60 SECOND REVIEW: General Mills Star Wars Cereal (2015)

Item: General Mills Star Wars Cereal (2015)
Purchased Price: $3.49
Size: 10.5 oz. box
Purchased at: Target

(Nutrition Facts – 3/4 cup cereal only – 110 calories, 10 calories from fat, 1.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 0.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 135 milligrams of sodium, 45 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, 14 grams of other carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.)

REVIEW: Burger King Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich

Burger King Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich

I’m more interested in the nutrition facts for Burger King’s Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich than the actual sandwich.

You may think because it’s fast food the nutrition numbers are high enough to cause consumers to leave angry comments on Burger King’s Facebook page. But they’re not. I’m not saying they’re healthy numbers, just low for fast food.

The new sandwich has 370 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. To give you an idea of how unusual these numbers are, a few years ago, Burger King had a Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich that had 470 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 4.5 grams of saturated fat. That’s twice the fat, almost twice the saturated fat, and 100 more calories than this new pulled pork sandwich.

Here’s another comparison. A regular Burger King hamburger has 230 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 3 grams of saturated fat. It has less calories and a little more fat. But the serving size between the two are great. The hamburger is 100 grams, while the Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich is 192 grams. Again, I’m not saying it’s healthy, it’s just unusual. Besides, the sandwich does have a fast food normal 1,290 milligrams of sodium.

The Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich comes with pulled pork in a sweet and smoky barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles on Burger King’s toasted hoagie bun.

If you’re familiar with Burger King’s previous pulled pork offerings, you might be wondering if their pulled pork still looks like clumped up wet cat hair. Oh, it does. That’s why there isn’t a photo of the sandwich split in half. If you want to see that horror, go click this “clumped up wet cat hair” link.

Burger King Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich 2

The amount of pulled pork on my sandwich was pathetic. That layer of pulled pork looks like Mr. Stingypants placed it on there. It’s disappointing compared to the mound of meat the Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich offered. Because there wasn’t a lot of meat, there also wasn’t a lot of sauce, which I guess is good if you don’t want to use more than one napkin. But extra sauce would’ve helped hide the bites of the pulled pork that were dried out.

The sweet and smoky barbecue sauce is mostly sweet and is, sadly, not the better tasting Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce used with their other sandwiches, like their great Rodeo Burger. Because there wasn’t a lot of meat and sauce, they had to battle the bun for flavor supremacy in this sandwich. Yes, the bun.

Oh, you’d think the pickles and onions would help with flavor, but they don’t. They added a slight crunch, but they didn’t add any contrast to the pulled pork. Instead whatever flavor they had, which wasn’t much, got lost among the pulled pork and bun. If it weren’t for their texture, I think most folks wouldn’t realize they were there.

I did not spit out any bites from my Burger King Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich. or throw away any fraction of the sandwich, but it’s hard for me to believe that this sandwich will leave most peoples’ taste buds satisfied. It’s not the worst menu item I’ve had from Burger King. That honor goes to the Yumbo Sadwich…I mean, Sandwich. But I don’t think it’s even interesting enough to get it with Burger King’s 2 for $5 deal.

(Nutrition Facts – 370 calories, 8 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 1290 milligrams of sodium, 55 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, 23 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Some nutrition facts are unusually low for a fast food sandwich. I did not spit it out. Since there’s not a lot of sauce, it’s a clean sandwich to eat.
Cons: Thin layer of pulled pork. Pulled pork still looks like clumped up wet cat hair. Doesn’t use the Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce used in Burger King’s other sandwiches. Last year’s Yumbo. Onions and pickles don’t help. Having to battle the bun for flavor supremacy.

REVIEW: Mountain Dew Sangrita Blast

Mountain Dew Sangrita Blast

Despite fitting perfectly into Mountain Dew’s target demographic – I was a middle schooler when extreme sports were huge and a high schooler when gaming culture went mainstream – I’ve never been a huge Dew devotee. (Dewvotee?) For whatever reason, my tastes always tended towards the cola side of things. Still, I’ll never turn down a chance to try a weird, limited edition soft drink, so here we are.

Mountain Dew’s Sangrita Blast is one of two Taco Bell-imprinted flavors freed from soda fountain exclusivity just in time for the sweltering summer months (the other being longstanding fan favorite Baja Blast).

Now I have to admit to some ignorance here: When I first picked up this soda, I was puzzled by its name. “Sangrita?” I wondered aloud. “With a T?” I figured one of two things: Either Mountain Dew was afraid of calling it Sangria Blast because people might mistake it for an alcoholic product, or the flavor was crafted as a mish-mosh of sangria and margarita flavors.

A few minutes and some light Googling later, I discovered sangrita is actually a different beverage altogether. Unlike wine-laced sangria, sangrita is an alcohol-free tequila accompaniment made from pomegranate juice, chili powder, and an assortment of other juices and spices which vary from recipe to recipe.

Reading about this popular Mexican drink, my hopes rose. Not because it sounded especially good, but because it just sounded so different. A carbonated take on a peppery, nectar-y cocktail? What a fascinating way to diversify the usually predictable Mountain Dew flavor line-up. Whether it ended up tasting good or bad, at least I knew Sangrita Blast would be interesting.

(At least, that’s what logic told me.)

Mountain Dew Sangrita Blast 2

I admired the promisingly deep, bloody red tint of the soda and cracked open the bottle top. I took a whiff, anticipating the sensation of spicy fizz tickling my nose; instead, though, I found a vague, cherry-ish scent remarkably similar to another Mountain Dew flavor, Code Red. Troubling. Still, smell doesn’t always betray taste, so I remained optimistic and took a sip.

Disappointingly, the flavor was no better. There was no trace of pomegranate, no piquant spice blend, just a bold, cherry-dominated fruit taste with mild citric undertones, sort of like a toned-down cherry limeade. Just as the smell suggested, there was little appreciable difference between Sangrita Blast and Code Red. It’s pleasantly fruity with a surprisingly light aftertaste, but talk about false advertising.

The label plainly describes it as regular Mountain Dew with “citrus punch flavor,” this is true, but if you’re naming your product after something as distinctive as sangrita, you can’t just run Hawaiian Punch through a SodaStream and call it a day. This soda isn’t bad, but it’s disappointing, which is, in a way, worse. If nothing else, I was expecting a potentially awesome hangover remedy, yet we don’t even get that – just a tame retread of an already successful flavor selection. Oh, well.

Unfortunately, I never sampled the fountain version of Sangrita Blast, so I can’t comment as to how the bottled version compares. But I can tell you while other varieties of the citrusy, over-caffeinated classic may be a Mountain Do, Sangrita Blast is most certainly a Mountain Bad. (Did I do that right?)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bottle – 270 calories, 0 grams of fat, 170 milligrams of sodium, 73 grams of carbohydrates, 72 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Mountain Dew Sangrita Blast
Purchased Price: $1.70
Size: 20 fl. oz.
Purchased at: Krauszer’s Food & Liquor
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Beautiful color. Pleasant enough take on carbonated fruit punch. Basically Code Red, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Cons: Deceptively named. Missed opportunity. Basically Code Red, if you’re not into that sort of thing.

REVIEW: Snack Pack Chocolate Fudge Pudding Bar

Snack Pack Chocolate Fudge Pudding Bars

I never thought I’d relive that fateful day.

It was my freshman year of college. I was hustling to class, doing my best to avoid being late to another midterm, when hunger pangs suddenly attacked. My midterm would take over two hours, yet I had neglected to eat anything beforehand.

Desperate, I ran to the closest location that served food – a Mediterranean-themed food truck. Because I didn’t have enough time to wait for them to reheat a plate of lamb and green leaves, I looked at the prepackaged snack foods they had on display. The cream cheese coffee cake immediately grabbed my attention.

“Wow! A delicious coffee cake with a cream cheese filling? What a novel idea!” I thought to myself. Ecstatic, I handed the vendor my two dollars, and went on my way.

It was only when I sat down and opened up my snack that I realized it wasn’t a cream cheese-filled coffee cake. Rather, it was just an ordinary coffee cake with cream cheese blended into the mix. Never had I been so utterly taken aback by a junk food’s misleading title.

Needless to say, I was much too despondent to focus on my exam, failing it just as swiftly as my coffee cake had failed me. Truly, one of my lowest lows. I swore to myself that I would bury this regretful memory, and never speak of it again.

Snack Pack Chocolate Fudge Pudding Bars 2

But then I opened up a new Chocolate Fudge Snack Pack Pudding Bar, and it all came back to me.

When I first heard of these brownies, I hoped for a soft chocolate snack with a pudding center. (And yes, I refuse to refer to these small square-ish chunks as “bars” and the back of the box uses the word “brownies” too so I’m not wrong here.) After looking at the packaging, which advertises that the pudding is, unfortunately, mixed into the batter, I braced myself. Sure, it wouldn’t be what I was expecting, but the pudding could add an interesting texture and taste to a junk food that’s hard to screw up.

Snack Pack Chocolate Fudge Pudding Bars 3

But the brownie was mediocre. A good brownie should be moist, sweet, and rich, and this was none of those things. Every bite was a dry experience. This surprised me, especially because the brownie had a pudding base, and pudding is about as liquid-y as desserts get. The chocolate flavor was unimpressive, bland, and it somehow managed to be worse than a Banquet frozen meal brownie.

But what about the pudding ingredient?

I can’t even answer that question because I have no idea if the pudding added or detracted from the experience. All I can say is that this thing, in no way, shape, or form, reminded me of pudding. Pudding is jiggly, moist, and simply fun to eat. This brownie was none of those things.

Was this snack an utter failure? No. It’s still a brownie, so it’s certainly edible, and it’s not like I gagged or lost my vision or anything. But would I buy it again?

No.

If you want the experience of a pudding brownie, buy a regular one and dunk it in some Snack Pack pudding instead.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 bar – 120 calories, 45 calories from fat, 5 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 100 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Snack Pack Chocolate Fudge Pudding Bar
Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 6 bars
Purchased at: Vons
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Edible. Light on calories, relatively speaking.
Cons: Waste of an interesting junk food concept. Where is the pudding filling? Dammit! Dry.

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.