REVIEW: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken (Canada)

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 3

There’s something inherently wrong about a salad at McDonald’s, isn’t there? I mean, it’s McDonald’s — their whole M.O. is supposed to be serving burgers and fries and other tasty junk that might just kill you if you eat them too regularly.

If you told the ten-year-old version of me that McDonald’s would one day be serving salads with kale in them, I’m going to guess that he’d angrily call you a liar. He’d also probably wonder who you are and why you’re giving him useless factoids about 2015. Oh and also, while you’re there? Could you tell him to major in something a bit more useful than political science? What’s that? This is just a rhetorical device? You’re not actually a time-traveller out to blow the minds of ten-year-olds with news from the future? Darn.

Of course, salads aren’t anything particularly new at McDonald’s, but this Kale-fueled relaunch does have an air of desperation about it. This feeling is especially pronounced when combined with the recent high-profile launch of the 21st century take on the Hamburglar; the once-cute cartoon character has been transformed into a generically handsome fashion model (who was almost instantly dubbed the “hipster Hamburglar” by the media).

Clearly, McDonald’s has lost whatever cache they once had (along with loads and loads of money), and it’s easy to think that they’re just throwing random things at the wall to see what sticks.

All that being said? I loved this salad.

It feels weird to even type that. It’s a salad… at McDonald’s… and I loved it.

I know that even mentioning that I love a salad probably means I have to turn in my junk-food-lover’s gun and badge to the junk food angry captain, but hey, if it’s tasty it’s tasty.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 2

There’s a lot going on in this salad. There’s the lettuce blend (a whopping eight different types of lettuce, as per their website), kale, sliced cucumber and red peppers, crumbled feta, a couscous blend (which has stuff like sun-dried tomato and olives), chicken, a packet of pita chips, and the creamy Greek feta dressing.

It seems like it should be too much stuff, but it all works together surprisingly well.

The kale is actually baby kale; this is a good thing, as regular kale is a bit impenetrably fibrous and can be tough to love. The lettuce mix otherwise tastes like any number of ready-to-eat mixes you’ll find in a plastic box or bag at the supermarket.

All the other stuff works together quite nicely: the creamy dressing, the fresh veggies, the salty pop of the cheese, the hearty quinoa…

Wait, I think I’m going to have to call a Zack Morris-style time out: I never in a million years thought I’d be applauding quinoa and “fresh veggies” when I signed on to write for this site. Seriously, what’s happening right now??

Okay, time in: the pita chips — essentially this salad’s take on croutons — are a little heavy on the garlic powder, but otherwise work pretty well.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken

The weak point is probably the chicken. You have the choice of grilled or crispy chicken, but since their promotional shots showed grilled, that’s what I went with. It’s not bad, and it does give the salad much of its substance, but it’s a little dry and stringy.

The salad costs seven bucks, which on the surface seems a bit pricey — but I could imagine paying double (at least) for this exact same salad at a restaurant with waiters and menus, so it’s not as bad as it seems.

When all is said and done, however, is this salad even that healthy? I mean, it’s got a bunch of healthy stuff in it, so yeah, probably?

But McDonald’s is sneaky with the way they present the nutritional information on their website; if you look up this salad, the info neglects to include the dressing. In fact, the dressing doesn’t even come up when you click on salads — you have to specifically search for it.

When you add up the creamy Greek dressing and the salad, you’re looking at 420 calories and 26 grams of fat, which is a 110 calories less than a Big Mac, and only three less grams of fat. It’s still much healthier than a burger, I’m sure, but more calorie and fat-laden than you might expect. So maybe I can keep my gun and badge?

(Nutrition Facts – Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken – 280 calories, 12 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 770 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 3 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein. Greek Feta Dressing – 40 grams – 140 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 310 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken
Purchased Price: $6.99 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Fresh-tasting ingredients. Tasty combination of flavours. Good value for the quality of food. Healthy?
Cons: Stringy chicken. The embarrassment of praising a salad on a junk food site. Bastardization of beloved mascots. Scientific impossibility of time travel.

REVIEW: Edy’s (Dreyer’s) Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard

Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard

With the notable exception of some four months Rob Van Winkle’s To The Extreme spent at the top of the Billboard charts during 1990, there have been few, if any, reasons to get excited about anything “vanilla.”

I get it. Vanilla is boring.

Perhaps not as boring as three yards and a cloud of dust Big 10 football boring, but it certainly surpasses C-SPAN2 on a Friday night. But you might not realize vanilla is America’s favorite ice cream flavor.

And after trying Edy’s new Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard, it’s really not too hard to see why.

If you’re familiar with frozen custard, you’ve been fortunate. Well, at least in one sense of the word. Forgetting for a moment that those of you who are familiar most likely have to suffer through horribly oppressive winters and have a potentially high proportion of cows to people in your local community, you and your Midwestern specialty of at least 1.4 percent egg yolks have remained one of the last great frozen treats to avoid being mass produced and shipped to every megamart in America.

Excuse me, had remained, because Edy’s/Dreyer’s has taken the rich, egg-infused dairy dessert and taken it to supermarket shelves everywhere.

On one hand, this is clearly a good thing. For us East Coasters it means not having to stand in ridiculous lines at Shake Shack or putting ourselves at the mercy of unnecessary commutes. But on the other hand it also could mean the inevitable bastardization (or as I like to say, “gelatofication”) that comes with trying to recreate an incredibly fickle product for retail.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. With flavors like Snickerdoodle, Peanut Butter Pie, and Salted Caramel Pretzel, why on Earth would anyone buy Old Fashioned Vanilla?

Because old fashioned vanilla is classic, and if there’s ever going to be a litmus test for whether or not something mass produced truly lives up to the hype of a regional specialty, it’ll be the most pure and unadulterated form of that product. I can get pretzels and cookie bites stuffed into any factory made ice cream or frozen dairy dessert, but if the dairy base is what sets it apart, and if the egg yolks are noticeably present, then custard of even plain vanilla should stand out as the most sophisticated of desserts. In other words: this is where ingredients matter.

Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard Closeup 3

The custard is thick and packed tight with little to no overrun and a noticeable yellow shade common with egg-infused dairy products. Two modest scoops weighed in at over 130 grams (about a serving and a half), meaning there’s little manufactured air. It’s a welcomed change from all the frozen dairy desserts on shelves these days.

You can taste it, too.

The texture registers all the common ice cream buzzwords; not only is it extremely creamy and rich, but it holds its texture when licked and scooped. It’s definitely indulgent, but the flavor isn’t heavy or overwhelming. Instead it’s floral and somehow light, with a sophisticated and multilayered sweetness and bold vanilla flavor which stays with you long after that first scoop.

The smooth nature of the custard makes it exceptional and keeps it from becoming too hard, while the vanilla flavor is something of a revelation. I’ve had plenty of vanilla styled ice cream before — Vanilla Bean, Homestyle Vanilla, and French Vanilla — but, with the exception of maybe some premium brands, nothing has come close to the intensity of the flavor. Even Rita’s, a frozen custard chain I once worked at as a teenager, doesn’t compare when matching the authenticity of the flavor.

Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard Closeup 2

Knowing I’d probably never choose an unadorned vanilla ice cream when confronted with plenty of other flavor choices, you might say I had my doubts when choosing the Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard. But those doubts were accompanied by the hope that if this really was genuine custard then I’d be in for a rich and flavorful treat even without all the bells and whistles.

Thankfully this flavor lives up to the reputation of authentic frozen custard, and more than makes an acceptable and affordable substitute for when standing in line at Shake Shack just isn’t an option.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 210 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 60 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein, and 8% calcium.)

Item: Edy’s Old Fashioned Vanilla Frozen Custard
Purchased Price: $3.97
Size: 1 Quart
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Exceptionally smooth and creamy texture. Bold sweetness and rich flavor. Floral and distinct vanilla flavor. Rivals premium ice cream price but comes in a slightly larger (weight) container. Not having to travel far for authentic frozen custard.
Cons: Completely unrealistic serving size in terms of actual scoopage. The inevitable backlash of Midwesterners everywhere.

REVIEW: Jack in the Box Buttery Jack (Classic and Bacon & Swiss)

Jack in the Box Classic Buttery Jack

A Buttery Jack sounds like one of those things you shouldn’t look up on Urban Dictionary, but they are also burgers you should look up whenever you’re near a Jack in the Box.

Jack in the Box’s Buttery Jack comes in two varieties — Classic and Bacon & Swiss.

Both feature a new signature 1/4 lb beef patty that’s topped with melted garlic herb butter and a new toasted gourmet bun. The Classic is also topped with provolone cheese, a creamy tomato sauce, green leaf lettuce, and tomato slices. The Bacon & Swiss also has strips of hickory-smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, and a creamy bacon mayo.

If you’re trying to decide which one to try first, go with the Classic.

The beef patty in my Classic Buttery Jack had, I swear, a homemade beef patty flavor to them. It was slightly peppery with a strong beefy flavor. The garlic herb butter sounds like it could overwhelm the entire burger, but it didn’t. It’s mild enough that it enhances the flavor of the beef patty.

Jack in the Box Classic Buttery Jack Closeup

But the ingredient I believe makes the burger stand out is the creamy tomato sauce. It’s sweet, tangy, and tastes somewhat like French dressing. And just like the garlic herb butter, it doesn’t overwhelm the burger.

I also liked the new gourmet bun. It’s dense with a little sweetness, and, even with all the smashing I did while handling it, it ended up being quite sturdy. The provolone, which has been used in Jack’s deli sandwiches, didn’t do much in this burger, except keep the tomato slices from falling out. And the green leaf lettuce was more like yellow-green leaf lettuce. Although, to be fair, yellow-green is better than Jack’s usual white-green lettuce.

The Classic Buttery Jack has a lot of flavor and it’s the best burger I’ve ever had from Jack in the Box.

Jack in the Box Bacon & Swiss Buttery Jack

While I think the Classic is great, the Bacon & Swiss is a step down, but it’s still good.

The creamy bacon mayo has tiny bits of bacon, which help accentuate the six strips of bacon under the bun. Yes, SIX strips. I don’t know if I received bonus bacon by accident, because six seems like a lot, but they gave the burger a bold salty, porky flavor. I do enjoy Jack in the Box’s bacon (it’s definitely better than the bacon they used to have), but in the big chain fast food world, I do prefer McDonald’s Applewood-smoked bacon which is thick and usually crispy on the edges.

Jack in the Box Bacon & Swiss Buttery Jack Closeup

The beef patty in my Bacon & Swiss didn’t taste as good as the one in the Classic. It was a bit overcooked, but the garlic herb butter helped cover the patty’s dryness. The melted Swiss cheese does give the burger a little creaminess and cheesy goodness, but it’s really the bacon, beef, and butter show. With all of that said, even with the garlic herb butter, it doesn’t taste vastly different than other bacon cheeseburgers.

The Buttery Jacks come wrapped in paper and I highly recommend you keep them on while eating the burger…unless you want to slide down poles faster, because the melted garlic herb butter will get all over your hands.

You don’t want that garlic herb butter on your hands. You want to keep it on these Buttery Jacks because it makes them taste really good.

(Nutrition Facts – Classic – 816 calories, 52 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 128 milligrams of cholesterol, 1148 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 37 grams of protein. Bacon & Swiss – 887 calories, 59 grams of fat, 25 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 1346 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, and 42 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Buttery Jack (Classic and Bacon & Swiss)
Purchased Price: $4.99* (Classic)
Purchased Price: $5.39* (Bacon & Swiss)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Classic)
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Bacon & Swiss)
Pros: Classic is the best Jack in the Box burger I’ve ever had. Garlic herb butter and creamy tomato sauce. Nice sturdy bun with little sweetness. Bacon & Swiss came with SIX bacon strips. Bacon mayo has tiny bits of bacon in it.
Cons: Expect to get garlic herb butter on your hands if you take it out of its paper wrapper. Provolone didn’t provide much flavor in the Classic Buttery Jack. Bacon & Swiss doesn’t taste vastly different than other bacon cheeseburgers.

*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: Pepsi Max Cherry Blast

Pepsi Max Cherry Blast

To be honest, I thought Pepsi Max would’ve been discontinued by now. Because it seems every beverage and snack that I love ends up being removed from shelves. I’d list all of the discontinued products, but I’m not in the mood to cry right now.

For those of you not familiar with with Pepsi Max, it’s a sugar-free, zero calorie cola with ginseng extract and nearly twice the caffeine of regular and Diet Pepsi. It’s been around since 2007 and it competes in the same market as Coke Zero, which is the diet colas with black labels market.

Although it’s a diet soda, it tastes different than Diet Pepsi. Pepsi Max is sweetened with aspartame and ace-K, while Diet Pepsi has just aspartame. This difference gives Pepsi Max a less harsh artificial sweetener aftertaste.

It’s a favorite of mine mostly because of the higher caffeine content. A 20-ounce bottle has 115 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.

Although it’s been around for a while, Pepsi Max has had only one new variety in the U.S. market — Pepsi Max Cease Fire. But that changed recently with the introduction of Pepsi Max Cherry Blast. Hey, I just realized the name kind of rhymes. I guess that’s why Pepsi didn’t call it Wild Cherry Pepsi Max. The soda only comes in 16-ounce tall boy cans, is a 7-Eleven exclusive, and I love this soda…aspartame and all.

I’m a fan of Pepsi Wild Cherry and Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry, and their syrupy artificial cherry aroma and flavor. If you’ve never experienced either soda, their cherry flavor is a hypersweet candy version of cherries, but for some it makes them wonder if they’re drinking cough syrup. Even though some folks think it tastes like something from the cold medicine aisle at your local Walgreens or CVS, I love that cherry flavor and it goes extremely well with Pepsi Max.

I. LOVE. PEPSI. MAX. CHERRY. BLAST.

Pepsi Max Cherry Blast Closeup

I’ve purchased five cans of Pepsi Max Cherry Blast over the course of a week. If that’s not love, then I don’t know what is.

Although, to be honest, I think a major reason of why I love this soda so much is because, after drinking enough regular Pepsi Max to fill a few bathtubs over the years, my taste buds have gotten extremely tired of it and they yearned for something different.

As much as I love the flavor and the 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine in each can of Pepsi Max Cherry Blast, I do wish it was available in other sizes and stores. Also, I wish I knew if it’s a regular flavor or if I should prepare myself emotionally for when it gets discontinued.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 can – 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 50 milligrams of sodium, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Item: Pepsi Max Cherry Blast
Purchased Price: 99 cents
Size: 16 oz. can
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: I love this soda. If you enjoy Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry and want more caffeine, this soda will definitely do. Finally, another Pepsi Max flavor! Has 92 milligrams of sweet, sweet caffeine.
Cons: Non-diet soda drinkers will not like it. Those who think the cherry flavoring tastes like cough syrup will not like it. 7-Eleven exclusive and only available in 16-ounce cans. The possibility that it’ll get discontinued.

REVIEW: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry

It started out so innocently. Because doesn’t it always?

I want something simple, but get carried away. A search for a song and I buy the album. A hankering for a show leads to the no-sleep Netflix dive. A pondering of a Christmas party and suddenly I’m considering the 3-foot inflatable snowman and $549 deluxe Santa Suit. Who needs this? (Nobody)

And yet…

I NEED THIS!

So I shouldn’t have been surprised with my reaction to these Pop-Tarts. It’s only a box. A box of six tarts. Simple. Easy.

But then I peeled back the lid. And that’s where it all began.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry PBJ goo insides

The crust on these tarts is the pinnacle of Pop-Tarts: a crackly crumble with a slight sandy grit, the sugary peanut butter icing crackles underneath. The peanut butter insides are sweet with a hint of salt while the strawberry jelly serves as a sweet/tart counterpoint. While this inner layer’s a bit on the thin side, it all comes together with the crust to showcase a balance of icing, sugar, salt, crust, crunch, and goo. Three bites in and I felt better about my broken heater, the work I had left, and the universe at large.

But it didn’t stop there.

The opportunities for Pop-Tart creations now became a new avenue through which I could channel obsessive creativity. I was thinking of the Pop-Tarts at the Post Office, contemplating how to get the best ratio of inner goo-to-crust while standing in line at the grocery, and getting wound up about the setting of my toaster in places that did not offer the appliance I needed.

“No more!” I told myself. But it didn’t work (never does). Like the kinky pop song that gets stuck in one’s head, the only way to quell absurd, delightful obsessions is to pursue them without restraint. I knew what I had to do.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry I ate all the PBJs

If I were a different, better person, I would tell you that I shared the rest of the Pop-Tarts with my office mates, how we parceled them between the three of us, toasted them in our toaster oven, and consumed them with generic Kirkland’s coffee, savoring their salty-sweetness.

But I didn’t share.

I ate them all. And I would do it again. Santa will, no doubt, be tempted to slip me onto the naughty list, but just wait till he sees his cookie plate. He’ll change his mind.

Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry PBJ Santa's cookie plate

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Pastry – 190 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts Gone Nutty Frosted PB & J Strawberry
Purchased Price: $1.98
Size: 6 toaster pastries/box
Purchased at: Walmart
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Crackly crust. Salty-sweet. Goo. Icing with sprinkles. Excels both toasted and untoasted. Makes you feel good about the Universe. Good vehicle for convincing Santa you’ve been Nice via Cookie Plate.
Cons: Insides are a bit thin. Tempts you to not share. Kinky pop songs. $549 Santa suits.