REVIEW: Harvey’s Stuffed Cheeseburger (Canada)

Harvey's Stuffed Cheeseburger 1

There’s something irresistible and just a little bit illicit about a hamburger that’s stuffed with cheese, isn’t there? I mean, biting into a juicy hamburger patty only to be greeted by melty, oozing cheese — who can resist that? At the same time, you know it’s something you probably shouldn’t be eating. To paraphrase R. Kelly, your mind will be telling you no, but your body… your body will tell you yeah.

Still, though it’s an amazing idea in theory — and a simple one no less — can a fast food chain, burdened by the rigors of mass production, get it right? Burger King tried it a few years back, but instead of stuffing the burger with a molten core of cheese, they just mixed bits of cheddar into the beef. This removed the gooey cheese pocket altogether (i.e. the whole reason why stuffing a burger with cheese is so appealing) and greatly diminished the cheddar flavour by interspersing it so thoroughly with the beef.

Leave it to Burger King to get something as simple as stuffing a hamburger with cheese wrong.

Harvey’s is generally a cut above BK, so I sort of figured they had a better chance of getting it right. My biggest problem with Harvey’s in general is that all of their burgers have that vaguely rubbery, somewhat hot-doggy texture that most industrially produced frozen patties tend to have. This is a little less pronounced with their higher-end Angus burgers, which seems to be the foundation of the stuffed cheeseburger, so that’s good at least.

Harvey's Stuffed Cheeseburger 2

Happily, I can say rather conclusively that this burger gets the fundamentals right: yes, it is properly stuffed with cheese, and yes, that cheese is oozy and melting. So that’s Harvey’s – 1, Burger King – 0.

The burger itself is typical Harvey’s; it has that oddly chewy, processed texture, but it’s still better than the average frozen burger (it at least retains some beefy flavour and texture, which is more than I can say for some of the bottom-of-the-barrel frozen patties that I’ve had).

As is the traditional Harvey’s way, you can choose your own toppings from behind the glass; I tried to top my burger as close to the publicity shot as possible, so I went with lettuce, tomato, and pickles. The burger in the picture is also topped with ketchup and mustard, but since I didn’t want to overwhelm the taste of the cheese, I went with mayo instead.

The aforementioned molten core of cheese is fairly abundant, and though it falls somewhere in the taste/texture spectrum between Kraft Singles and Cheez Wiz, it’s satisfying. It doesn’t have the strongest cheddar flavour, but it’s certainly fine for what it is. It’s also nicely spread out inside the patty — aside from the outer edges, pretty much every bite has cheese (note to self: start a band so you can release an album called “Every Bite has Cheese”).

Let’s face it — there’s very little here that tastes like real anything, but it’s pretty good in the same way that a Twinkie is pretty good (actually, I prefer Twinkies, which I like more than I should probably admit in a public forum, but you get what I mean). It’s far from a perfect burger stuffed with cheese, but it’s still a burger stuffed with cheese. Try to resist that. I dare you.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on the Harvey’s website.)

Item: Harvey’s Stuffed Cheeseburger (Canada)
Purchased Price: $6.49 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Harvey’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Melty, gooey core of cheese. Decent hamburger. Realizing that you should always listen to your body over your mind.
Cons: Cheese only mildly tastes like cheese. Burger is vaguely hot-doggy in texture. Not as good as a Twinkie.

REVIEW: White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburgers

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers

I’ve never lived on the East Coast, which means I’ve never had the pleasure of eating at White Castle. I can’t decide if I just used the word “pleasure” sarcastically, because, while having never been there, I have heard much about the establishment. I’ve heard White Castle burgers are magical, like crack.

Wait, calling crack magical isn’t a good idea. I’ve heard White Castle burgers are magical, like unicorns. It’s said they’re the ultimate hangover cure. I’ve also been told they’re the ultimate hangover cure because you will eat them, and then immediately blast all of last night’s alcohol consumption into your toilet bowl.

They’ve also been called the ultimate drunk food, presumably because anything tastes good while you’re drunk, and you’re already going to be full of regrets in the morning, so why not add the fullness of White Castle sliders on top of that?

So basically, White Castle is just like Taco Bell, except with burgers instead of…whatever you want to call what Taco Bell serves.

I’ve seen White Castle burgers in the frozen food aisle before, but never picked any up. I felt as though they wouldn’t be truly representing the White Castle experience. But then I saw their new Jalapeño Cheeseburgers and I thought, well, hell. I’m not heading to the East Coast any time soon. What better time than now, and what better place than here, on the Internet?

There were both microwave and stovetop cooking instructions on the back of the box. My first instinct was to head straight for the microwave, but then I saw that the stovetop instructions were “for steaming of burgers”. That seemed to indicate that that would be the more authentic way to go, so I decided to give it a shot.

…Except one of the first directions involved using the “steamer insert”. I looked in the box. I looked at the box. I saw absolutely nothing that looked like a steamer insert.

Was I going mad? Had there been a mistake, where the insert was not included? Or had I been somehow bested by White Castle frozen cheeseburgers, which should seemingly be one of the easiest foods to prepare on the planet? Either way, I was lost. Without my steamer insert, I could not cook them on the stovetop.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 2

So, I moved on to the microwave, which had instructions that I could actually follow without questioning my sanity. The burgers (sliders, technically) come in packs of two – open the side of the package, break the connected sandwiches apart, and nuke. Mission accomplished.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 4

The first thing I noticed was that the buns are both soft and chewy. They don’t have much by way of flavor, but they’re generally inoffensive – fluffy, but not intrusive.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 3

Next came the onions. They actually gave a little bit of a crunch, which is impressive for a frozen, microwaved burger. It tasted almost like there was onion flavor in the meat itself. I was impressed by how much flavor they added to the party.

The burger patty had White Castle’s signature punched-out holes in it, which made it look like I just rolled a meaty five. Not bad if you’re playing a 2d6 game. Wow, that took a turn towards nerd super fast.

The meat itself was sub-par. The package claims that it’s 100 percent beef, to which I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, but it had about 5 percent flavor. I get the idea that White Castle is pretty much supposed to be shittyburgers, but it was almost like the meat was an afterthought. They didn’t taste bad, they just didn’t taste like much of anything, besides some grease.

The cheese, which was pepper jack, melted nicely in the microwave and added a creaminess that complimented the crunch and flavor of the onions.

The real selling point here was the jalapeños, and they didn’t disappoint. They didn’t set my mouth on fire, but there was a nice jalapeño flavor and heat that built as I made my way through my two sliders in eight bites.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeno Cheeseburgers 5

I was surprised that the flavor was so bold for such a seemingly cheap burger. I have to wonder, though: where were the peppers? I didn’t see any when I flipped the top bun off to take pictures. There wasn’t any pepper texture, unless it was mixed in with the onions. The only other source would be in the pepper jack cheese, which is not really that hot. Mysterious.

White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburgers come in three packs per box, which means the serving size is two sliders. This is a very odd serving size. As I mentioned, I was able to eat two burgers in eight bites, which is equivalent to quite a small snack. You microwave them inside the bag, so having three would be awkward, and eating four at once leaves you with two stragglers. Perhaps this is some cunning plan by White Castle to get you to buy more than one box at a time.

While neither drunk nor hungover while eating my sliders, I found myself enjoying the White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburger experience. In this case, the whole was more than the sum of its parts. With an unremarkable bun and meat patty, it seems like these burgers would disappoint, but the large presence of the onions and invisible jalapeños added lots of flavor and texture, and the cheese melted nicely and smoothly. While it would make for an awkward meal, a pack of these sliders would be perfectly acceptable as a quick snack or desperate hangover fix.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 package (2 cheeseburgers) – 310 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of total fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, 14 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 10% calcium, 10% iron..)

Item: White Castle Frozen Jalapeño Cheeseburgers
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 6 cheeseburgers
Purchased at: Safeway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Unicorns. Definite jalapeño presence, despite lack of evidence. Nerd jokes about meat patties. Creamy cheese melts nicely. Onions added lots of flavor and crunch.
Cons: Crack. Bun was flavorless. Where’s my steamer insert? Meat patty offered little. Hangovers. Serving size too small, with odd quantity in box.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch

The griffin is an awesome mythological creature with the body and tail of a lion and the head, wings and talons of an eagle. And it is a beast. I’m talking “beast” as in Marshawn Lynch, not Hank McCoy.

The griffin was thought of as the king of beasts, and many times was known to guard treasure or rewards. But here’s the thing, my ancient dummy friends, you didn’t need to invent the griffin. An eagle is pretty scary already. Hell, a bird is scary. One time in junior high I rode my bicycle through a field and scared up a murder of crows and they circled my head for a quarter of a mile. I almost started going to church regularly.

And don’t get me started on lions. One time in junior high I rode my bicycle through some plains and scared up a pride of lions and I died. They ripped me limb from limb. Or that’s what would have happened if I did ride through some lions. Don’t let that lie cloud up that first story. The birds thing is super true. Anyway, the concept of the griffin is a little overkill. That’s all.

The Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch (DCGC) is a fusion of two beloved Taco Bell items, the Doritos crazy tacos and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. The fanfare for this product has been noticeably muted, unlike when the Beatles went on Ed Sullivan and ate those Doritos Locos Tacos for the first time in America.

The DCGC promises flatbread with a three-cheese blend that encases a Doritos hard taco with ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and pepper jack sauce. In theory, it’s an exciting conference of the best of the best, like the Olympics: The hard-soft dynamic of the Cheesy Gordita Crunch with the bold flavors of the chip taco. In practice, watching pole-vaulting for fifteen minutes is fun once every four years.

To refresh my memory, I purchased a plain Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and boy, did it deliver. The satisfying crunch of the hard taco shell through flatbread is just so great. And the contrast of cold, crisp lettuce to the warm sodium bomb of ground beef seems so balanced. But those are the places the Doritos version gets it wrong.

Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch 2

The DCGC: Nacho Cheese Edition is made from the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco, which is thinner than the non-Doritos taco. I ate two of these, about half a week apart at different Taco Bells, and the first time the hard taco shell tasted stale. The second time was better but still could not compete with the rigidity and crunchiness of the plain version.

Because the hard taco shell is flavored, it spins the entire flavor profile off its axis. Everything is now covered in Doritos dust. The three-cheese blend is lost in redundancy and the whole item is salty like a dull wave of cheesy numbness instead of small bursts of salty zest with the plain version. The Doritos flavoring itself is consistent with the brand and is fine, it just overlaps some of the other elements.

Taco Bell is pushing the Doritos collaboration pretty hard. It’s as if they think I’ll come running if they stick two brands together. Sure, I ate Burger King Cinnabons. Sure, I ate Reese’s Oreo Cookies. Sure, I’ll eat a ream of wet printer paper if Staples and Popeye’s put their names on it. Wow, I feel like a sucker. There are so many brand logos on these things it’s like eating a NASCAR car. Though, if we did have to eat NASCAR cars, I’d probably go with Pepsi Max over Tide or Verizon.

Overall, the Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch: Special Victims Unit is not horrible — it’s still a soft bread with a hard taco inside. But it does not live up to the original. We all figured out at 10 years old that making homemade nachos with Doritos chips didn’t turn out as gloriously as we had hoped. The crunchy, corn base is the stage that allows the flavors to dance, but the Nacho Cheese Doritos shell wants to be the stage and the dancer at the same time. When Doritos are involved, there are too many dancers on the stage.

(Nutrition Facts – 490 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 10 grams saturated fat, 1 gram trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 880 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Soft on hard. Nacho Cheese Doritos flavoring is fine, but overlaps other ingredients. Still a version of the Gordita Crunch family.
Cons: Does not improve on Cheesy Gordita Crunch. Fails at what makes Cheesy Gordita Crunch great in the first place. Being a sucker for brand collaborations.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta

Binge watching Gilmore Girls, knowing all the lyrics to “Drunk in Love,” enjoying the last Adam Sandler film – everyone has their own guilty pleasure. Mine happens to be my sick addiction for anything claiming to taste like pumpkin pie.

Unlike the crumbly, goopy mess of its cherry and blueberry cousins, pumpkin pie has its shit together. It’s an October tradition that’s sweet, spiced, and confidently autumnal. It’s also, in case you haven’t noticed, everywhere. And that’s fine by me.

Just as ubiquitous, especially in the northeast where I call home, Dunkin’ Donuts may take the prize for pumping out the most pumpkin-flavored products per capita. Say what you want about Starbucks, but I can see another Dunkin’ out the window from the one I am currently sitting in as I typing this. Both are more than eager to dole out my fix of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in whatever latte, coffee, donut, or muffin concoction they are currently pushing.

This fall, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta, which I can only imagine was created by bored Dunkin’ executive sitting around a beach haphazardly pointing at things to get the pumpkin treatment. Pumpkin-lemonade no good? Then how about a friggin’ Pumpkin Slurpee!

In reality, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pumpkin Pie Coolatta is not far from exactly that. Like the other Coolattas on the Dunkin’ menu, this one was icy and sweet…almost saccharine.

The difference is that the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta has small granules of graham cracker embedded in the drink, pumpkin puree, and, well, it’s also flavored like a traditional fall dessert, which I am pretty sure no other Coolatta can claim.

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta Closeup

But seriously, those graham cracker crumbles bring an unbelievable element to the drink. While they are small, their pie crust texture and flavor put the pie in pumpkin pie, as opposed to just reducing the flavor to the spices that dominate the filling of the dessert. The whipped cream also gives the whole concoction not only presentation points, but that real pumpkin pie feel. This is good because the actual pumpkin pie flavor leaves much to be desired, as the flavor leans closer to scented candle then to the authentic dessert itself.

But it’s far from terrible (don’t worry, I guzzled mine down like the sick addict that I am). Although I can’t imagine I will be ordering many more Pumpkin Pie Coolattas anytime soon since there are better pumpkin products to binge on. Like kindergarten, just because it was fun once does not necessarily mean that it needs to be repeated.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 280 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 44 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 35% vitamin A, 20% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: Small
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Graham cracker bits and whipped cream add to the pumpkin pie flavor. Contains pumpkin puree. Whipped cream gives a real pumpkin pie feel.
Cons: Tastes like it was made by Yankee Candle. Not being able to go back to kindergarten. I know all the lyrics to “Drunk in Love.”

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco

Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco

They say if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

But I’m quite sure the person who came up with that saying never saw the meat in a Jack in the Box taco. It’s the only taco meat in the known universe that makes school cafeteria and Taco Bell taco meat look damn good. When I asked on Twitter for ways to describe Jack’s taco meat, I received these responses: cat food, potted, jacked, slop, and already chewed for you.

But despite the meat looking like the droppings of an animal that ate something that its stomach didn’t agree with, they make Jack in the Box’s tacos oddly satisfying. Yes, I’m writing this sober.

The latest taco from Jack in the Box is their Southwest Monster Taco. It’s stuffed with their finely ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, roasted corn, grilled onions, and a creamy Southwest Sauce.

If you love black beans and corn as much as Winnie the Pooh loves honey and your eight year old niece still loves Frozen even though the damn movie came out almost a year ago, you’ll like what the Southwest Monster Taco offers. There’s a good serving of both ingredients, although only the corn seems to have any flavor, providing a little sweetness. I thought the black beans would, at least, significantly up the fiber content of the taco, but they only added a gram more of fiber over a regular Monster Taco.

Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco Innards

Despite having large grilled onion pieces in my taco, which didn’t appear to be grilled, they didn’t have as much breath-ruining flavor as I hoped. But along with the corn, they give the taco a different crunchy texture than the taco shell. As for the Southwest Sauce, it has a mild smoky flavor that complement the ground beef and it has a barely noticeable level of heat.

The Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco’s flavor doesn’t pop as much as the Nacho and Original Monster Tacos, but I think it’s still a decent addition to the Monster Taco lineup and I would probably buy it again…sober, drunk, or high.

(Nutrition Facts – 353 calories, 213 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 32 milligrams of cholesterol, 483 milligrams of sodium, 269 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco
Purchased Price: $1.99*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Lots of corn and black beans. Sweet corn. Southwest Sauce a decent smoky flavor. Love the flavor of the taco shell…well, the parts that aren’t grease soaked.
Cons: Wish the sauce was a bit spicier. Black beans don’t up the fiber content and don’t have much flavor. Grilled onions lacked flavor. Useless shredded cheddar cheese. Ground beef is still not very pretty to look at.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.