REVIEW: Chick-fil-A Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich

Chick fil A Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich

It was a little strange to get the new summer-themed Chick-fil-A Smokehouse BBQ Bacon Sandwich on the day of an unseasonable May snowstorm in Salt Lake City, but fortunately deliciousness knows no season.

From top to bottom, the sandwich consists of a Hawaiian bun, honey smokehouse BBQ sauce, bacon with a brown sugar pepper blend, Colby-Jack cheese, grilled chicken, lettuce, and bun.

The Hawaiian bun is soft and pleasant, but I honestly didn’t notice it being too unusual for a bun. On one hand, that allowed me to appreciate the sandwich’s toppings without the bun getting in the way; on the other hand, it means it maybe didn’t need to be a special bun.

I tried to taste the barbecue sauce by itself, but much of it had soaked into the bun, so it was hard to isolate. On the sandwich, the flavor wasn’t overbearing, but it added enough of a zing to make it unlike other Chick-fil-A offerings. This sauce is different than the dipping BBQ sauce they offer —- it’s less sweet.

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I’m a fast-food heretic, because I don’t love bacon. I can take it or leave it. This bacon was of the crunchy variety, which is how I prefer it. As part of the sandwich, I didn’t notice its flavor, but it provided a nice texture. I nibbled a few pieces by themselves, and it seemed slightly more flavorful than ordinary bacon you might get elsewhere, though that might have been the sauce. If you are a bacon lover, you would want more of it than the three small pieces I got. Even I would have appreciated a little more.

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Even though the sandwich is named for the sauce and the bacon, it was the Colby-Jack cheese that stole the show. I got two slices. I don’t know whether that’s the recipe, or whether the workers didn’t want to peel them apart. Either way, I appreciated it, and the cheese melted slightly against the warmth of the meat. The flavor and the texture were both delightful.

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The chicken is grilled, probably because of the barbecue theme. It was like the chicken on all other grilled Chick-fil-A sandwiches, meaning it was as good as it gets at a fast food joint. There were no gristly pieces I had to spit out.

The lettuce is lettuce. I liked the crispness to counter the squishiness of the bun, chicken, and cheese.

When I ordered the sandwich, the cashier told me how good it was. Therefore, I expected its flavor to be much stronger. It didn’t “wow” me the way I anticipated. But if it had been stronger, I don’t think it would have been better. They got the components just right to be tasty but not overwhelming or gimmicky.

There was nothing bad about the sandwich. I felt like they played it safe, and they could have taken more risks to make an absolutely amazing item. But it works, and this might be my new favorite Chick-fil-A entrée.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 18 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1200 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 10 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.15 ($9.09 as part of a medium meal)
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tasty BBQ sauce but not too much of it. Perfectly melted Colby-Jack. Chick-fil-A chicken breast. Crunchy bacon. Soft Hawaiian bun.
Cons: The flavor of the bun and the bacon were not particularly noticeable. Not knowing whether I was supposed to have two slices of cheese. Playing it safe.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen Guardians Awesome Mix Blizzard

Dairy Queen Guardians Awesome Mix Blizzard

With the launch of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel teamed up with Frito-Lay for a Doritos bag that plays music and Dairy Queen for the Guardians Awesome Mix Blizzard Treat.

I think Frito-Lay got the better end of the integration stick, even though everything about the Guardians Blizzard sounds fantastic. I mean what’s not to love about mini brookies (brownies and cookies baked together), caramel, and choco chunks blended with creamy vanilla soft serve?

Brookies are pretty frickin’ awesome! Except when you can’t really taste them.

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I should have suspected that it would be a hodge-podge of unidentifiable sweetness when the received treat looked nothing like hero shots featuring healthy chunks of brookies. My Blizzard looked more like chocolate chip ice cream and it tasted that way. It was good, but if I wanted plain chocolate chip ice cream, I would have just gone to the supermarket for a pint.

As I continued to eat, I would occasionally get a bite of rich, delightful fudge – guessing that was from the brookie. Unfortunately, it was a fleeting delight that quickly faded back into the sugary indistinctness. I want bigger chunks, dangit! I think a brookie sundae in DQ’s Hot Desserts section would have been much more satisfying.

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Also, I couldn’t taste the caramel. I could see the remnants lining the cup, but no warm caramel notes at all – just cloying sweetness. As the cherry on top, said sweetness was paired with a strange artificial aftertaste. I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the soft serve, the caramel, or the brookie?!

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Even though all the mix-ins were a bit too blended for my liking, I did enjoy the texture. The soft serve was creamy and the mix-ins broke up the monotony of vanilla soft serve. I kept thinking that Cold Stone Creamery would make a killer version of this.

Don’t get me wrong. The Guardians Awesome Mix Blizzard isn’t bad. It just isn’t awesome.

(Nutrition Facts – Mini – 380 calories, 14 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 45 grams of sugar, 8 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.09
Size: Mini
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like chocolate chip ice cream. Good texture.
Cons: Hodge-podge of unidentifiable sweetness. Cloying sweetness + artificial aftertaste = Ugh.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chips

Taco Bell Naked Chicken Chipsa

Few foods have been put through their paces like fried chicken. The ever-innovating fast food industry has turned the simple Southern dish of breaded and deep fried poultry into everything from dinosaur nuggets to sandwich buns.

Taco Bell is no stranger to this modern art of meat sculpture, having morphed a chicken patty into a Chalupa shell earlier this year. That dish’s spiritual successor – the Naked Chicken Chips – are available now. Compared to the carnival oddity of a taco built out of chicken, these chips seem blasé by comparison. But these triangular treats have some quirks of their own.

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The Naked Chicken Chips come in servings of 6 or 12, mirroring your average serving of nuggets. The chips are a bit thinner than your ordinary chicken nugget, stretched out to tortilla chip size.

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The interior is typical processed white meat, but the breading has quite a bit of pepper. Each chip has a generous layer of breading with a gratifying crunch. It’s not as aggressively seasoned as a Burger King Chicken Fry, but the Naked Chicken Chips are spicier than your average McNugget.

Young kids (the typical nugget audience) might be put off by the added spice, but adults shouldn’t have any concern. If anything, these chips feel underseasoned by Taco Bell standards. It doesn’t help that the only dip being offered with this dish is standard nacho cheese. The two make a satisfying pair – rich and savory. But there’s an inescapable feeling that this could be something more.

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Fast food chicken’s appeal is in variety. While the pieces are themselves bland, they can play host to a wide array of sauces and dips. By limiting these chips to cheese, Taco Bell isn’t realizing the full potential of these dippables. Spicier selections (like the chain’s beloved Lava sauce), or even existing spreads (such as Avocado Ranch) could make this a perfect showcase for Taco Bell’s sauce catalog. Even topping these with the same options as the existing Triple Layer Nachos would’ve been great.

At $2.29 for six, the Naked Chicken Chips are a reasonable addition to any Taco Bell order. They won’t blow anyone away, but could be a valuable long-term addition to the menu.

(Nutrition Facts – 6 chips – 390 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 1110 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.29
Size: 6 chips
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Hearty side, slightly different from Taco Bell’s other offerings. Good deal for the price. Could be great as a protein option for burritos, etc.
Cons: Only offered with Nacho Cheese. Not as innovative as the previous Naked Chicken offering. Chicken nuggets are available pretty much everywhere.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Frozen Coffee

Dunkin Donuts Frozen Coffee

I just downed 196 milligrams of caffeine and I am fuh-lying, baby!

Sick of pink Frappuccinos named after mythical beasts? Well, Dunkin’ has a new Frozen Coffee ready to speed up your hearts.

They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but when it comes to popular frozen coffee drinks, imitation is the highest form of fattery.

That’s a little corny wordplay to kickstart your morning, folks. I apologize. Blame it on the caffeine.

I’m not normally a frozen coffee guy, but every now and then I switch it up. That must have been Dunkin’ Donuts’ thought process when they decided to revamp the Coffee Coolatta into their new Frozen Coffee.

Their new coffee is blended with 100 percent Arabica extract, your choice of dairy, and ice. I’m no expert, but that certainly sounds like the recipe for frozen coffee.

I won’t pretend “Arabica” coffee extract moves my needle. I don’t know the difference. I actually thought it said “abra cadabra” extract at first and was pumped. I thought there was gonna be some Jack and the Beanstalk magic in my future.

But alas, as I made my order, the girl at the counter seemed overwhelmed. She had yet to make a Frozen Coffee. I was her trial run. Thankfully a nice manager came over and fired her on the spot! Nah, she showed her the ropes.

I hadn’t ordered a Coolatta in a while, but I seem to recall them having ice that was never chopped fine enough for my liking. The ice was always gritty, along the lines of a Slush Puppy, not fine like a normal Slurpee.

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Frozen Coffee definitely improved on the Coolatta in that area. After a few sips that were straight liquid, the coffee got to the right temperature and I got slushy sips that were on par with a Frappuccino.

The taste was kinda bitter, not gonna lie. It took a few sips to adjust, and for the strong coffee flavor to really kick in. Keep in mind, I didn’t order an additional flavor shot. I wanted to review the standard Frozen Coffee before mixing in one of Dunkin’s ever growing flavor swirl options.

Dunkin Donuts Frozen Coffee 3

As I sipped on, it tasted like those bottled Starbucks Frappuccino drinks but with blended ice. I guess that’s technically a plain Frappuccino? It’s been a while. This didn’t sway far from a slushier version of regular coffee with a few tablespoons of sugar.

I wasn’t offered a milk option, but rest assured I would have gone with boring skim. It’s the Diet Coke to my Triple Cheeseburger and large fry combo. I just assume they used whole milk.

The whipped cream sunk to the bottom, and while I’ve been on the record in the past about my love/hate for whipped “topping,” it was a pretty good sugar fix to end on.

All in all, it’s not bad, but I seem to remember regular Coolattas being better. Again, remember, you can customize the flavor. I have little doubt Dunkin’s Frozen Coffee would be significantly better with mocha, hazelnut, French vanilla or, well, basically any flavor. Order a flavor swirl.

I don’t see this replacing my usual iced coffee order, and it’s probably not gonna compete with a Frappuccino if I want a super sugary coffee slush, but I’ll probably mix a few in over the summer.

The Dunkin’ Frozen Coffee feels like a drink that will grow on me if I have it more, but for now, it was just okay. I’ll be curious to see what Coolatta loyalists have to say about it.

(Nutrition Facts – small – 420 calories, 18 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 65 milligrams of sodium, 64 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 61 grams of sugar, 3 grams of protein, and 196 mg of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: Small
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like it’s supposed to – like a blended, sugary regular coffee. Customizable. Whipped cream paired well. Big caffeine boost.
Cons: Bitter at first. Not really breaking any molds. “Coffee Coolatta” was a considerably better name. Pretty big for a small, “Fattery” not being a real word. No magic beans.

REVIEW: Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino

Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino

The Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino ingredient that most intrigued me was the “cooling mint sugar crystals.”

The wording gave me flashbacks of the flavor crystals in Ice Breakers chewing gum and how they would make my mouth feel as if I just had a heavy make out session with Jack Frost.

The mint sugar crystals are part of two blended layers that also feature extra dark cocoa, coffee, milk, and ice. In between those two is a layer of whipped cream. And on top of all that there’s more whipped cream and dark cocoa powder.

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As I sipped on the blended beverage that’s significantly less Instagram-able than the Unicorn Frappuccino, I could feel a cooling sensation building up in my mouth. Hello, Jack! But then I realized something. Is it the cooling mint sugar crystals or the cooling ice crystals causing that? My mouth wasn’t sure.

Now you’re probably thinking dark cocoa + mint = Thin Mints (or Keebler Grasshoppers, whatever floats your boat), which is an almost accurate description of this Frappuccino’s flavor and probably the only words I needed to type for this review. It’s similar enough that I feel as if the green Starbucks logo on the cup should be replaced with the green Girl Scouts logo.

Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino 3

But the mint and its cooling is faint, which disappoints me because I thought it would be stronger. It’s not at a level that makes you think you’ve brushed your teeth or popped a York Peppermint Patty into your mouth or consumed EVERYTHING in a mojito. So I guess you could say the mint was thin.

Sorry.

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Although the mint is lighter than I would’ve liked, it still an enjoyable vessel of sugar. The use of dark cocoa powder prevents the drink from being overly sweet. I mean, it’s still quite sweet, after all it’s a Frappusweetno with two applications of whipped cream. But it wasn’t the cloying overload I’ve experienced with others.

Overall, the Starbucks Midnight Mint Mocha Frappuccino is great treat to have at midnight, mid-day, or whenever your local Starbucks is open.

(Nutrition Facts – 470 calories, 25 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 350 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 52 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, and 80 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $5.45
Size: Grande
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like a Thin Mint (or Keebler Grasshopper). Great vessel for sugar. Not overly sweet like other Frappuccinos. Not as Instagram-able as the Unicorn Frappuccino.
Cons: Cooling mint sugar crystals aren’t that minty or cooling. Not as Instagram-able as the Unicorn Frappuccino.