waste your time or extra pocket change on this one, just go with the classic Reese’s only Blizzard and BYOPB (and who doesn’t?) if you really want to add a core.

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: Small
Rating: 4 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Small) 850 calories, 370 calories from fat, 41 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 105 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 83 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.

REVIEW: Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks (Creamy Cheddar & Flamin’ Hot)

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot

The Cheetos brand has been on fire recently (pun intended, of course.) Its Mac & Cheese snacks have been rolled out at Burger King twice. There have been bizarre genius marketing tactics, like Cheetos-branded toilet paper and most recently a pop-up restaurant in New York. Since the restaurant is only a three-day event and I live hours away, though, I have to settle for the next best thing, Mac n’ Cheetos Mac & Cheese Snacks from the freezer aisle!

I tried them when they first launched at BK so I was excited to indulge again, especially with a new flavor. The shape is still a chunkily shaped cylinder with a slight curve and when preparing these snacks Frito-Lay really wants you to work for them as there are no microwave instructions. This does mean, though, that the outsides continue to be crispy and crunchy without being too greasy, which I was expecting.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 2

The insides are full of mac and cheese creamy goodness and I mean that in every sense of the word. It’s an intense cheddar cheese flavor, very rich actually, and with the pasta it does somewhat reach into being quite heavy for a small bite.

However, when it’s bordering on too much, the outside breading always counteracts to save it. They work together really well and I always got a little jolt of excitement when seeing the round end of a macaroni piece unearth itself. The Flamin’ Hot ones have the same cheesy flavor on the inside but with a nice, albeit small, kick of heat from the outside breading.

Now, you’re probably thinking, ”Wow, Leonard is really digging these. I need to stop everything and run out to find these immediately!!!!” There’s no bones about it, these are great mac and cheese snacks and if that’s all they were I would be a very satisfied repeat customer.

Mac n Cheetos Mac  Cheese Snacks  Creamy Cheddar  Flamin Hot 3

However, Chester Cheetah is on the packaging and that’s when everything starts to crumble. The shape and even coloration are very uniform, which is a stark contrast from the original Cheetos snacks. The Flamin’ Hot do get some points for being closer, though, in appearance, with an almost glowing red hue. However, they also get points docked for the spice level. They should almost be called simmering ember instead as the heat is nowhere near the level of their bagged counterpart.

Sure, these are “dangerously cheesy” on the inside but not on the outside where I really wanted them to be. In fact, I couldn’t even find any Cheetle dust on my hands after eating these, which is a signature trait of the Cheetos eating experience. Instead there were just breading particles.

On a scale of 1 to 10 for how dirty my hands were with 1 being I just laid out china for a dinner on a yacht and 10 being I just finished finger painting with a toddler, my hands were maybe only a 5. I even tried licking the breading and got no cheese flavor. I was dangerously disappointed and sad. I don’t even have orange paw-printed toilet paper to wipe away my tears.

(Nutrition Facts – About 3 pieces – Creamy Cheddar – 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein. Flamin’ Hot – 240 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 650 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $4.98 each
Size: 14.4 oz. box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Creamy Cheddar)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Flamin’ Hot)
Pros: Great generic mac & cheese snacks. Crispy outsides and creamy insides really working together. Macaroni noodles occasionally making an appearance.
Cons: No Cheetle Dust. Dangerously small resemblance to actual Cheetos snacks. NO CHEETLE DUST. Temporary pop-up restaurants that aren’t local.

REVIEW: Lay’s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips

I’m from the tri-state, so I think I’ve been exposed to good bagels in my lifetime. I’ve also been exposed to bad bagels parading themselves as good bagels. I like to think I’m a trustworthy voice when it comes to bagel quality. So, when I heard Lay’s had a new Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese chip, I had to review them.

Everything is arguably the best bagel, but they’re a mess to eat and the seeds get stuck in my teeth, so I appreciate Lay’s attempting to bring these great breakfast flavors together without the hassle.

Everything bagel chips already exist and if these taste anything like them, I’ll be more than satisfied. Also, just to let you know, I like my bagels soft and my bagel chips teeth shattering. When people ask me my favorite form of gambling, I tell them “eating bagel chips.”

Nothing about the bag’s smell screamed “everything bagel.” It just smelled like greasy kettle chips. When I buy a dozen bagels, those tend to be the dominant scent in the bag. There’s none of that here.

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips 4

They don’t look that special either. The only seasoning I could see were ACTUAL poppy seeds. Lay’s always puts flavor speckles on chips, why use actual poppy seeds? They’re the worst part of an everything bagel, and usually require floss.

As for the taste, there’s a small hint of cream cheese. Well, there’s a dairy taste at the very least, so they deliver in that department.

Beyond that, I didn’t distinguish the other elements of an everything bagel. There’s a tang at first, but it just tastes like a weak sour cream and onion. I’d let that go if the other flavors worked, but they really don’t.

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips 3

Did I taste sesame? Not really. Was there anything “bready” about these chips? Nope. “Bready” chips are probably easier said than done, but we’re talking about bagels here. These don’t taste like bagels. I stared at the bagel on the bag, and still couldn’t convince my brain.

The thing about regular kettle chips is that the main flavor is oil. The grease is overpowering unless the chip is coated in a strong flavor base, which these chips do not have. The other problem, like always, is the fact the texture is inconsistent. Some chips are perfectly crunchy while some seem like they’re five years old.

Unfortunately, these don’t deliver on the bagel promise. They remind me of really weak, stale sour cream and onion chips. There’s no chance these win the Do Us a Flavor contest.

Lay s Kettle Cooked Everything Bagel Potato Chips 5

(Nutrition Facts – about 15 chips – 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, less than 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: ShopRite
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: A strong contest choice. Cream cheese comes through. Onion and garlic are noticeable. Everything bagels are delicious. Wouldn’t necessarily be a bad chip if they weren’t falsely advertised. They taste better dipped in actual cream cheese.
Cons: Greasy kettle flavor. Weak smell. Boring looking chip. Misses on some major flavor elements. Poppy seeds.

REVIEW: Little Debbie S’mores Cake Rolls

Little Debbie S mores Cake Rolls

Every summer, s’mores fever grips the snack food aisle like a charred marshmallow to a hot skewer. But there’s a good reason only an elite corps of s’mores junk food, with S’mores Pop-Tarts as their patron saint, stick around after the last autumn bonfire is snowed out—and it has nothing to do with seasonality.

See, while any M.B.A. can throw graham, chocolate, and marshmallow flavor into a snack, it takes a wise marketer to understand that smoky, oaky, and toasted marshmallowiness is the literal and flavorful glue that holds a great s’more experience together.

Those who haven’t read Lao Tzu’s The Art of S’more end up overwhelming their treat with bland sugary fluff, a gastronomical mistake comparable to invading Russia in the winter—on two fronts. And Little Debbie’s new S’mores Cake Rolls prove this.

Little Debbie S mores Cake Rolls 2

Each individually wrapped roll is fat. I’d put their girth somewhere between “Fudgsicle” and “cartoon cigar.”

But each individually wrapped is not phat. Most of their bulk is cream filling weight, and this barely evolved Reddi-Wip is more like aerated custard than toasted marshmallow. Heavy on the fructose and vanilla, yet lightly eggy, this vapid stuff overwhelms the rest of the S’mores Cake Roll like a kid trusted to put whipped cream on his own pie slice.

Which is a shame, because the sponge cake itself is pretty tasty. It’s better than a pillowy Twinkie’s, because a S’mores Cake Roll’s namesake cake roll is denser and butterier, like a buttermilk pancake or some New Age cracker. It has tragically little baked graham flavor, and practically no honey notes, though, further downgrading S’mores Cake Rolls’ authenticity from “poorly made s’more” to “flea market bootleg s’more.”

Oh, and the chocolate? Like one of those abstract smudges on a fancy, well-plated dish, the latticed fudge on every roll is more decorative than flavorful. If you chew your roll with the vigor of a beaver who moonlights as an MLB pitcher, you can taste some generic milk chocolate notes in the aftertaste, but it’s about as compelling as coagulated Hershey’s syrup.

Which, considering how most people make their s’mores, is actually a point in Diminutive Deborah’s favor.

Little Debbie S mores Cake Rolls 3

Taken as a whole roll, these things aren’t bad. They’re just misguided. With their interesting dough, pudding-esque filling, and light icing, they taste way more like Éclair Cake Rolls than anything roasted over a fire, and I think Small Deb would’ve been better off advertising them as such to transcend the marshmallow white noise of s’mores product competition.

With their aggressively saccharine cream, smothered pancake swirls, and choco-phantoms, S’mores Cake Rolls aren’t for me. But if you’re a whipped cream whiz, éclair enthusiast, or retired clown desperately jonesing for one last pie to the face, roll on over to the snack cake aisle and get your fix.

The rest of us can try skewering a S’mores Cake Roll over the campfire to get our fix of toastiness. I apologize in advance to Smokey the Bear.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 roll – 260 calories, 11 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 3 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 120 milligrams of sodium, 30 milligrams of potassium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: 6 cake rolls (13.13 oz box)
Purchased at: Dollar General
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Hypnotic pancake cylinders. Benevolent custard spirits. Snack cake calories not counting if you’re camping. Learning that eclaire [sic] is French for “enlightened.”
Cons: Fire hoses of cloying cream. Ornamental chocolate ghosts. Geneva Convention-breaking s’more crimes. Clown junkies.