REVIEW: Burger King Grilled Dogs (Classic and Chili Cheese)

Burger King Grilled Dogs 1

As far as I’m concerned there needs to be a law about the proper way to prepare a hot dog. None of this boiling or deep-frying nonsense, and unless you’re under the age of eight you should never even contemplate sticking that Oscar Meyer wiener in a microwave.

No, hot dogs were created for the grill. Whether beef or pork, skinless or natural casing, hardwood smoked or cheese stuffed; the only way I want to eat a tubular shaped piece of processed meat is hot off a grill.

Unfortunately I live far too distant from the world’s greatest char-grilled hot dog chain to get a regular taste of char-grilled dogs, and my own lack of hardware leaves me pathetically incapable of replicating the smokey, meaty, crackling taste and texture of one.

Thankfully—and I seriously never thought I’d say this—Burger King has come to the rescue in my little corner of suburbia. Currently testing in Maryland, Burger King’s Grilled Dogs were offered in two varieties at the location I stopped by — Classic and Chili Cheese.

Because I’m a complete glutton for punishment (actually just because I really like hot dogs and was really freaking hungry) I also decided to stop by my local Sonic to get their versions of the hot dogs to compare. Now, I realize Sonic may not exactly make any specialty magazine’s list of the greatest hot dog destinations in the country, but for a chain they do a solid dog which is both beefy and affordable. If Burger King wants to be the top dog when it comes to fast food hot dogs, then the chain is going to have to dethrone Sonic first. And yes, I did just drop two absolutely forced puns in the same sentence.

Burger King Grilled Dog Classic

First up is the Classic Dog. It comes with the assortment of ketchup, mustard, sweet relish, and chopped onions. The Burger King dog comes neatly dressed, a little heavy on the chopped onions, but thankfully not drowned in ketchup and mustard. Actually, when it comes to the toppings there is very good balance, so much so that none of the toppings overpower the others, and more importantly don’t overpower the hot dog itself.

Burger King Grilled Dog Grill Marks

The dog, which has grill marks and a split texture, has excellent snap for a fast food dog, with more blackening than Sonic’s All-American dog. The flavor is moderately smokey and definitely beefy, although to be honest it’s not as beefy as Sonic’s dog. I liked it…a lot. But it felt small and not quite substantial enough. The bun was a bit stale, but it did have a decent buttery-sweet flavor. The meat to bun ratio felt right; I tasted a combination of sharp and sweet toppings, the bun, and most importantly the meaty depth of the hot dog.

BK Left, Sonic right hot Dogs

Burger King (Left), Sonic (Right)

I probably favor Sonic’s dog a little more, mostly because theirs has beefier taste and the bun had a really enjoyable, pillowy quality that I happen to be a sucker for. But I’m splitting hairs here, because Burger King clearly wins for the hot dog’s texture.

Burger King Grilled Dogs Chili Cheese

The Burger King Chili Cheese Dog is definitely for you if you’re the kind person who doesn’t mind getting more chili cheese flavor than beef flavor in your dog. Here the toppings do somewhat obscure the grilled taste and the beefy dog, although it’s a tasty hot dog in its own right. Burger King actually does a nice job at presenting the perennial slobberfest, at least compared to Sonic, which just sort of steams a gooey hunk of processed cheddar over the hot dog. Here the extra support of the stiffer bun gives Burger King an edge.

Burger King Grilled Dogs Chili Cheese 2

The chili flavor is par for the course; a thick tomato paste and bean mixture fortified with beef fat, it has strong accents of garlic and cumin beneath a layer of nicely melted three cheeses. It’s the kind of stuff you’ll find out of a can, although a can that’s been doctored up by some B-List Food Network star like Sandra Lee who specializes in making you think it’s semi-homemade. I especially liked the three cheese blend, which had a milky flavor. I thought Burger King’s Chili Cheese dog was a winner over Sonic despite costing 39 cents more, if only because it’s much more presentable and a bit more complex in its use of the three cheeses.

Burger King Grilled Dogs 2

Burger King’s new Grilled Dogs aren’t exactly hot dog royalty, but they’re very good for a fast food restaurant and definitely captured that char-grilled taste and texture that comes with putting a wiener on an open flame. While they seem to lack some of the inherent beefiness that Sonic’s hot dogs have, their smokey taste and crisp texture are big step above the spinning wieners on heating trays at convenience stores, and definitely an approved substitute if your iconic hot dog dive isn’t on your daily commute.

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable.)

Item: Burger King Grilled Dogs
Purchased Price: $1.99 (Classic)
Purchased Price: $2.39 (Chili Cheese)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Classic)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chili Cheese)
Pros: Solid char-grilled taste and snappy texture. Beefy and meaty flavor of a premium hot dog. Well constructed with toppings evenly distributed, with none overpowering the others. Cheese has a nice milky note that plays well with the earthy flavors of the chili.
Cons: Not as beefy tasting as Sonic’s hot dogs. Small and not quite satisfying when compared to specialty hot dog restaurants. Slightly stale bun. Sandra Lee chili sauce.

REVIEW: Limited Edition Tic Tac Minions

Limited Edition Minions Tic Tac

While perusing the candy shelf for a breath freshener, there’s one brand I usually tend to avoid – Tic Tac. That is of course until I saw their new – dare I say genius – flavor variety.

Tic Tac and Universal Studios have partnered on a Limited Edition Minion version of their “artificially flavored fruit mints,” and all your favorite Minions are here – Overalls that look like a goatee Minion (aka “Heisenberg Minion,”) Furrowed Brow Minion, Ol’ One Eye, and last but certainly not least, Bob – the eponymous Minion gracing the box.

Who doesn’t like the Minions? I know kids definitely love them. I can imagine every child under three throwing a tantrum after their mother refuses to buy them a box, and it’s all because Tic Tac had the brilliant notion to paint little black faces on each mint.

Limited Edition Minions Tic Tac 3

I can sit here and praise this marketing stroke all day, but these are meant to be eaten and not played with, right?

The flavor here is passionfruit, which is disappointing considering the only words I remember the Minions saying in English were “bottom” and “banana.” These should be banana flavored. I expected them to be banana flavored. Why aren’t these banana flavored?!

Sure “banana-mint” doesn’t sound all that appetizing, but does “passionfruit-mint”? These aren’t even minty. I’ve always found Tic Tacs to be very liberal with their usage of the word “mint” when it comes to the fruit varieties.

Like most Tic Tacs, the flavor is great at first, but quickly becomes nearly unappetizing. This is the point I usually just chew them to get it over with. They’re much better when consumed that way. That’s a good trait of the Tic Tac, it’s a softer mint that won’t wreck your teeth.

Fruit Tic Tacs tend to get sour the longer you keep them in your mouth and these continue that trend. The sour hint remains for a good 5-10 minutes after eating them. Tic Tac mint varieties have a similar characteristic. White Peppermint starts with a delicious vanilla taste, then devolving into an easily recognizable artificial mint flavor. I have to imagine I’m not the only one who chews these after a while.

Tic Tac fruit mints as a whole haven’t been all that impressive. Orange stormed on the scene and took the game over, but its successors have never really stacked up. These passionfruit-flavored ones aren’t bad, and for all I know can be 100% authentic to the actual fruit which I’m not sure I’ve ever actually come in contact with. I should seek them out, because I can use a little more passion in my life…but I’ll save that for a different blog.

While I’m discussing Tic Tacs, I’d be remised not to mention their main problem – the packaging. Tic Tacs are a pain in the neck to carry around in your pocket, lest you want people to know you are approaching from four blocks away. What other mint turns you into the Human Maraca? You might as well be that Minion who impersonated the fire truck siren. “Bee-do, bee-do.” See, I saw the movies!

Limited Edition Minions Tic Tac 4

So all in all, these aren’t too bad. The idea definitely outweighs the flavor. I can’t get over how simple and brilliant this partnership was. They get bonus points for that alone. When you pair that with a decent flavor, they’re worth dropping a buck on if only as a conversation starter. Don’t forget to use that little indentation on the lid to share with your co-workers – every internet list has informed me that is a “life hack,” because who doesn’t want like one Tic Tac at a time?

Kampai! (Minionese for “Cheers.”)

(Nutrition Facts – 1 mint – 2 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 0.5 grams of carbohydrates, 0 gram of fiber, 0.5 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Limited Edition Tic Tac Minions
Purchased Price: $1.01
Size: 1 oz.
Purchased at: Harmon Discount Drug
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Quite possibly the most impulsive of the buys. Heisenberg Minion. Tasty enough. Genius cross marketing.
Cons: Sour. Tic Tac pocket rattle. “Fruit-mints.” Not banana flavored. Limited Edition. Passionless life. Life-hack lists.

REVIEW: Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich

Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich

Implementing the mechanics of a sandwich to hold ice cream in your grubby hands and shoving it into your body at the rate of an intravenous drip is something like harnessing sugary fusion.

This makes the ice cream sandwich something of a king in the category of “desserts inspired by other foods.” Personally, it ranks above the Choco Taco, the Pizookie, Twizzlers (dessert spaghetti), and the churro (dessert hot dog). Carl’s Jr. has trotted out the Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich for a try and it proves to be a pleasant if not slightly sticky experience.

What’s interesting is that straight up ice cream is sort of a rarity in fast food. There are shakes and soft serve and Frostys and Blizzards (oh my), but as far as a straight up scoop, I’m hard pressed to think of that many options. Carl’s Jr. had that Pop-Tart Ice Cream Sandwich I never tried. Baskin-Robbins and Carvel are only for freaks on first dates that need a place to walk to and families with unbearable children. This ice cream sandwich itches that scratch of a dense, slightly-chewy scoop of frozen goodness.

The Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich is smaller than you might think. Two Hostess Ding Dongs—actual size Ding Dongs, which are tiny—flank a relatively thick scoop of vanilla ice cream. The entire affair could probably squeeze inside a tennis ball. Then Serena Williams could serve them right into my mouth at 100 mph! Mmm, vanilla, chocolate and… sprinkles? Nope, those are broken teeth.

Ding Dongs, for those previously unacquainted, are chocolate cake pucks enveloped in a thin layer of chocolate. They do a gracious job of housing the ice cream, though the chocolate is a bit sticky. Maybe that’s something that’s insurmountable. We could have had unsticky chocolate by now but haters protested pink slime and the stuff that goes in yoga mats. Those were my favorite foods. Wednesday night is pot roast night and Thursday night was yoga mat and pink slime night. The hardened chocolate on the Ding Dong also offers a slight textural diversity to the sandwich, which is delightfully squishy on the whole.

Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich 2

The ice cream is fairly regular. It’s inoffensive and tastes a little bit like a typical supermarket variety. The vanilla flavor is minor and dissipates quickly—this is not Carl’s Jr. staging an ice cream revolution. The dense ice cream pairs well with the (also pretty dense) chocolate cake, yet both together are so sweet that, about halfway through, there is a bit of sugar fatigue. However, I believe this happens with most ice cream things anyway, and speaks to the benefit of the smaller size of the product. There also isn’t much interplay between the flavors—the Ding Dongs are just there to get the ice cream in yo’ mouf.

The construction is a bit awkward, as the Ding Dongs are smaller than the scoop of ice cream. It took a bit of maneuvering to finish the sandwich without getting ice cream everywhere, especially when applying a small amount of pressure while eating it causes the ice cream to spill out a bit. It’s not a too bad of an inconvenience, though, and it’s worth it, like taking a girl taller than you to prom.

The Ding Dong ice cream sandwich is a nice changeup from the soupy shakes and air-filled soft serve cones on the fast food market. It’s not that different from any other ice cream sandwich that you might find in the frozen food aisle, but even a mediocre king is still a king.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 290 calories, 140 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 grams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Carl’s Jr. Hostess Ding Dong Ice Cream Sandwich
Purchased Price: $1.89
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Carl’s Jr.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Actual ice cream fix. Pleasant all-around experience.
Cons: Ice cream is fairly regular. Ding Dongs seems supplementary, not integral to product. Still sticky.

REVIEW: Keebler Jif Cookies

Keebler Jif Cookies

If it’s really true that “Choosy Moms Choose Jif,” then that raises some interesting questions about these new Keebler Jif Cookies. Namely: with so many cookies to choose from, what do Keebler Elf mothers pack for their kids’ lunches?

All lingering questions regarding Keebler biology aside (if E.L. Fudge cookies are anatomically correct, then how can the Elves reproduce with fudge for guts?), my guess is that it’s these peanut buttery delights.

Why? Because eating them is like taking a nostalgic trip back to elementary school lunchtime. Allow me to guide you through the simulation:

As Mrs. Hartwell continues to drone on about the importance of “the cursive capital I,” all you can think about is how the letter kinda looks like an octopus holding a cup of tea. So you stare at her bizarre facial mole until the third period bell rings, heralding in the best part of the day: lunch. As everyone clamors to the haphazardly cleaned tables, you explore the depths of your Tiny Toon Adventures lunchbox. Tossing aside a Grape Capri Sun (Pacific Cooler is a way better flavor) and egg salad sandwich (shudder), you strike brown gold: a Ziploc full of Keebler Jif Cookies!

Keebler Jif Cookies 2

With a scent like the oily innards of a Reese’s Cup wafting out of the baggy, you catch the hopeful stare of Benny Thompson. No way are you trading your cookies for his Fruit Roll-Up this time. You bite into one of the bumpy, fudge-coated rings (but not before wearing it like a mock pinky ring, as it’s perfectly sized for your young hands) and release an exaggerated “Mmmm!” Benny hides his jealousy with a Fruit Roll-Up.

They certainly aren’t attractive cookies, with the glossy fudge and protruding nuts making them look like something that Scooter, your family Basset Hound, would leave behind for the neighbor kids to put in a flaming paper bag. The fudge melts fast, too, so you hope no one misinterprets the brown smudges on your hands.

Keebler Jif Cookies 3

Analyzing every layer reveals the treat as deceptively complicated. The cookie center is crispy and airy with a pleasant taste of cocoa. This is surrounded by a layer of diced peanuts that add a contrasting crunch texture and a bit of earthy saltiness to balance the resounding sweetness of the fudge, which is a bit overbearingly rich in that “you’ll be tasting this on your tongue for hours” kind of way. It’s strong enough to override the unique creaminess provided by the thin layer of Jif peanut butter inside, which is a shame, because the rare instances when the Jif’s nutty gooeyness shines through are the cookie’s most memorable parts.

After school, you immediately raid the cupboards before mom gets home. As any child would, you experiment and craft a sinful PB&J hors d’oeuvre that looks vaguely like Jabba the Hutt.

Keebler Jif Cookies 4

Cookies like these naturally evoke such childlike creativity. Yes, it’s ridiculous, fattening, and a bit unnecessary, but it’s also the kind of experience you’ll remember fondly in 10 years.

At the end of the day, that’s just what these cookies are: an enjoyable escapade, but a forgettable flavor. As good as it is, it’s been done before: when absentmindedly stuffed into your mouth, the many flavors amalgamate and ultimately remind you of two very familiar ones: it’s just like a Keebler Fudge Stripe and a Little Debbie Nutty Bar made sweet, sweet love and had salty-sweet children.

Not that your elementary school self understood how that works, right?

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 170 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Keebler Jif Cookies
Purchased Price: $2.78
Size: 8 oz./15 cookies
Purchased at: Meijer
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Jif peanut butter MVP. Fun contrasting textures. Evoking childlike whimsy. “Jabba the Peanutt.”
Cons: Not enough Jif. Loses complexity when crammed in mouth. Fudge fingers. Distracting moles. Egg salad.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry (Canada)

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry

Mike Myers. Justin Bieber. The McFlurry.

If your answer to this Jeopardy question is “What are things that came from Canada,” then you are correct (and no, we won’t take back Bieber — he’s yours now, America. Enjoy).

Yep, according to the cup (and from now on, I want all my information to come in McFlurry cup form, FYI), the McFlurry was “born in Canada. Loved around the world,” and is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. I very distinctly remember the introduction of the McFlurry — it certainly doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, but why would the cup lie to me? I feel old.

And what better way to celebrate a 20th anniversary than jumping on a years-old fad? I remember red velvet being a pretty big deal a few years ago, but is this still a thing that gets people hot and bothered? I was under the assumption that we, as a society, had reached our red velvet saturation point at least a couple of years ago, but apparently not.

And McDonald’s doesn’t even really seem to get what makes red velvet so appealing: when I think of a red velvet cake, aside from its eponymous dark-red hue, I think of abundant cream cheese frosting. It’s the combination of the mildly chocolatey cake and the sweet tang of the cream cheese frosting that makes red velvet such a comfort food classic.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 2

So it’s weird that McDonald’s has elected to not even try to replicate that particular flavour, sticking to the cake alone (and throwing in Oreo cookies for some reason). You’d think this would lead to so-so (at best) results, but this was surprisingly tasty.

Certainly, the cashier at the McDonald’s I went to liked it. Right after I ordered, she asked me if I had tried it before, and I told her I hadn’t. She leaned in closer, as if to tell me a secret: “it’s really good,” she said, adding almost comical emphasis to the word “really.”

It’s fairly rare that a cashier at a fast food joint even cares enough to offer their opinion on the food, so I took this as a good sign.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 3

And once I got over my disappointment that the cream cheese frosting was MIA, it actually was quite satisfying. It does a pretty decent job of recapturing the red velvet cake flavour — though I’m not sure how much of that is triggered by the fact that I knew what the flavour was, and by the colour. If I ate it blind, would I have been able to tell that it was red velvet? Or would I have just tasted chocolate? I’m honestly not sure, but either way, it tastes good.

It has a pretty good chocolatey taste without being overwhelmingly sweet, the Oreo bits add some crunch and flavour, and the soft serve is nice and creamy. It’s nothing too mind-blowing — it’s basically just an Oreo McFlurry with chocolate syrup and red food colouring — but sometimes the simplest things are the best.

So thanks, McDonald’s cashier, you were right. This was really good. Did the world really need its 976,874th red velvet flavoured dessert? No, probably not. But it’s here regardless, and it’s pretty tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 530 calories, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.3 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 87 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 66 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry
Purchased Price: $3.79 CAN
Size: Regular
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like red velvet cake. Crunchy Oreo and creamy soft serve is a tasty combo. Not too sweet. Cashier approved.
Cons: No cream cheese frosting. Red velvet flavour might be psychological. Cup factoids that make you feel old. Justin Bieber.