REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream

Since the dawn of civilization cheesecake and pie have been wrestling in a titanic struggle of after-dinner supremacy. No flavor or ingredient has been off limits. From plump summer blueberries to decadent combinations of chocolate and peanut butter, the two desserts have been firing salvos at each other for years

Thanks to an urban chic food trend in embracing American comfort food, pie seems to have delivered most of the damage (calorically, of course) in recent years. It’s even become part of our lexicon, practically becoming synonymous with all things Americana and just damn yummy. That’s not to say cheesecake hasn’t had some good showings, but with fall dawning on us and Dairy Queen doing double-duty with seasonally themed Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie Blizzards, it’s going to take more than a proverbial trip to The Cheesecake Factory to steal some of the glory.

Fortunately, Baskin-Robbins is fighting back, indulging my love for both pumpkin and cheesecake with September’s Flavor of the Month. With both a cream cheese ribbon and cheesecake ice cream base it covers almost enough dairy as a Wisconsin 4-H fair, adding gingersnap cookie pieces which promise to add a bit of crunch and crust to the pumpkin ice cream.

That’s right, pumpkin. Not “pumpkin flavored,” and not just orange color with some vague spice flavor, the ice cream base nails an authentic pumpkin taste buttressed by a wonderfully autumnal sweetness and cinnamon spice. Bordering on cloying but thankfully neither earthly nor artificial, its distinct brown sugar notes are balanced by the taste of fresh cream and milk. It’s that taste which keeps the base from the heavy connotation pumpkin pie sometimes conjures up, and despite what I’m sure is a veritable calorie overload thanks to no less than 11 different sweeteners in the recipe, a modest-sized cone isn’t enough to make you want to unbuckle your pants and watch Tony Romo throw six interceptions on Thanksgiving.

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream 2

The cheesecake flavor is really quite splendid, and I mean this in the most endearing way possible. Despite a fascistic ONE SCOOP FOR YOU policy instituted by my local Baskin-Robbins, a thorough probing (also known as licking) of the base reveals a well-integrated cream cheese ribbon with varying degrees of tang and richness.

There’s a smooth mouthfeel throughout, and no sign of the chalky or gritty “cheesecake” chunks that one sometimes finds in frozen yogurt shops. On two separate swipes on the tongue I caught a burst of tang, which illuminated my palette amidst the sweet cream high. It encompasses both a distinctive cheesecake vibe and indulgent cream cheese texture, and together the two elements of cultured dairy work magnificently.

Insofar as flavor is concerned, the gingersnap pieces aren’t bad—the distinct taste of ginger adds a great balancing depth to the sweetness of the ice cream—but the crushed snaps aren’t exactly crust worthy. With a soggy texture and almost no crunch to speak of, they’re actually kind of lost amidst the overly viscous ice cream, which seems especially prone to melting on even a modestly warm fall day.

Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream 3

Actually, my biggest gripe was the deteriorating texture of the ice cream. While it starts off exceptionally creamy and smooth, it doesn’t hold up to the tongue and quickly melts, leaving one with less with the impression of pumpkin ice cream and more with the notion of chilled pumpkin bisque. It’s enough to make me kind of wish I was getting pie.

Is Baskin-Robbins’ Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream enough to deal a game-changing victory in the war between pie and cheesecake? Not quite, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious or seasonally appropriate. With a no-nonsense pumpkin flavor and distinctive cheesecake richness and tang, it definitely fires the first shots in this year’s fall flavor battle.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 oz scoop – 260 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of sodium, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 27 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Baskin-Robbins Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.39
Size: Regular Scoop
Purchased at: Baskin-Robbins
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pumpkin cream cheese base has loads of cinnamon and brown sugar flavor. Avoids gritty fake cheesecake pieces. Gingersnap crumbs contribute good spice. Nice bursts of cheesecake tang. A solid showing by team cheesecake in the never-ending battle of desserts. Thank God I’m not a Cowboys fan.
Cons: Gingersnap pieces aren’t very crunchy and get lost amidst the ice cream base. Melts entirely too quickly. Feeling like Oliver Twist as the Baskin-Robbins employee haphazardly scoops my ice cream.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche

Wendy’s Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche

Dad: “That’s-a Gouda sandwich.”

Son: “Stop it, Dad.”

Dad: “Nice size, too. Serving size is not poultry.”

Son: “…”

Dad: “Ahem. Not poultry”

Son: “It is poultry. It’s a chicken sandwich.”

Dad: “Like paltry.”

Son: “Oh. I see. … Stop it, Dad.”

Dad: “Sheesh. Sorry to brioche the subject.”

Son: “I am going to die.”

Dad: “C’mon you got the onions to withstand a conversation with your old man. Certainly this sandwich does. Well, did. They’re all chopped up now. Makes me want to shed a tear.”

Son: “Oh my god.”

Dad: “And they got a healthy dose of greens in this thing. That’s good for my digestion, for my trip to d’john later. Let me be over here. Looking at me with an a-hole-y face.”

Son: “Are you having a stroke?”

Dad: “No. Dijon. Aioli. It has Dijon aioli. A-hole like asshole.”

Son: “Dad, you aren’t saying anything about the food. You want to talk about the sandwich, go ahead. Please. By all means. But puns are not a form of communication. I’m not eating with you so you can trot out stupid, tired dad jokes. If you want to talk about the sandwich, at least tie an opinion onto something instead of unloading on me the lowest form of humor imaginable. We aren’t connecting.”

A pause.

Wendy’s Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche Topless

Dad: “Okay. Well, the Wendy’s Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche is pretty good. Pretty good. Full stop. The chicken is breaded fine—nobody will mistaken it for Chick-Fil-A or anything, but it seems to be a lighter batter than the dollar menu items. It’s a good canvas for what goes on above it.

The cheese and the caramelized onion sauce play extremely well together. The sweet onion flavor is very reminiscent of fig, and the eponymous Gouda lands a few bites of earthy flavor in the sandwich. It’s not super stinky like expensive cheese, but somehow they’ve stolen a little bit of that Gouda power, and a mouthful here and there is filled with that wannabe classic cheese-and-fig pairing. It’s very fancy for fast food fare. Fancy for fast food fare. Try saying that—”

Son: “Dad.”

Dad: “Sorry. Adulting up the proceedings even more is the bitter greens mix, which is actually bitter and again contrasts fairly well against the onion sauce. The chopped red onions give off tiny flares of acidity. The Dijon aioli cools things off, but in the face of all the other flavors going on, its rounded profile is lost a bit in the shuffle.

Bringing it home is the brioche. It’s soft enough but not soft enough to be noteworthy. It’s more like a piece of bread dressed up in a brioche Halloween costume.

It’s a pretty expensive sandwich. The entire deal is very balanced taste-wise and, like I said before, it’s substantial. But it clocks in at over five bucks. Not sure if it’s worth it since we’re at Wendy’s right now but I wanted to have lunch with my son and have a nice time, so to me it’s a bargain.”

A pause.

Son: “Thanks, Dad. Sorry about saying your jokes were stupid before.”

Dad: “It’s okay. I get it that sometimes j’can’t-stand-kitsch.”

Son: “What?”

Dad: “J’can’t-stand-kitsch. Chick-en-sand-wich?”

Son: “Ugh, I thought we were over this.”

Dad: “We are.”

Dad disappears in a puff of smoke. Son is sitting alone at a restaurant eating a sandwich. It was an imagined conversation the entire time. The son looks at his meal and pauses. He sighs, continues to eat.

Dad walks up to the table.

Dad: “Sorry, the bathroom took a while. There was a line.”

Son smiles. The conversation was imaginary but his dad is still around.

Dad: “Also, I got stuck.”

Son shakes his head and chuckles.

Son: “Oh, Dad.”

Freeze frame like at the end of an 80’s sitcom. Pull out to reveal it’s a photo in an album. Son is in old man makeup looking through photos.

Son (voice over): “And that was the last time I saw him before he left.”

Shot remains on the son. Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle plays in entirety, except instead of the line “You know we’ll have a good time then” it’s replaced with “You know we’ll have a Gouda time then.”

(Nutrition Facts – 600 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 100 milligrams of cholesterol, 1550 milligrams of sodium, 460 milligrams of potassium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of sugar, 3 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein.)

Item: Wendy’s Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche
Purchased Price: $5.19
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Onion sauce and cheese are nice together. Bitter greens are bitter. Sophisticated flavors for the fast food world.
Cons: Pricey. Bread could’ve been softer. Chicken breading is fine but not spectacular.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito

Jack in the Box Sausage Grande Breakfast Burrito Foilless

When I put the Jack in the Box Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito on the table, I said out loud, “Holy crap! It’s as large as my forearm.”

Then I thought, “Holy crap! Do I have small forearms? Do I have weak forearms? Are my small forearms the reason why I could never win at arm wrestling? Why is this pen so heavy?”

After I stopped being self-conscious, I peeled back the foil the burrito was wrapped in and then I peeled back the flour tortilla to reveal the burrito’s sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon crumbles, shredded pepper jack cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, and creamy sriracha sauce.

The burrito also comes with a container of fire roasted salsa. But if you decide to spend your hard earned money on a Jack in the Box Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito, grab that container of salsa, throw it as far as you can, yell, “Suck it, salsa! Your services are not needed at this time!”, and then get ticketed for littering.

This breakfast burrito doesn’t need the chunky condiment thanks to the sriracha sauce, which has a mild garlicky and chili pepper flavor. If you do use the salsa, you’ll find it chompblocks the sriracha’s flavor. While the sriracha has a lot of flavor, it doesn’t have much heat. So if you’re a fan of spicy sriracha, you’ll be one sad rooster.

You’ll also be one sad piggie if you were hoping the bacon crumbles would have your mouth bursting with salty, greasy, and porky goodness. They don’t, but the sausage does.

Oh wait. One more. Sad animal.

You’ll also be one sad cow if you were hoping the shredded pepper jack would bring a little heat and peppery flavor. It doesn’t. The cheddar cheese sauce definitely dominates the other cheese.

Jack in the Box Sausage Grande Breakfast Burrito Cut

The scrambled eggs didn’t really stand out, flavor-wise, which I expected. But my burrito came with a good serving of it, which helped the burrito look as large as my weak forearms.

Being wrapped in a flour tortilla with sauces and warm proteins and then all that being wrapped in a foil wrapper, I expected the hash browns to be soggy from sitting in that saucy sauna. But they still had a bit of crispness to them as I ate my way through the burrito.

Although the bacon and pepper jack cheese don’t add much to the Jack in the Box Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito, the sausage, sriracha, eggs, cheddar cheese sauce, and hash browns more than make up for them. The breakfast burrito has a lot of flavor and a variety of textures, and, overall, it makes me one happy human with small forearms.

(Nutrition Facts – 1044 calories, 632 calories from fat, 70 grams of fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 391 milligrams of cholesterol, 2132 milligrams of sodium, 532 milligrams of potassium, 68 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 36 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito
Purchased Price: $3.89*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Makes my forearms look small. Creamy sriracha sauce has enough flavor that the included salsa is unnecessary. Hash browns are still a little crispy. Sausage provides all the salty, greasy, and porky goodness.
Cons: Makes my forearms look small. Bacon crumbles and pepper jack cheese don’t add much. Sriracha lacks heat. Sad animals.

*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.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Jalapeño Double

McDonald's Jalapeno Double

If you’re looking for a hot, cheap date, I recommend sitting under a phoenix dactylifera during an African summer. But if you’re looking for a hot, cheap burger, I’d recommend McDonald’s Jalapeno Double.

For two dollars, you get two beef patties, a slice of white cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeno slices, jalapeno crisps, buttermilk ranch sauce, a regular bun, a paper bag, and napkins. Although, through my experience, there’s a 10 percent chance you won’t get napkins.

My McDonald’s Jalapeno Double was topped with seven pickled jalapeno slices. I took that as a sign that I was going to get lucky and taste something good or Ray Kroc was smiling down at me…hoping I burn my mouth for all the negative McDonald’s reviews I’ve written.

Fortunately for me, it was the former.

While my burger had a nacho’s worth of pickled jalapenos, I can’t say there were a lot of jalapeno crisps. What are jalapeno crisps? That’s a good question. You should be a journalist. Looking at their appearance and ingredients (jalapeno peppers, enriched flour, sunflower oil and/or safflower oil and/or canola oil, and salt), which I didn’t include to increase this review’s word count, I assume they’re jalapeno bits that have been coated with flour and then deep fried to near oblivion.

McDonald's Jalapeno Double Topless

The jalapeno crisps provide very little jalapeno flavor. I think they’re really there to give the burger a bit of crunchiness, which they also don’t go a good job of because there’s so few of them. However, the pickled jalapeno slices completely make up for jalapeño crisps’ lack of flavor and crunch.

As for the burger’s heat, the pickled peppers made my burger hole warm, but not uncomfortably so. Or, if you want to use a scale of heat that uses McDonald’s products as references, then it’s spicier than their Hot Mustard Sauce, but not as hot as their habanero sauces.

Perhaps the reason why, with seven jalapeño slices, the burger isn’t burning my mouth is the buttermilk ranch sauce. It has that familiar ranch salad dressing flavor many of us use to make vegetables tolerable, but the flavor goes in and out like a radio signal through a series of tunnels. I found that weird because there’s enough ranch sauce on the burger to make a McNugget jealous.

Speaking of the McNugget’s Creamy Ranch Sauce, it’s not the same sauce on this burger. To prove it and to definitely inflate this review’s word count, I’ve listed the ingredients below.

The McNugget’s Creamy Ranch Sauce is made up of soybean oil, water, cultured lowfat buttermilk, distilled vinegar, sugar, egg yolks, sea salt, garlic juice, xanthan gum, salt, lactic acid, spices, modified guar gum, onion powder, natural flavor, potassium sorbate, autolyzed torula yeast extract, parsley, and calcium disodium EDTA.

The burger’s buttermilk ranch sauce has soybean oil, cultured buttermilk, water, sour cream, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, maltodextrin, salt, dextrose, modified food starch, soy sauce, dried onion, garlic powder, lactic acid, natural and artificial flavors, shallots, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, xanthan gum, spice, phosphoric acid, sodium acid sulfate, propylene glycol alginate, and autolyzed yeast extract.

Like the ranch sauce, the cheese shows itself every so often and seems to help temper the jalapeños. I wish McDonald’s offered a pepper jack cheese, because that would’ve been a nice addition here.

McDonald's Jalapeno Double Wrapper

The McDonald’s Jalapeno Double tastes like a McDouble with jalapenos, and that’s fine and disappointing at the same time. It’s fine because it’s a tasty combination and it’s only two bucks. It’s disappointing because they added ranch sauce and jalapeño crisps to make it more than just a McDouble with jalapeños, but those ingredients don’t do a good job at it. They seem unnecessary, like listing the ingredients for the jalapeño crisps and the two ranch sauces in this review.

(Nutrition Facts – 430 calories, 23 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 22 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Jalapeño Double
Purchased Price: $2.00
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A spicy McDouble. Worth the two dollars. Strong jalapeño flavor with a warm heat. Crunchy jalapeño slices. Cheese is a great glue that keeps the beef patties together.
Cons: Listing ingredients to add to a review’s word count. Ranch sauce doesn’t stick out. Jalapeño crisps didn’t add much flavor or crunch. Ray Kroc haunting me.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Fiesta Potatoes Grilled Breakfast Burrito

Taco Bell Fiesta Potatoes Grilled Breakfast Burrito

Taco Bell is a terrifically sad place at 7:30 in the morning. It looks depraved and miserable and…oh no, is that father buying a Taco Bell breakfast for his six-year-old? Dear God.

All around me, every patron sported the same placid expression of someone who was not only giving up on their chance for a nutritious breakfast, but also in some small way on themselves. As I waited in line, now one with the other early-morning crew, I was overcome with the unshakable feeling that this was the start of my very long, slow decline.

“Well”, I said to myself. “Burritos always make me feel better.”

Enter Taco Bell’s Grilled Breakfast Burritos, one of the latest Taco Bell breakfast offerings and the temporary antidote to my morning sadness. Available in three varieties—steak, sausage, and Fiesta Potatoes-I went for the latter. Fiesta Potatoes, for those of you who aren’t as talented with language as I, roughly translates to “party potatoes.” And I like to party, especially when there are potatoes involved.

Taco Bell Fiesta Potatoes Grilled Breakfast Burrito 1

The burrito itself has some pretty simple ingredients: eggs, nacho cheese sauce, and the Fiesta Potatoes all wrapped in a little grilled tortilla sleeping bag. The eggs, which are reheated scrambled eggs, actually have a pretty nice texture that avoids being too squishy. Although, like most hastily prepared eggs, it’s not exactly packed with intense flavor. The nacho cheese sauce, which does a great job of keeping everything from being too dry, also suffered from being pretty bland.

Taco Bell Fiesta Potatoes Grilled Breakfast Burrito 2

The real flavor in this burrito lies in the Fiesta Potatoes. A spiced out version of traditional diner home-fries, these crispy potatoes gave the burrito a little crunch, and a mild, but tasty, peppery kick.

However, because I am pretty sure I am the first person in Rhode Island to ever order the Fiesta Potatoes Grilled Breakfast Burrito, mine also included pico de gallo. Seriously, I could hear a cook in the back uneasily asking his equally uninformed manager about the ingredients, unsure of whether or not to include the condiment. It was decided to go for the middle ground, and scoop out a smidge. But I may have just gotten lucky.

Though I did really enjoy this burrito (despite how miserable it is to frequent a Taco Bell before noon), I have to say that the Grilled Breakfast Burrito may just be the least “Taco Bell” item on the Taco Bell menu. In fact, if you changed the word “burrito” to “breakfast wrap” I could easily see this being on the breakfast menu at McDonalds or Burger King-even without showcasing any southwestern flare. Either way, while it certainly isn’t the start of a Special K day, it’s a filthy cheap, quick, and damn good burrito. It’s also a great pick-me-up from the early morning Taco Bell blues.

(Nutrition Facts – 340 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 790 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugars, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Fiesta Potatoes Grilled Breakfast Burrito
Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Pretty large and filling considering the price. Fiesta Potatoes have enough spice to give the burrito sizeable flavor. The eggs have a good scrambled consistency.
Cons: Holy hell! I do not like being in Taco Bell in the morning. Seriously, it is one of the most depressing places I have ever been. The burrito is also a little bland.