REVIEW: Sprite Blast

Sprite Blast

There’s a Mitch Hedberg joke from the early 2000s.

“They say the recipe for Sprite is lemon and lime. But I tried to make it at home—there’s more to it than that. ‘Want some more homemade Sprite?’ Not ‘til you figure out what the f*** else is in it!”

It’s true. Homemade Sprite sounded impossible in 2003, when that joke was recorded for Hedberg’s second stand up album. Fast forward about a decade and homemade soda machines are in all the hippest kitchens, yet if someone yelled from the other room “Hey, man, what do I put into this thing to make Sprite?” my answer would probably end up being “Let’s just go buy some Sprite,” followed up with a 20-minute conversation about the time Rufio from Hook rapped in a Sprite commercial. Bangarang.

Sprite does feature that lemon-lime logo and, if I’m remembering correctly, advertisements in the 90’s with wet, airborne lemons and limes. But for a drink so closely associated with citrus, it lacks any sour bite whatsoever. Enter Sprite Blast. This is an iteration of the drink that tastes like it was possibly made with actual sour ass fruit, or at least the sugar they sprinkle on sour worms.

The fizz is typical of Sprite, seemingly softer than actual Coke, and sets the table for a mouth puckering that never comes. Sprite Blast has a slight sour jab that stimulates the roof of the mouth and tingles the top of the throat and never overwhelms, or whelms even. The American palate is not acclimated to sour tastes, sure. The only sour-tasting foods I can name have “sour” already in the name: Sour cream, sour pickles, sweet and sour sauce, sour grapes.

The one I most engage with is sour grapes, and that’s not even a food. I’m a master rationalizer, and didn’t really want to be a stupid astronaut anyway. It just seems like a lot of work. But Sprite Blast’s flavor is a bit anemic, even for sour neophytes. And it doesn’t necessarily play with the sugar in the drink that well either. The flavor doesn’t lilt at the end in concert with the sweetness, like a Sour Patch Kid. It just sorta lays there in your mouth like a stoned roommate. The drink is buffed of any extremes, like a mass-produced, focus-grouped product and mostly serves as a reminder of how freaking sweet regular Sprite is.

Sprite Blast 2

Sprite Blast comes in tiny 7.5-ounce cans for some reason, and I can’t figure out why. Maybe it costs that much more to produce the drink, or Coca-Cola wanted to visually differentiate it from other sodas on the shelf, but I keep searching for the “real” reason, like the can makes a particularly good bong or it can be easily fashioned into fireworks. Maybe 7.5 ounces of liquid is the perfect amount for some sort of alcoholic mixed drink, or codeine-cocktail krokodil. Maybe it fits easily into a regulation muffler, or into a body cavity.

Whatever the reason, the amount is about three-fourths a regulation soda but goes down like a shot. It’s so tempting to go “Woo!” right after and then huck the can across the room, like I just pledged some sort of dumb lemon-lime frat. Guys, tomorrow night we kidnap Sierra Mist’s mascot, which is actually a lonely guy wandering around Albertsons buying discount snacks for an ill-attended poker night.

The other thing about Sprite Blast is that it’s a 7-Eleven exclusive. Know this: Nobody is going to 7-Eleven just for Sprite Blast, which makes me think it’s there to pair well with something else. To be honest, I do think it would complement some 7-Eleven delicacies. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Pork rinds. Those gross-looking Doritos nuggets. Machine-rolled taquitos. Day-old hot dog. Lowrider magazine. A tin of Skoal Snus Mint. Sprite Blast would not go well with the Sausage McMuffin knockoff, Simpsons pink sprinkles donut or prophylactics.

Sprite Blast costs a buck at most 7-Elevens and is a low investment for a pretty low payoff. So no need for a homemade version, just spring for the real thing. And for those who still want to recreate it in the house, I think after reading the label, the secret ingredient is sodium benzoate.

(Nutrition Facts – 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 115 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar,and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Sprite Blast
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 7.5 ounce can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Actual sour flavors from Sprite. Could pair well with other 7-Eleven items, flavorwise.
Cons: Unremarkable. Comes in a teeny tiny can.

REVIEW: Lay’s Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada)

Lay's Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada)

I guess every batch of Do Us A Flavour candidates has to have the water cooler flavour — the weird one that’ll get people talking. Last year’s batch of Canadian flavours had Maple Moose, and sticking with the sweet theme, this year there’s Cinnamon Bun.

Everyone who I’ve spoken to has recoiled in horror at the thought of cinnamon bun chips, but I’m just going to come out and admit it: it’s actually pretty close to my dream chip flavour. Now, before you write me off as a complete sociopath (who dreams of cinnamon bun chips??), hear me out. My dream chip flavour? Cinnamon Sugar Doritos.

Keep in mind that this wouldn’t be a salty/sweet combination; this would be a full-out dessert chip. Think about it. It would be like a churro in chip form! How is this not a thing yet??

Doritos executives: please feel free to steal this idea.

Alas, since Churro Doritos are not yet a thing (and may never be), Cinnamon Bun Lay’s is probably the closest that we’ll get.

I’ll say two things about these chips right off the bat:

1) They’re not gross. They’re edible.

2) That’s probably the nicest thing I have to say about this particular flavour. These are clearly not going to satisfy my dream Doritos cravings.

I had hoped that they were going to be a full-out dessert experience, but it really isn’t. It’s way too subtle. That’s not necessarily a problem, but the flavours never really come together in any meaningful way.

If you were eating a bag of plain Lay’s and one fell on a Cinnabon and then you ate it, it would probably taste something like these chips.

Lay's Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada) Closeup

It’s weird. They’re slightly buttery, with a somewhat pronounced sweet cinnamony flavour — they actually do a pretty decent job of capturing the flavour of a cinnamon bun. But then there’s the plain Lay’s flavour, which is equally pronounced. Both flavours announce to your tastebuds “Yep, here I am!” but neither has any particular interest in cooperating with the other. They’re both just there; two random tastes that have seemingly been crammed together on a whim.

I wish they had just gone all out with the cinnamon bun flavour and let the chip be more of a vehicle for crunch than anything else, because as it is now it’s pretty muddled. It’s neither here nor there, and it’s slightly off-putting.

I was able to tolerate them, but I had a few other people try them and no one could make it past a chip or two, so I may just have a higher than average tolerance for sweet cinnamony chips. But clearly, these aren’t the chips I’ve been dreaming of.

Way to kill my dreams, Lay’s. Way to kill my dreams.

(Nutrition Facts – 50 grams/per 27 chips – 270 calories, 17 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 90 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fibre, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Lay’s Cinnamon Bun Potato Chips (Canada)
Purchased Price: $3.50 CAN
Size: 180 gram bag
Purchased at: Hasty Market
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Reasonable facsimile of the flavour of a cinnamon bun.
Cons: Cinnamon bun and potato chip flavours are just as incongruous as you’d think. Too subtle. Killer of dreams.

REVIEW: Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King

Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King

I thought what made Burger King’s Big King special was its middle bun AND the thousand island-style dressing. It turns out I’m as wrong as the guy who bids $75,000 for a Price is Right Showcase that consists of a year’s supply of sunscreen, two jet skis, a trip to Hilo, Hawaii, and a 2014 Kia Forte.

With the release of Burger King’s Mushroom & Swiss Big King, I learned the special sauce isn’t so special. I also learned the middle bun is the crown that make a Big King a Big King.

In case you can’t see everything in that blob of fast food ingredients above, the Mushroom & Swiss Big King features two beef patties, sautéed mushrooms, a slice of Swiss cheese, mayonnaise, a sesame seed bun, and the important middle bun.

Mine also ended up with a rogue slice of American cheese, but there’s no thousand island-style dressing. Of course, I’m pretty sure adding a sweet and tangy sauce to a mushroom and Swiss burger would’ve been gross.

And now that we know it’s the boring middle bun that makes a Big King a Big King and the thousand-island dressing isn’t there to stifle creativity, I expect Burger King to create many Big King variations in the future. Perhaps the Whopper has passed the variety burger baton to the Big King, so we’ll soon be seeing a Rodeo Big King, a Texas BBQ Big King, and a Western Big King.

Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King Topless

As you can see above, the burger is loaded with mushrooms. Okay, maybe you can’t see them all in that overzealous application of mayonnaise. But I assure you there were a lot of them because I could feel all the mushroom rubberiness in my mouth.

When I ate the Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Grillers back in the 2011, I complained about it having too much mushroom flavor. But with the Mushroom & Swiss Big King, I’m going to complain about it having too little mushroom flavor. Yes, there was some here and there, but with that many mushrooms, I expected almost every bite to taste like I was nibbling on Papa Smurf’s house.

I’m going to blame the mayo.

While the mayonnaise does a great job at preventing mushrooms from falling out of the burger and making the Swiss cheese slice feel more melted than it really is, it also does a good job at making this burger taste more like a mayonnaise and Swiss burger than a mushroom and Swiss burger. Having less mayo might’ve helped, but those sad, rubbery mushrooms didn’t have a lot of flavor to begin with.

Overall, the Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King is a mediocre burger and I think someone should take away its crown. It’s not horrible because the beef patties had a pleasant meatiness to them, and even with all that mayo, the sandwich wasn’t messy. But it tastes like a simple double cheeseburger that accidentally had a few mushrooms dropped onto it during the lunch rush.

(Nutrition Facts – 560 calories, 37 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 760 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Mushroom & Swiss Big King
Purchased Price: $4.39
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Lots of mushrooms. Mayo does a great job at preventing mushrooms from falling out. Decent beef patties with good flavor. Winning a Price is Right Showcase.
Cons: Lots of mushrooms don’t have lots of flavor. Mayo does a great job at preventing mushroom flavor from standing out. The middle bun being the reason why a Big King is a Big King. Going over when bidding on a Price is Right Showcase.

REVIEW: Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon and Garlic Parmesan)

Sonic Ultimate Cheese & Bacon Cheesy Bread Dog

Is there any sight that makes you want to scream “America!” more than a hot dog? Well, I guess the American flag. Oh, and a bald eagle. A soldier in uniform. Eating loaded cheese fries a monster truck show. Rappers sipping on purple drank in music videos. Playing video games on the toilet. The government spying on us. Going to other countries and asking, “Don’t you speak English?” Hulk Hogan.

Okay, so there are plenty of other things that say America more than a hot dog, but the fact is the beef treat still says America, and in a different voice depending on what city you are in, as places like New York and Chicago are famous for the toppings they use. There’s also pretzel buns, which totally changes the game of a dog.

Now, Sonic is changing the game again with the new Cheesy Bread Dogs.

The last time I was excited by a hot dog to the level the Cheesy Bread ones brought me to was my first and only time at Wrigley Field in 2010, when I ordered a famed Chicago Dog.

A Sonic Drive-In obviously isn’t as scenic and majestic as Wrigley but if I imagined really hard the concrete turned to grass, my car seat to a seat in the bleachers, and my Sonic car server person (their official title, I’m assuming) morphed into Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Usually in my dreams I’m the one delivering hot dogs to Starlin! I mean… that’s never happened.

I did go into a slight panic when the Sonic worker brought the food to my car, as I had never eaten at the drive-in before and was not sure if these people get tipped or not. He dropped a “well, have a nice day,” and then hesitated before leaving, so I’m assuming I was supposed to tip him. Great, like I need more bad karma!

I ordered both varieties, Garlic Parmesan and Ultimate Cheese & Bacon, but what you want to know about is the cheesy bread, right? I hope so; otherwise I look like a damn fool.

Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog Bun

The first thing you’ll notice before you even taste the bun is how greasy it is. I use a lot of napkins to begin with but I really went over board on these. You can just poke it gently and your finger would be glistening like you just wiped your sweaty brow, which maybe you got from playing pickup basketball, or walking your dog on an exceptionally sweltering afternoon.

This minor inconvenience is quickly dismissed once you taste the bread though. It’s very doughy, and kind of reminded me a stuffed crust pizza because of the cheese flavor, which was a pleasant cheddar. It is a thick bun, too, and I’d be careful ordering two as you may come to regret it later. I know I did. But that’s one for the vault.

The better of the two was easily the Ultimate Cheese & Bacon. Why? AMERICA! It’s the same thing as the Cheesy Bacon Pretzel Dog Sonic offers, but when you replace the pretzel bun with cheesy bread you really get one ultimate cheese and bacon experience, hence the name of the hot dog. It’s a hot mess of cheese, bacon and grease, and I’m using hot mess in a good way. The salty bacon, mild cheddar on the bun, and creamy, sharp cheddar cheese sauce blend together in an explosion of tasty, salty goodness.

The only knock is it’s a bit salty. I happen to enjoy salt so it was fine by me but if you’re not in love with a salty taste I would look to the Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Bread Dog.

Sonic Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Bread Dog

It has a creamy garlic parmesan sauce and onions. I was a bit confused by this one, as I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the sauce, and the onions seemed out of place to me. I think the onions could easily be lost and the dog would be just fine. The sauce seemed out of balance to me, as it was unlike other garlic parmesan sauce I have tasted. I suspect too much or too little of one of garlic or parmesan. Still tasty but could have been better.

Again, the cheesy bread makes these dogs quite filling (especially the Ultimate Cheese & Bacon) so unless you want to see how both taste, just order one. Maybe complement it with a nice slushie? Don’t complement it with tip confusion though. Seeing that Sonic worker do a sad Charlie Brown walk after not receiving a tip has been in my nightmares ever since!

(Nutrition Facts – Ultimate Cheese & Bacon – 550 calories, 290 calories from fat, 32 grams total fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 60 milligrams cholesterol, 1580 mg sodium, 47 grams total carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 21 grams protein. Garlic Parmesan – Not available on website.)

Item: Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon and Garlic Parmesan)
Purchased Price: $2.89 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Garlic Parmesan)
Pros: Bun is cheesy, doughy, and delicious. Ultimate Cheese & Bacon ingredients blend perfectly. America! Hulk Hogan. The power of imagination.
Cons: Bun is annoyingly greasy. Unbalanced garlic to parmesan ratio in sauce. Purple drank. Spying government.

REVIEW: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub

I don’t know how authentic they are, but Italian sandwiches as we know them in North America are pretty much the best. Tender veal — deep-fried to perfection — slathered in a tasty tomato sauce, possibly topped with melty cheese and hot peppers, all on a crusty Italian roll? The best. They’re pretty much the definition of comfort food.

So when I found out that KFC had their own take on one of these sandwiches, I was intrigued. Maybe a little nervous too, coming off my last KFC experience, which was fairly disastrous. But mostly intrigued.

It’s part of their Filler line of subs, which basically consist of two chicken strips laid end-to-end on a nine inch bun, topped with various condiments. This particular one comes with sliced mozzarella and “savoury marinara sauce.”

The woman behind the counter asked if I wanted it spicy, and of course I said yes, because that is always the correct answer to that question. “Do you want this sandwich spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want these chips spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want your car wash spicy?” “I… don’t know what that could mean, but… yes. Yes, I do want that car wash spicy.”

Spice tends to improve things is what I’m saying.

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 2

The bread was weird. Though it appears to be crusty, almost like a baguette, in actuality it was as pillowy soft as a hot dog bun. It wasn’t bad — it suited the sandwich well enough — but the discrepancy between how it looked and how it tasted was pretty jarring.

The two chicken strips in my sandwich were, sadly, radically different in quality. The first half of the sandwich featured chicken that had been ravaged by time; the meat was dried out and had been drained of all heat. If you had measured it, I’m pretty sure it would have been precisely at room temperature. The breading wasn’t quite soggy, but it wasn’t crispy, either.

The chicken strip in the second half, however, was fresh, juicy, and tasty, with a satisfyingly crispy exterior. Its quality differential was a little bit off-putting, but at least one half was good I guess?

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 3

The marinara sauce was awful. I know that the flavours of food are technically subjective, but this was objectively, mathematically horrible. It had the acrid tang of the absolute bottom of the bottom of the barrel. You could practically taste the can it came out of.

I’m pretty sure it’s the result of a KFC exec commanding his underlings to find the absolute cheapest tomato sauce on the market, and then being like “This still tastes vaguely like real tomato sauce. CHEAPER.”

It tastes like a potent mix of tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, and sawdust. I suspect it also contains the tears of orphaned children, but that’s just conjecture on my part. If it’s possible for marinara sauce to be worse than this, I haven’t tasted it.

The mozzarella was fine, at least. It tasted like real cheese and not like the waxy, processed cheese food you might expect given the caliber of the tomato sauce. The heat of the sandwich wasn’t even close to enough to melt it, however. The cheese on the fresh side of the sandwich had softened a bit; on the other side, it was fresh-from-the-fridge cold.

As for the so-called spice, it was negligible. I think it was the least amount of heat you can apply to something and still in good conscience call it spicy.

I think KFC’s heart was in the right place when they created this — in theory, it should have been quite good. But the execution is just way off. Particularly that sauce… Yikes, that sauce.

(Nutrition Facts – 910 calories, 37 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 97 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fibre, 13 grams of sugar, and 48 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)
Purchased Price: $6.79 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Freshly cooked chicken is pretty tasty. Real cheese.
Cons: Stale chicken is not so tasty. Weirdly soft bun. Unmelted cheese. Worst tomato sauce of all time.