REVIEW: Arby’s Liger Shake

Arby s Liger Shake

Heading into this limited-time-only product, I knew three things about ligers:

  • It’s the technical name for the offspring of a male lion and female tiger (the inverse, in case you were wondering, is called a tigon.)
  • There’s a famous Japanese wrestler named Jushin “Thunder” Liger, who was inspired by a short-lived anime of the same name (why he has a head shaped like a demonic pinata, though, I can’t explain.)
  • It’s Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite animal.

It’s an unorthodox name for a novelty milkshake, but after you’ve tried Arby’s newfangled beverage it all makes sense. The Liger Shake isn’t called that just because it looks like a pair of Cincinnati Bengals Zubaz workout pants in drinkable form – it truly is the harmonious synthesis of two distinct flavors that you’d never expect to merge together so well.

Arby s Liger Shake

The Liger Shake’s hook is pretty straightforward. It’s half orange cream – think, a ritzier version of that sherbet stuff we all ate in elementary school – and half Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream, with several rings of sludgier, in-house chocolate syrup tying everything together. Naturally, there’s also a hearty dollop of whipped cream to top things off, which makes comparisons to the beverages sold at a certain ubiquitous coffee chain all but unavoidable.

Unlike the Unicorn Frappuccino, however, this competing, swirl-centric offering from Arby’s is a classic milkshake through and through. While I’ve never been particularly fond of orange or chocolate-flavored shakes, combining the two makes for an unexpectedly satisfying combination. I guess the best thing to liken the Liger Shake to are Terry’s Chocolate Orange products – you know, those aluminum foil wrapped delicacies on store shelves every Christmas – mixed with the traditional Wendy’s Frosty.

Arby s Liger Shake 3

The shake has a very nice congealed consistency and the flavors mingle together quite well without either becoming too dominant. Somehow, someway, the fast food wizards at Arby’s managed to keep the orange-to-chocolate flavor ratio at an even-keel, and the end product is certain to please chocoholics and citrus-holics alike.

If I had to be a nitpicker, I’d take a few points off for the whipped cream (it has a nice aesthetic, but it gets milky fast and muddles with the flavor a bit) and the perhaps too sludgy chocolate swirls, which have a texture and overall mouthfeel that just doesn’t gel with the rest of the ingredients. That said, those minor flaws can easily be overlooked seeing how yummy the product taken as a whole is, and for less than three bucks, you simply can’t complain about the volume you’re getting here.

And as a nice bonus, this is one of the few fast food shakes that seems impervious to freezer burn. My leftover Liger Shake tasted just as flavorful and filling after two nights in the freezer as it did fresh out of the drive-thru lane – an attribute we can only pin on the product’s sturdy, crossbred genetics, perhaps?

(Nutrition Facts – Large – 680 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of total fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 116 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 104 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Large
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The drink has a nice, creamy consistency. The orange and chocolate flavors mix together surprisingly well. Even the smaller version will fill you up.
Cons: The whipped cream doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience. The chocolate “rings” don’t complement the rest of the shake as well as they could. Wondering how long it’ll be before Arby’s rolls out their Zebroid, Wholphin and Beefalo follow-up shakes.

REVIEW: Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Chipotle Ranch

Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, which I refer to endearingly as OG Hot Cheetos, and I go way back. Almost three decades ago, its street cred and my love for them was established. They were basically the currency of my elementary school days – traded in snack-size Ziploc bags for durables like shakeable Dr. Grip mechanical pencils (very cool back then too).

Of course, my enterprising after-school institution caught on. They sold “individual packs” to us crazed hooligans for 25 cents. Adult me is pretty sure that those one-ounce packs were the kind you buy in a variety pack labeled “not for individual sale.” Point is – the OG trusty, just-enough-heat deliciousness has never failed me.

So when the new Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot Chipotle Ranch hit shelves, I thought, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” However, I went in with little to no expectations because I wasn’t quite sure what chipotle ranch was supposed to taste like dusted on a “cheese-flavored snack.” To me, it sounded more like a dipping sauce or something over-slathered on a sad sandwich.

There was no shock value when I opened the bag because they looked like the same ol’ same ol’. When examined closely, I saw more flecks of seasoning so it looked slightly redder, but that was about it. What did shock me was the BBQ-esque smell coming from the bag. I rationalized that chipotle was supposed to evoke a smokier connotation, which could be similar to BBQ. I also couldn’t un-smell Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists.

Even as I took my first crunch, the more pronounced corn flavor totally reminded me of said Fritos. The initial corn note evolved into a whisper of ranch – thank goodness, the last thing I wanted was cool ranch-esque flavoring – that was rounded out by a slight smokiness from the chipotle, and ended with heat.

I will say that it wasn’t spicy as the OG. The ranch seems to dampen the heat, but I was okay with that because it didn’t completely kill the burn. The diminished heat actually allowed me to shovel them into my mouth at a quicker pace. There was definitely still an undeniable addictiveness. But it was a mind-trip the entire time like when I ate a deconstructed Caesar salad at some hoity-toity restaurant. It tasted like Caesar salad but the form looked nothing like it. But in this case, I was tasting Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists but seeing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

Just to make sure, I did a taste-off between the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Chipotle Ranch and Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists. They definitely smelled similar, but said Fritos tasted way more pungently BBQ, sweeter from the honey, and weren’t spicy at all. So there’s definitely a difference.

If you put a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in front of me, I’m going to eat them no matter what flavor. But, if I had a choice, I’d stick to the OG.

(Nutrition Facts – about 21 pieces – 170 calories, 11 grams total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 15 grams of carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, less than 1 gram sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: 8.5 oz. bag
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Still have an addictive quality. Diminished heat allowed me to shovel Cheetos into my mouth at a quicker pace. Not exactly like Fritos Honey BBQ Flavor Twists. Complex flavor journey – giving R&D props!
Cons: OG Flamin’ Hot Cheetos still taste better. Tasting Fritos but seeing Cheetos. Lots of justification needed for the flavor nuances, like why it’s less spicy, etc.

REVIEW: 7-Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut

7 Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut

I open my review with a quote from pop culture’s most famous convenience store proprietor, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon:

“You’ve clearly taken items from the candy rack and placed them on top of the donut in an attempt to pass them off as sprinkles. A Mounds bar is not a sprinkle! A Twizzler is not a sprinkle! A Jolly Rancher is not a sprinkle, sir. Perhaps in Shangri-la they are, but not here!”

So, is a Twix bar a sprinkle? Did 7-Eleven break the convenience code, or do they use a different rulebook than the Kwik-E-Mart?

I guess a better question is do you care?

You don’t care. You just wanna know if a donut sprinkled with Twix pieces is good. I’ll kill the suspense right here. Yes. Of course a donut covered in Twix pieces is good.

Do you like heavy donuts? Your entire enjoyment of the 7-Eleven Caramel Bar made with Twix Donut might hinge on that question. This donut was almost as big a mouthful as that name.

I personally like really dense donuts, so this was right up my alley. If you wanna know what the texture was like, think of two chocolate frosted Dunkin’ Donuts violently mashed together. This is a heavy piece of pastry. The fact it’s oblong and hole-less definitely added to that density.

Sticking to that comparison, this basically tastes like a chocolate frosted Dunkin’ Donut with caramel added (Note to Dunkin’ Donuts: Sell those.)

7 Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut 2

The caramel is painted on top like a standard icing, and definitely tasted authentic to a Twix. I will say that it did get a bit overshadowed due to the chocolate drizzle and candy pieces that were caked on top as well as the dense dough, but it was still tasty.

The Twix bits, which looked like pretzel pieces on first glance, did their job just fine. I probably could have even used more of them. The Homer Simpson approach of just tossing an intact bar atop the donut may have worked better. Instead of chopping Twix up, I would have liked five or six mini Twix on top – one per bite.

7 Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut 3

I thought for sure there would be some kind of caramel or chocolate filling, but I cut it open and was proven wrong. That may have been overkill, but I can imagine some people yearning for a little something to cut the dough.

The donut had a pleasant scent, but everything in a 7-Eleven bakery cabinet smells the same over time.

I would recommend the 7-Eleven Caramel Bar made with Twix Donut for sure. I’d also recommend picking up a Twix and chasing each donut bite to really hammer home the Twix experience. Why not? You’ve been good all week.

This is a winner for 7-Eleven in my eye, but it might be too heavy and too skimpy on the Twix pieces for some people. Still, if you’re stopping in for a morning coffee, this beast will hold you over ’til lunch.

Thank you, come again.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: I really like dense, chewy donuts. Fresh. Tasty combination. Can’t go wrong with Twix. Your brain reading that quote in Apu’s voice. There’s a Simpsons reference for everything.
Cons: Caramel gets masked a bit. Not enough Twix pieces. Oblong donuts. Could have come up with a better name. Nutritional facts not available on website.

REVIEW: Arby’s Pizza Slider

Arby s Pizza Slider

Simple is good. You don’t need to reinvent the proverbial wheel for a limited time product to work – you just have to switch up the core idea of a product and present it as aesthetically and gustatorily pleasing as possible.

Arby’s all-new Pizza Sliders are a great example of fast food minimalism. It’s not too ambitious, it’s not too gimmicky, and it doesn’t try to be anything bigger or better than it really is. It’s just a gloriously uncomplicated minor tweak to the chain’s tried-and-true Sliders formula and that makes for a great value-priced (read: dollar menu) offering.

Arby s Pizza Slider 2

It’s basically a miniature version of your classic Italian sub sammich. There’s a big chunk of pepperoni, several meaty chunks of Genoa salami, a hearty smattering of melted provolone cheese and a dollop of roasted garlic marinara sauce wedged in between the “mini-buns,” which are actually much larger than you’d expect them to be (for comparative purposes, I’d say they’re about twice the size of the mini-burgers at White Castle and Krystal.)

Arby s Pizza Slider 3

If you’re trying to stretch a dollar, you’re definitely going to get your money’s worth here. Don’t let the “miniature” gimmick fool you, these things are remarkably dense and surprisingly filling. I ordered three of them and by the time I put down the third Slider I felt as if I had crammed down a full-sized meatball hoagie.

Arby s Pizza Slider 5

But not all is well in Pizza Slider Town. The sandwich is also very salty, packing a walloping 930 milligrams of sodium. That’s about half the sodium content you’d find in something like Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.’s Baby Back Rib Thickburger, a competing LTO burger easily three times the slider’s girth. So if you tear into these things sans a beverage on the side, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Arby s Pizza Slider 4

It’s a minor point of contention, but I also thought the marinara sauce could’ve been better (and, believe it or not, it’s not the same stuff Arby’s uses for its mozzarella sticks.) The sauce here is less tangy and more watery, and could really benefit from a pulpier blend and just a wee bit more garlic or oregano. It’s no deal breaker, though – and since the burger is only a buck, I suppose I can let it slide (get it, because it’s called a Slider?)

Terrible puns aside, these things are just dandy. They’re yummy, satisfying and super-duper affordable — essentially, everything you want out of a seasonal fast food item. And as far as imitation pizzas go, these things beat the susceptor-coated sleeves off Hot Pockets’ wannabe pizza sandwiches in overall quality and price.

(Nutrition Facts – 300 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The sandwiches have a LOT of pepperoni and salami on them. The melted mozzarella is fairly flavorful. Despite their stature, they are astonishingly filling.
Cons: The marinara sauce is kinda’ weak. All that sodium will have you chugging Aquafina like your uvula is on fire. Having no idea which packet of sauce to ask for to accompany the sandwich.

REVIEW: Popeyes Sweet & Crunchy Tenders

Popeyes Sweet  Crunchy Tenders

When I opened my Popeyes box with the new Sweet & Crunchy Tenders, it smelled as if I opened a box of donuts.

That’s due to the shortbread cookie coating on the all white meat chicken. Yes, I did just type these have a cookie coating and, no, I did not misspell “shortening cooked coating” or “shorthair cat coating.”

Popeyes Sweet  Crunchy Tenders 2

From what I could tell, there aren’t shortbread cookie pieces in the coating, but these have a jaw-rattling crunch. If you examine a piece, it looks like the hardened skin of a golden brown Godzilla protecting the perfectly cooked chicken underneath. But after eating all three tenders in the box, I realized it might be too crunchy because I ended up with a mild case of Cap’n Crunch Mouth.

The coating has a noticeable sweetness, but it doesn’t remind me of shortbread cookies or, sadly, donuts. Being shortbread, I was expecting a butteriness, but I didn’t taste any.

Popeyes Sweet  Crunchy Tenders 3

I haven’t had other Popeyes products that had a sweet coating, like the Chicken Waffle Tenders and Southern Fair Chicken Tenders, so I also can’t say these remind me of any of their previous limited time offerings. But I can say, if by some chance your Popeyes forgets to include a sauce with your tenders, eating them sans sauce won’t be too bad.

Popeyes Sweet  Crunchy Tenders 4

While the sweet and savory tenders are good enough that they could be eaten without sauce, they are wonderful with the Smokin’ Pepper Jam Sauce. When I tasted it by itself with my pinky finger, it instantly reminded me of the sweet chili sauce that comes with the spring rolls from my favorite Thai restaurants. It’s slightly more sweet than peppery and when combined with the tenders it enhances the shortbread coating’s sweetness and adds a nice peppery element as a contrast to the sweetness.

Popeyes Sweet & Crunchy Tenders with Smokin’ Pepper Jam Sauce is a great tasting limited time offering. Even though it gave me Cap’n Crunch Mouth. I’d recommend giving it a try while it’s around.

So now that Popeyes has a coating made from cookies, maybe the chicken chain could try making one with another snack — potato chips.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $7.00* (meal)
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smells like donuts. Coating is made with frickin’ shortbread cookies. Crunchy. Smokin’ Pepper Jam Sauce is wonderful and reminds me of sweet chili sauces for Thai spring rolls.
Cons: Might be too crunchy; gave me a mild case of Cap’n Crunch mouth. Limited time offering.

*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.