REVIEW: Sonic Ultimate Chicken Club Sandwich

Sonic Ultimate Chicken Club Sandwich

In olden times, Sonic was the bee’s knees.

Their cherry limeades were refreshing, you could assault your tater tots with a respectable kind of chili and a delightfully processed cheese-product, and their burgers were served both hot and fresh. (Oh, and the foot long chili-cheese coneys. Man, those things were boss.) The carhops skated their way to your door with a smile, the milkshakes were of out-of-sight, and former teen idol Frankie Avalon was all over their advertising spots imploring you to drive in and stuff your face with nostalgic abandon.

Then everything fell apart.

Frankie left to go do, I don’t know, Frankie Avalon things. The smiling carhops were replaced with an unwholesome blend of surly teens and recent parolees. The food quality —once an oasis of flavor in a sea of grey-meat, limp-French fried fast food inequity — fell off. And then, you know, those two dudes showed up blabbering inanely in their car.

But look, get ready because Sonic is changing the game, you guys. Enter The ULTIMATE CHICKEN CLUB. (All caps mine, and added for emphasis.) I mean, it’s got “ultimate” RIGHT there in the name, so you know it’s legit. In fact, why aren’t you eating one right now?

Well, I’ll tell you why you aren’t: because it’s a swing and a miss.

Now, it’s not a “swing and totally miss, spin in a cartoon circle and fall on your butt” kind of thing. Maybe it’s akin to a foul tip or perhaps a valiant effort on a devastating curveball.

If you’re familiar with the concept of a “club” sandwich, you know what’s going on here — it mostly means someone added bacon and tomatoes. Sometimes there are toothpicks and diagonal cutting involved, but generally not on fast-food chicken sandwiches.

Sonic Ultimate Chicken Club Sandwich 2

Anyway, in this case, it was cold black bacon and mealy garbage tomatoes. They rounded out this trip to Terror Town with some inoffensive, but useless, shredded lettuce, a thin, runny mayo (they claim is was black peppercorn mayo, but they’ve given me no reason to take them at their word), a sweaty slice of flavorless cheddar cheese, and a tempura-ish battered chicken breast filet that was as thick as a new package of loose-leaf notebook paper and just as delicious.

This sandwich was, in 13 words, a loose conglomeration of mediocre ingredients melded together in an orgy of disappointment. It tasted like a flavorless collection of toppings atop a bland chicken-block. Your uncle Gary does better at his Memorial Day cookouts, to be sure.

Really, the best thing this sandwich had going for it was the soft, fresh brioche bun, because it’s like that old adage goes, “everything’s better on brioche.”

Sonic Ultimate Chicken Club Sandwich 2

There wasn’t anything new or interesting here, but honestly, that’s fine and it wasn’t the problem. Not every limited time fast food offering needs to reinvent the wheel. Let’s leave the stuffing and cramming and nachofication of America to those zany R&D people at Taco Bell. But in the meantime, you can win a lot of points with a solid chicken club sandwich. If you’re gonna do it, though, do it well. And if the execution leaves so much to be desired, maybe think about canning the “Ultimate” tag.

(Nutrition Facts – 1000 calories, 580 calories from fat, 64 grams of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 gram of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 2070 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, 39 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.79 (sandwich only)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Respectable brioche. Frankie Avalon. Nostalgia. It’s fairly sizable.
Cons: As tasty as notebook paper. Burnt bacon. Sweat-cheese. 1,000 calories! The two annoying dudes blabbering in the car may have killed Frankie Avalon, we don’t know that they didn’t.

REVIEW: Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M’s (M&M’s Flavor Vote)

Coffee Nut, Honey Nut, and Chili Nut M&M's (M&M's Flavor Vote)

Let’s get one thing straight: Peanut M&M’s are the best.

Well, technically, Peanut Butter M&M’s are the best, but the classic whole-roasted peanut M&M’s, represented by the overly optimistic, decidedly plump yellow guy, are right behind them.

Don’t agree? Sorry, you’re in the minority. Pretty much anyone with a computer and a sweet tooth will rank either Peanut Butter or Peanut M&M’s at the top of the M&M’s kingdom, which if you ask me is a not to be overlooked accomplishment given that Mars has mostly been focusing flavor additions more in the white chocolate and milk chocolate spectrum.

Well, Mr. Yellow Guy is finally getting the last laugh, because M&M’s has introduced three new Peanut flavors that America will get to choose from before the winner gets rushed into the regular M&M’s rotation. And by last laugh, I mean literally last. He is, after all, about to get eaten.

Coffee Nut M&M's 1

First up is the Coffee M&M’s. As anyone from Canada knows, coffee and candy just belong together (Dear Canadians: I live in Texas, please mail Coffee Crisp.) These are really awesome, and get my vote for the next Peanut flavor.

Coffee Nut M&M's 2

While I was hoping for an earthy, robust roasted coffee finish that gradually overtakes the sweetness (like you might get in a chocolate-covered expresso bean), I can’t complain about the mocha vibe that resonates as soon as the shell begins to dissolve, even if it is a mocha vibe with seven extra pumps of vanilla syrup and four Splendas. Come to think of it, these taste a lot like coffee Jelly Belly beans, except with a peanut. Frankly, that makes them all the better.  

Honey Nut M&M's

Moving right along, I imagine the idea for Honey Nut M&M’s came into being at the weekly golf outing of yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople. Given the natural friendliness of both the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee and the Yellow M&M’s guy, this flavor combination was bound to happen. I was also bound to like the flavor given the fact that Honey Nut Chex is in my Top 10 cereals of ALL TIME, but unfortunately the M&M’s didn’t live up to expectations. The characteristic almond flavor of Honey Nut Cheerios is definitely present as soon as you get at the chocolate, but a weird and distracting artificial sweetness comes with it.

I was hoping, if nothing else, the peanut would have the salty and caramelized texture of a honey roasted peanut, but this wasn’t to be. Not that a whole peanut in a milk chocolate shell is that much of a disappointment, but Honey Nut M&M’s weren’t nearly as good as they should have been.

Chili Nut M&M's

Finally, Chili Nut M&M’s push M&M’s into new territory, namely the somewhat fading food trend of pairing chocolate with spicy food. These are interesting; they’re not fireballs by any mean, but there’s an initial cinnamon red hots flavor that enters your mouth as soon as the shell starts to dissolve. A tingling backheat resonates through the milk chocolate, and then really comes on strong once you crunch through the peanut. The last sensation you get is cayenne burn that lasts for a couple of seconds after you’ve finished. I know its tantamount to declaring the wuss card, but I’ll admit it: I needed to grab a glass of water after eating these. All in all, it’s an interesting combination if you’re a heat seeker, although more of a mild annoyance if you’re just a standard M&M’s eater.

Adding to the Peanut M&M’s lineup was long overdue, but I’d be lying if I said any of the new flavors catapulted to the top of the M&M’s flavor list. While Coffee Nut is a welcome addition, the other two flavors taste more like novelties than anything else. And even though I don’t think any of them take a lot away from the smooth milk chocolate and crunchy roasted peanut taste of our adorable yellow friend, I will say there’s something about the classic that’s just hard to improve on.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pack or 49 grams – 250 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: 88 cents each
Size: 1.75 oz.
Purchased at: CVS
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Coffee Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Honey Nut)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Chili Nut)
Pros: Coffee Nut flavor has lasting notes of coffee and vanilla. Familiar crunchy shell roasted peanut, and smooth milk chocolate of Peanut M&M’s. Yellow anthropomorphic food spokespeople golf outings.
Cons: None of the flavors beat the classic Peanut M&M’s. Not an overly robust coffee finish. Honey Nut flavor has cloying artificiality. No honey roasted peanut. Chili Nut M&M’s only brings heat, not additional flavor.

REVIEW: Pepsi 1893 Ginger Cola

Pepsi 1893 Ginger Cola

“Excuse me, Mr. Cashier? Could I speak to your manager? I don’t want to make a scene, but all your cans of soda expired 123 years ago!”

Damn it, Dad. Get off my computer! Who said you could write the first line of my review?

While I lure my dad away with Home Depot coupons and History Channel DVDs, here’s a brief history lesson on Pepsi’s new 1893 soda line: coming in both Original and Ginger, these retro premium colas are based on “Brad’s Drink,” an 1893 Pepsi-Cola predecessor created by Pepsi founder and distinguished Walt Disney lookalike Caleb Bradham.

Like Brad’s Drink, Pepsi 1893’s base recipe contains, amongst other things: carbonated water, real sugar, African kola nut extract, and vaguely named “spices.” Ginger is obviously the lead spice in this variety I tried, so until soda historians uncover the secret formula for “Beckham’s Drink,” fans of Posh will have to settle.

Pepsi 1893 Ginger Cola 2

I poured my classy Pepsi into the classiest glass I own (there are pretty much 1,893 different Pokémon by now, right?) and admired its amber caramel hues before sipping with my pinky out. As with any brown liquid I’ve ever photographed, pictures don’t do it justice. Interpret that as you will.

Original 1893 comes in a black can, while Ginger’s is sleek and copper-colored. If you stack them Voltron-style, you can make a drinkable Duracell battery. I only mention this because Ginger 1893 is exactly the soda I imagine a post-apocalyptic steampunk cyborg would swig for energy before busting fiendish intergalactic prospectors.

This is because even though its carbonation is a bit light (Dad: “you’d be flat too after a century on the shelf!”) this soda has a bite. The ginger taste hits quickly, but don’t expect molasses and liquefied gingersnaps. This spice is fiery, floral, and folk medicine-y.

Pepsi 1893 Ginger Cola 3

The kola cola taste is intriguing: it’s definitely nuttier, earthier, and more “authentic” than run-of-the-mill Pepsi, but it also seems to exist separately from the carbonated sugar water rather than being blended smoothly into it. Coupled with the sweetened water’s granulated sugar flavor, it’s like Nesquik, just with cola instead of chocolate, and a ginger root instead of a stirring spoon.

A tingling burn of caramel and ginger lingers long after each drink, but this warming sensation becomes pleasant and cara-mellow as it spreads into my stomach. Designated drivers of the world, take note: Ginger 1893 might spice up your sober night a little.

As for everyone else, your enjoyment of this cola will depend entirely on your fanaticism for ginger as a spice, because the sizzling ginger here is more fiery and overbearing than Guy Fieri on fajita night.

In short: it’s a much angrier Vernors. To use a reference non-Michiganders will understand: it’s like that Jolly Reindeer soda Coca-Cola brought to Freestyle machines last Christmas, except this time the reindeer kicks you in the throat after each sip.

As for me, the spice is simply too much for my baby tongue. I think I’ll stick to the Original Pepsi 1893 so I can more richly appreciate the kola nut flavor. Should the desire for a sweet ginger soda ever strike me, I can always sadistically dunk a freshly baked gingerbread man into the bubbling brown liquid until the goofy smile melts from his face.

I’ll see you in therapy, Caleb Bradham.

We also reviewed 1893 Original Cola! Click here to read our review.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 150 calories, 0 grams of fat, 55 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 39 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: 12 fl oz can
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Warm ‘n’ bubbly in my belly. Cool kola nut nuttiness. Elegant Pokémon chalices. The Continuing Adventures of Duracell Voltron.
Cons: Hot ‘n’ spicy in my throat. Ginger was not applied gingerly. 19th century Nesquik Bunnies. Dad jokes. Guy Fieri’s dinner parties.

REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Coconuts for Caramel Core Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's Coconuts for Caramel Core Ice Cream

Perusing through the frozen foods section of a grocery store – specifically the ice cream section – is a joyous activity indeed, yet sometimes it can be overwhelming. Like, for example, when you see Ben & Jerry’s just dropped not one, not two, but three new flavors on you, and you’re presented with a conundrum: which flavor is right for me? Then you have to look deep inside yourself and do a quick cavity search on your soul to come to a decision.

I settled for Coconuts for Caramel, one of the most recent additions to the ever-expanding Core line. Well, I wouldn’t call it settling. It sounded scrump, and my older brother did send me a text along the lines of, “OMG YOU MUST TRY COCONUTS FOR CARAMEL IT IS SO GOOD (SNOWMAN EMOJI)” So, it was a pretty easy choice. Wait, why snowman emoji? There are like, three different ice cream ones.

So you probably guessed the ice cream contains coconut and caramel. I hope you did, otherwise you’ll never be a detective. A core of gooey caramel sits in the middle, surrounded by sweet cream coconut and caramel ice creams. Yes, it’s a much less obvious concoction than the early Core entries the flavor team probably spent all of five minutes on – Peanut Butter Fudge Core, ahem – so that’s pretty neat. Good to see them continuing in a less played out direction.

The caramel side of things is amazing. The core is real rich, resembling caramel you’d normally find residing in a truffle. The caramel ice cream is more mellowed down than the core. The flavor reminds me of a caramel macchiato. If you scoop it along with the core, which you will, it’s like collecting a caramel power up in a Super Mario game. Or going down a random pipe and collecting caramel coins? You get the idea. Either way, yes.

The sweet cream coconut ice cream can complicate matters a bit. It has so much coconut in it, plus chocolate chips, I had trouble discerning the taste of the actual ice cream. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack that is made out of the filling in a Mounds bar. It can get frustrating. Much like watching the slow, clueless contestants on the old game show Supermarket Sweep. It’s like, “come on, go get the Farmer John Hams!” But no! They’re dilly-dallying in the personal care aisle.

Ben & Jerry's Coconuts for Caramel Core Ice Cream 2

Ben & Jerry’s is famous for having lots of mix-ins in their ice cream – they used to have a fan club called “Chunk Spelunkers,” which is sadly now defunct – but this was coconut overkill. The texture is not like normal ice cream, it’s more gritty than creamy, and was tough to eat on its own.

Your best bet is to combine the two ice creams together and scoop out some of the caramel core in the same bite. This is where the pint is money. The caramel from the core and the creamy caramel ice cream cover up the overabundance of fillings in the coconut ice cream and combines into something like a caramel covered Mounds bar.

It would have worked better if the chocolate chips were in the caramel ice cream and there was half the amount of coconut. That may just have balanced things out. Plus, caramel has to be lonely over there. Sweet cream coconut has ice cream and two fillings. That’s not fair at all. Why does the coconut side get everything?

Another minor issue I had was the core basically disappeared towards the bottom quarter of the pint, which I have pointed out in other Core flavors. I wish they would get the cores to reach the bottom more consistently. But not everything can be perfect.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 280 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 1 pint
Purchased at: Wegman’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Sweet, different caramel flavors. Snowman emojis. Going down pipes and collecting things.
Cons: Coconut overkill. Bad texture for ice cream. Awful “Supermarket Sweep” contestants.

REVIEW: Easter Sundae M&M’s

Easter Sundae M&M's

Easter Sundays hold a special place in my heart. So many memories of floofy dresses bought just for that day. Sleeping with my hair in rollers to get those special curls the next morning. Socks with little bows on them, and saddle shoes or Mary Janes.

That was a shoe before it was a term for weed, guys. Just a heads up.

The point being, I loved–oh, wait, no, I hated Easter Sunday. I hated wearing dresses. The curlers pinched my scalp. Bows are for girls who don’t play in the mud and try to catch lizards. Church was boring and too early.

Okay, it wasn’t all bad. After church we got to go to The Original Pancake House, where they put bacon in pancakes before putting bacon in everything was cool. We had an Easter egg hunt at home, and got to open our baskets full of sweet, delicious candy. It was a fantastic reward for my sore head and sleepy morning.

What we didn’t have was Easter Sundaes. That’s probably because they didn’t exist until M&M’s decided to use some easy wordplay for their latest in a line of many flavors. Look at Red up there, acting like bunny ears and sundaes go together like Halloween and candy corn.

I’d also like to address the flavor itself, which is described on the bag as “White center surrounded by Milk Chocolate.” I know it’s a controversial stance, but White Center has been and always will be my favorite flavor. Good ol’ White Center.

Easter Sundae M&M's 2

M&M’s idea of Easter Sundae colors is apparently bright blue, bright pink and what some guy in the paint department of Home Depot would describe as ecru. These feel more like “baby shower gifts when the parents are keeping the gender a secret” more than either Easter or sundaes. Also, for some reason my bag had approximately four times as many blues as pinks, so…I guess it’s a boy?

Easter Sundae M&M's 3

Of course, White Center is actually white chocolate, the proof of which is that white chocolate is the first ingredient listed on the back of the bag. It’s the predominant chocolate inside the larger-than-usual M&M, surrounded by a thinner later of milk chocolate.

The taste of Easter Sundae M&M’s is both pleasant and almost oppressively boring. That’s a weird sentence, but it’s 100% true. The white chocolate center dominates as a flavor, while the surrounding milk chocolate plays a nice backup role.

But that’s it; that’s all there is to it. White chocolate and milk chocolate, together at last, or for the 100th time. One of those two. If they really were going for the taste of a sundae, they failed to hit the marks of ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, cherries, and…well yeah, that’s entirely what comprises a sundae.

If you like to eat white chocolate and milk chocolate together, then you’ll enjoy Easter Sundae M&M’s. But don’t be fooled by the name; there’s no new flavors, no unique experience. Just chocolate.

(Nutrition Facts – 1.5 ounces — 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 35 milligrams of sodium, 30 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.88
Size: 8 oz. bag
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Enjoyable mixture of white and milk chocolate. Easter egg hunts. The candy shells are cheerily colored.
Cons: A boring combination of flavors. Trying to force Easter and sundaes together. Candies taste absolutely nothing like sundaes. Floofy dresses.

REVIEW: Peeps Cotton Candy Marshmallow Chicks

Peeps Cotton Candy Marshmallow Chicks

Let the record state: you are not likely to win former middle school crushes, current middle school crushes, or Santa Claus over with Peeps. Peeps are prepackaged, factory-formed one-noters. They are not handmade. They are not farm-to-table. They are sugary, squishy, mildly impersonal marshmallow chickens poofed out in Pennsylvania.

But if you are a candy loyalist of the sort who is not deterred by waxy eyeballs or the radioactive glow of their outer sheen, Peeps has enough varieties to fill a Container Store, not to mention the 18-foot-deep hole in my heart, but before I go on branding a marshmallow chicken on my left deltoid, I guess I should try ‘em all, and today? We go for Cotton Candy.

Peeps Cotton Candy Marshmallow Chicks 2

With June stretching out over 80 days in the future, I can think of no better time than now to be reminded of a carnival, and ripping open this quintet of Peeps does just that, knocking me upside the head with sparkly wonder and a smell that blends a distinct sugary brightness with Strawberry Jolly Ranchers, Vanilla Febreze, and Bubblicious. Who needs Disneyland when you have Peeps?

(Okay, I need Disneyland. Especially Space Mountain.)

But much like the overpriced snow globe at the Miami Airport, these glitzy chicks are all flash with little substance, holding only a faint essence of its spun-sugar inspiration. While the marshmallow itself still has that special taste that can only emerge when sucrose and corn syrup combine, only faint blips of vanilla extract, strawberry, and bubblegum pop in.

Taken as a whole, the flavor is sharply sugar-forward, tasting more of a regular marshmallow that was swapped at birth and doomed to an existence with the incorrect moniker. While a trifle disappointing for those looking for a more robust flavor, I must admit that this humble sugar flavor harkens back to cotton candy’s main goal: to serve as a vehicle through which you might funnel simplified carbohydrates into your sugar-depraved body, and why should you deny yourself? Life’s tough. Sugar’s great.

Peeps Cotton Candy Marshmallow Chicks 3

So, while they may cling to cotton candy’s legacy as a sugar-laden snack, this ensemble of chickadees tastes about as bold as faded paisley curtains. Perhaps it’s the batch. Perhaps it’s the Red #40. Perhaps it’s in the alignments of stars, Jupiter, and ill-directed DirecTV satellites, but I dare say these could use a little oomph.

That said, one might also say that this inconsistency is part of the true carnival experience. Just like balloon animals, dart games, and questionably constructed wooden roller coasters, cotton candy is not necessarily meant to be treated as a work of perfection, but more as a bright, mildly risky, fun treat, and these chicks? Achieve that. No ticket required. They may not warrant a permanent tattoo, but I could see a temporary tattoo going on.

(Nutrition Facts – 5 chicks – 140 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 15 milligrams of sodium, 0 mg of potassium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 32 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein..)

Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 1.5 oz. package/5 chicks
Purchased at: Walgreens (a Walgreens exclusive)
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Fun. Shimmery. Not unpleasant vehicle for sugar. The Container Store. Space Mountain. Future plans to tattoo marshmallow chickadee on deltoid.
Cons: Missing the strawberry/vanilla/bubblegum flavors. Sugar crust falls off easily. Red Dye #40. One-note. Will not win former middle school crushes. Will not win current middle school crushes. Overpriced snow globes at the Miami Airport.