REVIEW: Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

There are several places I never want to find pulled pork, including a high school cafeteria, the bathroom, and inside an open wound. Fortunately, Wendy’s has nothing to do with these three things.

Similar to Denny’s fascination with bacon, Wendy’s has a newfound obsession with pulled pork. This autumn season, Wendy’s fast food restaurants will be offering a limited-time only menu including BBQ Pulled Pork Cheese Fries, a BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger, and a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wendy’s introduced a pulled pork Frosty before the month ends. Wait a second…

Oh, Wendy. You sassy, redheaded minx.

Before I continue my review, I must confess: pulled pork has always confused me. Yes, it’s delicious, but I’ve never understood which part of the pig must be pulled in order to procure said barbecued meat. Behind the ears? No. Under the stomach? Nope. Between the legs? Good lord, no!

Still pondering the anatomy of hogs, I found myself inside a local Wendy’s restaurant. With five dollars in my pocket and the hunger-pangs in full effect, I decided it was high-time to try the new BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, which features hickory-smoked pulled pork meat, a layer of coleslaw, and a toasted brioche bun. Each sandwich is finished with one of three sauces: smoky, spicy, or sweet.

The sandwich arrives in a red, cardboard box decorated with Wendy’s smiling mug. Opening this package reveals the pulled pork sandwich in all its glory, topped with a grease-soaked bun that glistens in the sunlight.

The pulled pork itself is smoky and meaty. A praiseworthy approximation of barbecue flavor, it lacks the dry, chewy qualities I’ve noticed of low-quality pulled pork. Sure, Wendy’s pulled pork might not be as succulent and flavorful as pulled pork from the finest Southern barbecue joints, but it certainly holds its own.

The pork flavor is enhanced by the sweet sauce, which has a pleasant tang reminiscent of the sauce found on both the McRib and Burger King BBQ Rib Sandwich. The amount of sauce on my pulled pork sandwich was just right; the meat was not supersaturated with sauce, but I was still able to taste the barbecue sauce flavor. The only drawback was that the sweet sauce seemed a bit lukewarm when compared to the meat. I suspect the sauce wasn’t heated before the sandwich was assembled. As I continued to eat, the residual heat from the pulled pork slightly improved the sauce’s temperature, but the first few bites were subpar.

Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich 2

In comparison to both the pulled pork and sauce, the coleslaw is a letdown. Its flavor is subdued and one-note, hardly noticeable in a mouthful of smoky pork. Its main contribution to the sandwich is textural, adding a light crunch to each bite. Even so, it fails to seem as crisp as the freshest of coleslaws.

My sandwich’s contents occasionally spilled out mid-bite, but this cannot be seen as a flaw — pulled pork is an inherently messy food. Luckily, the cardboard box conveniently doubles as a tray. You will receive full protection from falling meats, just in case you decide to eat the pulled pork sandwich while in the nude, all alone in your empty apartment on a Friday night.

I finished my Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich feeling fulfilled. Though the coleslaw topping lacked bite, the sandwich’s balance of smoky pork and tangy sauce was deeply gratifying. For a fast food take on a Southern classic, Wendy’s pulled it off. The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich rivals other barbecue sandwiches I’ve tasted at a competitive price.

As a disclaimer, I want to assure the reader that neither I, nor The Impulsive Buy, endorse the pulling of pigs. Furthermore, we have never engaged in any form of hog-yanking activity. Please be kind to our animal friends, no matter how tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 410 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1230 milligrams of sodium, 360 milligrams of potassium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 17 gram of sugar, and 24 grams of protein.)

Item: Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smoky pulled pork flavor. Tangy sauce. Perfect amount of sauce. Eating in the nude?
Cons: Lukewarm sauce. Coleslaw flavor is one-note. Ethical dilemmas of pulling pigs.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)

When I dream I often come across magical dream items I wish existed in real life. If only I could Inception myself or have a dream thief Inception me (That thought makes me all warm and tingly) so these mystic items could be extracted into reality.

I mean, imagine if you could have a guitar that doubles as a television remote. Then you wouldn’t have to stop playing for a moment to turn the channel! Or a toothbrush that simultaneously flosses your teeth and then rinses your mouth with Listerine. Sure it sounds dangerous, and it probably is, but you’d still want one. I know I would.

So when I encountered McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake on a walk through Osaka, I bit myself as hard as I could on the hand to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Pinching yourself is so outdated. Get with the dream times, people! The milkshake was real (as was the blood running down my hand and arm) so I wasted no time in going in and getting one.

Irasshaimase!!!” said the workers.

Expect to hear this whenever you walk into just about anywhere in Japan. One time I swear I heard a toilet say it to me as I entered a restroom.

After using my pathetic routine of pointing at the item I want and saying “this one, please” in Japanese and the magic dream item extraction began. Now I know purple sweet potatoes are a real thing, but come on, when do you ever see one of them? I’m close to 30 and I have yet to encounter one, so to me this is as magical a milkshake as there is.

McDonald's Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan) 2

The color was very off-putting. It is a vibrant purple, which is really confusing because you think it will taste like black raspberry, or grape, or just something that is purple, yet the shake is similar to a traditional sweet potato with the orange center. It not only tastes like one, it tastes like one that has been buttered. I shit you not.

McDonald’s was able to replicate this Thanksgiving staple without being overly rich. A welcome surprise. The shake is not triple-thick like the ones in America, so you don’t have to worry about any “God Damn It All The Shake Won’t Come Through the Straw” frustrations. It’s a tad thinner than I usually like my milkshakes but the flavor more than made up for it.

Now I personally love buttered sweet potatoes, so for me this shake was amazing but I could see some people not liking it just because it doesn’t seem like a milkshake flavor that is meant to be.

The one real obstacle you have with this milkshake is the psychological game it plays with you. Imagine if you were given a milkshake that appeared to be vanilla but in fact it tasted like strawberry, or a chocolate-seeming milkshake that in fact tasted like butter pecan. Can you say, “mind fuck?” I can! It’s actually fun to say, rolls off the tongue really well. Give it a try!

So to amplify the MF experience, I drank the milkshake while walking through the famous Dotonbori area in Osaka, which is filled with all sorts of crazy mechanical crabs, electronic signs, and numerous oddities, not to mention the thousands of people walking about trying to decide which delicacy to try.

If you had told me, “Hey, Trev, you’re tripping balls right now,” I wouldn’t have disagreed with you. I would’ve been angry at you for slipping me something, but only for a minute, because what’s the point in getting angry?

Now I can’t tell you to hop on a flight, go to Japan and get this McShake because…wait, no, I can tell you whatever I want. So go book a flight, preferably leaving tomorrow, fly into Tokyo or Osaka, get the McShake and then do whatever else you want.

If you don’t speak Japanese, no worries! A combination of pointing, the words, “I don’t understand,” and crying will get you through most situations.

Ganbatte!

(Nutrition Facts – (Editor’s Note: I’d like to put the nutrition facts here, but I don’t know where it is on the McDonald’s Japan website.))

Item: McDonald’s Purple Sweet Potato McShake (Japan)
Purchased Price: 195 yen
Size: Medkum
Purchased at: McDonald’s Japan
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Actually tastes like a sweet potato. Buttery flavor is delicious and a minor miracle. Being in Japan. Being incepted.
Cons: Milkshake is a tad thin. Dollar to yen confusion. Irasshaimase gets old fast. Shake is a real mind fuck.

REVIEW: Pizza Hut Bacon Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza

Pizza Hut Bacon Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza

All right, dammit! I admit it, I like Pizza Hut?

As a former Manhattanite who grew up on real pizza, I think my family and friends in the Big Apple just hung their heads collectively in shame and disgust. I would probably garner a better reaction if I yanked my vintage Bugle Boys pants down and angry-sharted on my grandparent’s ugly Thomas Kinkade print (..alas, aren’t they all ugly?).

Since I’m in a mood to confess…I also secretly love dog-shaming pictures. You know the ones where the owners hang a sign around their necks proclaiming they did something bad.

And I not only love Pizza Hut, I also love their stuffed crusts. I see your head shaking, I know. Despite eating at some of the best pizzerias in New York and Chicago, I come to you throwing myself on the sword asking, “What’s so wrong with Pizza Hut’s pizzas?”

Besides, I now live in a major city in Florida where everyone proclaims their pizza is “New York”-style when in actuality, it is about as New York as the set of Jackie Chan’s “Rumble in the Bronx.” How many mountain ranges can you name that’s in the middle of the Bronx?

For pizza chains, in my experience, Pizza Hut is the most consistent overall. The sauce always has a nice subtle earthy and peppery flavor that pairs well with the tangy acidity of the tomato sauce. Furthermore, the pizza satisfies my cravings when the only local pizzeria around also specializes in Mexican food. Those in Ketchikan, Alaska know what I’m talking about.

After diving into several hours of Destiny, what perfect food than pizza can accompany hours of button mashing? I don’t have time to coordinate with a fork when I’m too busy coordinating the controls to grind levels.?
The delivery was quick and upon opening the box, the familiar fresh smell of fourteen delicious inches of hot pizza rose up and jacked my nostrils into heaven.

Pizza Hut Bacon Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza Slice

Noticeably, the pizza looked a little weird because the crust was almost an inch and a half wide, which contained a mixture of melted cheeses and hardwood smoked bacon. The bulging crust begged to be ripped apart so the cheddar, provolone and mozzarella mixture could ooze out. I tore it apart and although there was no oozing, there was a rush of smoky bacon that filled the air around my face.

The crust was buttery with a pleasant chewy texture and the mixed melted cheese imparted a nice creamy taste, like the inside of a crab rangoon without the fake cream cheese flavor. The small bits of bacon cut through the cheese and it was awesome enough for me to eat just the crusts of several slices alone.

Pizza Hut Bacon Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza Innards

Initially, I was not happy with the paltry amount of bacon in the stuffed crust but it turned out it was the right ratio. The cheese mixture really carried the bacon well and amplified that salty and fatty porky taste. There was also a slight onion flavor in the mixture that was well received by my mouth as I continued to hand cannon aliens in the hope of grabbing some elite stuff.

The $11.99 special allowed one topping and I opted for the mushrooms, which was stupid. Pizzeria chain mushrooms are either rubbery or so thin that they are dried up like mummified corpses. I had the latter. The pizza was good but the mushrooms detracted from the pizza and I picked them all off. However, I take the blame and should have ordered onions instead.

The pizza itself sans mushrooms was good as the cheese was perfectly stretchy and the sauce lifted the flavors well. The chewiness of the crust extended to the slice and, as a whole, the pizza satiated my craving. Yet, to be honest, I would be satisfied just eating the crusts and leaving the pizza in the box.

If you’ve eaten the stuffed crust before and didn’t like it, no amount of bacon is going to change your mind. If you were on the fence, bacon does actually make it better. If you liked it, then get ready for Valhalla of epic stuffed crust-pizza proportions. While it’s not as gooey as I hoped, like a fried mozzarella stick, the taste was good enough to overlook this.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 slice w/o toppings – 340 calories, 140 calories from fat, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.)

Item: Pizza Hut Bacon Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza
Purchased Price: $11.99
Size: Large
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The cheese mixture carried the bacon well. The stuffed crust was buttery and had a nice chewy texture. Bacon and melted cheese, what is there not to like?
Cons: The cheese in the crust wasn’t gooey. The dried mushrooms sucked the life out of a good pizza. Laughing at dog shaming photos, I’m embarrassed to admit I laugh at those.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocomallow Sundae Pop-Tarts

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocomallow Sundae Pop-Tarts

Ah, now this is a bit more like it!

I was disappointed in my last exposure to one of Kellogg’s 50th anniversary Pop-Tarts flavors, the Milk Chocolate Graham variety. Without forcing you to go back and reread that hackery, my dismay mainly stemmed from it tasting dry due to the absence of frosting; plus feeling like something was lacking due to graham + chocolate but no marshmallow.

But then, that was a Flavor Flashback — this is not. The goal isn’t to revisit an old flavor that succumbed to grocery store natural selection, but to turbocharge a new product with 50th anniversary mojo. How powerful is that mojo? I’m not going to give them shit over arbitrarily creating the word “chocomallow” and not even including a hyphen. Question answered.

(Speaking of which, while I’ve never seen it as an actual flavor of ice cream, “chocomallow” seems to be Rocky Road minus the nuts. Which I’m pretty glad of, since it means I can bring this home without risking my younger daughter going into anaphylactic shock, but I just thought I’d clarify that. I’m assuming the alternate proposed name of “Nutless Rocky Road” tested poorly with focus groups.)

The box does a nice job of making its contents look pretty damn good. The blue and red contrast is eye-catching, and the “Hey, it sort of tastes like this!” ice cream scoop blends slightly in with the picture of the pastries, subconsciously associating the two in your mind.

I appreciate that the “50th Birthday” logo is up there in the corner, relatively subdued but still visible enough to be noticed, without having confetti and fireworks all over the background of the cover design. It reminds me of the business cards we all got a few years ago when the company I work for turned 50. We celebrated with a sweet company picnic instead of releasing half a dozen new versions of our product, but otherwise it’s pretty much identical.

Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocomallow Sundae Pop-Tarts Closeup

For what it’s worth, the tarts themselves look pretty visually appealing too, with chocolate sprinkles generously scattered in the top frosting. But you don’t care about any of that unless the taste is something to write home about. So, is it?

In a word, yes. In a few words: yeah, it’s pretty good. I don’t know if it’s “drive to Target if there’s nothing else you wanted to buy there” good, but it’s certainly worth a pick-up if you’re already there buying school supplies or Halloween candy because holy shit it is Fall ALREADY, you guys. What the eff?

The filling is marshmallow creme, the kind you’re already used to if you’ve had the S’mores variety. In fact, the pastry as a whole has a lot in common with S’mores (not a bad thing), but the frosting on top is a bit different, with sprinkles rather than the uniformity of S’mores.

The textures are pretty comparable, which again: not a negative. Assuming you don’t get distracted deleting emails and burn the ever-living crap out of it like the one I’m eating right now, it’s crispy but has just the right amount of give. The chocolate frosting on top tends to get slightly subsumed in the marshmallow flavor, but you’ll still be able to taste it. And as campers have known for generations, ‘mallow plus chocolate equals, well, the only reason to go camping.

Quantity-wise, there’s pretty generous amounts of filling. I found the frosting on top to be much more variable — some pastries had a lot, some only a moderate amount, and definitely not uniformly spread… many had frosting pooled on one side with the other side relatively bare. I know, I know, #FirstWorldProblems.

The bottom line is, there’s no real reason not to grab yourself a box while they’re available: they’re tasty, the price is definitely right ($2.50 for a box of twelve is like 1950s pricing), and they just opened another Target near you. Maybe knock off a couple of points for the high fat and sugar values and the fact that, at the end of the day, it’s still a pretty basic (though good!) flavor combo. But even so, if you find yourself in a Target in the near future, no reason not to give these a purchase.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 190 calories, 35 calories from fat, 4 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 260 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 19 grams of sugars, 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Kellogg’s Limited Edition Frosted Chocomallow Sundae Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $2.50
Size: 12-pack
Purchased at: Target
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Twenty bits for twelve Pop-Tarts ain’t bad at all. Better than other birthday offerings. Striking box. Hard to go wrong with marshmallow creme and chocolate. Far from healthy for you, but could be a lot worse.
Cons: No really, it’s Autumn already, like how is that even possible? Taste is good but nothing drastically different from S’Mores, which we already had. Knock it off with the “7 Vitamins & Minerals” and other health brags — we already know it’s bad for us and we buy it anyway, just cut the shit.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I injured myself yesterday.

It was in aisle 3. The Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream had been sold out for the previous 10 days. Already half-defeated, melodramatic dairy cravings oozing from my limp, lactose-deprived mind, I turned my head and there, between the frozen waffles and Pomegranate Sherbet: one last quart.

“Blah! Cream! Ice! Butter! Cookie! Now!”

It was then that Zeus looked down upon me and said, “You! You did not form a grammatically coherent sentence! You MUST SUFFER!” A bolt of Karma-infused lightning darted from Mt. Olympus, swooshing carts, Trader Joe’s employees, and oblivious human beings right into the 12-foot path that stood between me and dairy perfection.

Grabbing a nearby Kouign Amann from the sample station, I leapt over the baskets, the boxes, and the kindly Trader Joe’s employee who was re-stocking the Salsa Authentica (saying “Excuse me” along the way). I reached down, my goal in sight, when my noggin bonked the shelf above and the slew of Very Vanilla meringues avalanched on my cranium.

Luckily, neither Ancient Greek-inspired divine intervention nor avalanching plastic tubs can stop a true dextrose zealot.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream The untouched ice cream

Having brought the tub home and peeled off the safety-sealed container, I can see white creamy stuff and (small) brown chunky speckles. Smells of vanilla and sugar crackle into the air. By all the gold in Robin Hood’s barn, this stuff looks good. With the cover devoid of any specifics, I can only take an amateur dive at what awaits: vanilla, perhaps even sweet cream, ice cream with cookie butter swirls…and Speculoos cookie chunks? Maybe? MAYBE??

No. No cookie chunks. But cookie butter swirl chunks? Yes! And in wide abundance. Those chunky, gritty, swirly thingies are spattered throughout, gathering up on your golden spoon 1, 2, 5 chunks at a time. Unlike a dense, crunchy cookie, these cookie butter swirlies are gritty and loose and crumble with their spicy warm bite.

The art of perfecting the ratio of cookie-butter-to-cream is an exercise worthy of a sensei master. When gathered in their best proportion, the chunks accentuate a warmth from cinnamon and clove in the Speculoos butter while also bouncing off the sweetness in the vanilla base. What’s better is chunks get chunkier as you dig, rewarding you with golden nuggets so big they’d send the gold panners from ‘49 into a tizzy.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Proof that swirly chunks may take over the world

And that vanilla-cream base? It’s pretty good. Not enough to make a possum do a back flip or anything, but pretty good. Thick and creamy with a super sweet melt, it makes for a smooth foundation that’s just on the cusp of tasting like an Oreo filling. The Trader chose not to toss in any vanilla bean speckles in this particular base, but who needs speckles when you have chunks of pulverized cookie goo all around? Give me the cookie goo. Give me it all.

For those in the Vanilla Clan with a penchant for spicy-warm, yet wonderfully simple concoctions, this ice cream will do you right as it stands. If you like your ice cream with more of a punch, you might be well-served to incorporate other mix-ins or smoosh it up with another ice cream flavor. Think chocolate. Coffee. More cookie butter. That triple-layer Mocha Cake your Aunt Sally baked for you last week. Almost anything will do. The vanilla has a lighter flavor, so anything you dump on it will be a dimension to all that perpetual lightness, a yin to its yang, a Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Close up of swirly chunkies

On the whole, this ice cream registers as “good” in both the tender, youthful, overly optimistic part of my brain as well as the crumpled, calloused, grumpity part. In fact, it may be the only thing that these parts of my brain agree upon. Ever. While not chaotic or exploding with mix-ins, it’s a simple, slightly spicy, sweet cream that makes good for eating right off the sugar cone, between French toast, or in a bowl after you’ve dumped your entire Halloween candy stash upon it.

I plan to eat this quart in the morning. I plan to eat this quart at night. I plan to eat this quart until it is finished… and what if someone tries to eat it from my freezer before then? I will not let them. And if they do, I will buy another. I will collect the cookie butter ice cream. All of it. I will stock my freezer to the brim, supporting the dairy farmers as I fill my belly with cookie-butter-laden cream. I suspect future historians will dig me out of a landfill of empty ice cream containers. I will have no regrets.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 220 calories, 130 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Cookie swirls, cookie swirls, everywhere, everywhere. Gritty cinnamon goodness. Solid vanilla-cream base. Less sugar than most powerbars. Good for breakfast. Good for dinner. Supports dairy farmers. The Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.
Cons: Could have EVEN MORE cookie swirls. And more cookie swirls. Ice cream base may be too sweet for some. Being buried in a landfill of ice cream pints. Poor grammar. Karma-related injuries. The wrath of Zeus.