REVIEW: Jack in the Box Wakey Bakey Hash Munchie Mash-Up

Jack in the Box Wakey Bakey Hash Munchie Mash Up

There’s something about intoxication that draws people back to the basics. Whether it’s been a long night at the bar or a lost weekend at Bonnaroo. By the end, everyone’s palate reverts to an almost childlike state. Cravings for the greasiest, saltiest, and cheesiest delicacies emerge.

No franchise is wiser to this trend than Jack in the Box, whose Munchie Meals have made a fortune out of serving the midnight masses. For their latest trend, Jack has brought a diner favorite – stuffed hash browns – into the fast food field.

Munchie Mash-Ups top the chain’s classic hash brown patties with an assortment of fix-ins smothered in a white cheese sauce. The Wakey Bakey Hash features a whole fried egg, bacon bits, cheddar cheese, and garlic butter, creating a sloppy sheet of breakfast standards.

Jack in the Box Wakey Bakey Hash Munchie Mash Up 2

As I was handed the hash in the drive through, I already had a sign of the meal to follow. The grease was visibly staining the brown paper bag. Opening the box revealed the culprit – the garlic butter had all pooled to a single corner. A yellow lake of greasy, salty delight. If the visuals of this box are off-putting, the taste won’t win you over.

Despite being smothered in egg, bacon, cheese, and butter – the hash brown patties were satisfyingly crisp down to the last forkful. Alone, these patties are rich and salty – dense with fryer oil. The egg, cheese, bacon, and butter weigh them down even further. Every bite is rich and fatty, full of similar flavors fighting to come out on top.

It’s the cheese sauce that typically proves victorious. When combined with the garlic butter, it creates an alfredo-esque flavor that saturates the palate like grease on a brown paper bag. Hearty and not half bad, but an odd pairing for a bacon and egg.

The egg is the same overcooked fried egg that ends up on most breakfast sandwiches, and the bacon bits are disappointingly small. They get lost in the trough of hash, which is a shame. A more pronounced protein may have been a better pick here, offering more contrast with the rich cheese and garlic.

In total, the Wakey Bakey Hash will satisfy those looking for something standard. It’s salty, cheesy, and has enough carbs to soak up the worst of hangovers. At $3, it’s also a satisfying value. But in the daylight, this hash doesn’t have the same appeal. Better versions of this same combination are available elsewhere, and won’t require you to say the words “Wakey Bakey Hash” out loud to another adult.

(Nutrition Facts – 790 calories, 570 calories from fat, 63 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 285 milligrams of cholesterol, 1400 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Crispy potatoes. Good size for the price. Viable hangover cure.
Cons: Cheese sauce is overpowering and clashes with rest of dish. Extremely greasy. Garlic butter is unneeded.

QUICK REVIEW: Jack in the Box Birthday Cake Shake

Jack in the Box Birthday Cake Shake

Happy Belated 66th Birthday, Jack in the Box!

Or Happy Early 67th Birthday, Jack in the Box!

I’m not sure which one because the fast food chain was founded on February 21, 1951, and we’re currently at the halfway point between birthdays. Well, no matter whose birthday it is, you can celebrate with Jack in the Box’s new Birthday Cake Shake. Or you could show that you care about that person by spending some cash to buy an actual birthday cake.

The creamy dessert features real ice cream, birthday cake syrup, whipped cream, and LOTS of colorful sprinkles. There’s also a cherry on top that, along with the sprinkles, makes the shake look as if a unicorn sneezed on a clown’s face.

Jack in the Box Birthday Cake Shake 2

Birthday cake shakes have been done before by other fast food chains (see Burger King) and this one from Jack in the Box tastes similar. It has a yellow cake batter flavor that’s become the default for birthday cake-flavored products. Some get birthday cake flavor wrong, making it taste more like frosting, but this one gets it right. It’s really sweet, but then again, it’s a shake.

The whipped cream’s flavor reminds me of cake frosting when mixed with the shake. As for the unicorn snot, I mean, sprinkles, they add a lot of bright colors and a crunchiness whenever one finds itself between your molars.

While Jack in the Box’s Birthday Cake Shake is a tasty sugar bomb, I wish the shake’s color was more vibrant. I never thought I’d be writing this ever, but the shake needs more food coloring. Its yellow hue was more bathroom wall yellow than birthday cake yellow.

Purchased Price: $4.19*
Size: Regular
Rating: 8 out of 10
Nutrition Facts: (Regular) – 860 calories, 400 calories from fat, 44 grams of fat, 33 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 85 milligrams of cholesterol, 240 milligrams of sodium, 600 milligrams of potassium, 109 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 94 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.

*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: Jack in the Box Smoky Jack

Jack in the Box Smoky Jack

When I look at the Jack in the Box Smoky Jack, all I think to myself is, “Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with a random drug test today because that’s a urine-tainting amount of poppyseeds.” There are so many that this bun would look at an everything bagel and yell, “Have some decency and cover yourself up!”

Besides the artisan poppyseed bun, the burger also includes a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, hickory smoked bacon, smoked cheddar cheese, and a condiment called hickory sauce. The Smoky Jack is also available with crispy chicken.

While the bun might blow away any chance of me passing a drug test, the burger as a whole doesn’t blow me away taste-wise.

The smoky cheddar is a welcomed change from the regular cheeses Jack uses. Usually, it seems as if the cheese is there to prevent other toppings from falling out, but not provide much flavor. But the smoky mild cheddar does add a bit of smokiness AND prevents toppings from falling out. Its flavor lingers in the mouth well after the burger is consumed.

Jack in the Box Smoky Jack 2

The bacon, cemented to the cheddar, is a bit chewy, but adds even more smokiness. As for the beef patty, it’s a little dry, but that’s par for the course and something I’m used to.

The tomato seems fresh and the lettuce is as green as lettuce could be, which I bring up because that’s rare in the fast food world. As for the hickory sauce, I’m not sure my burger got it because the condiment tastes more like peppercorn mayonnaise. But whatever it is, its light flavor allows the smokiness of the other two toppings to come through. The bun has a sweetness to it, but the poppyseeds don’t add any flavor or texture.

Jack in the Box Smoky Jack 3

Thanks to the bacon and cheese, the Smoky Jack earns its name. But its smokiness make me yearn for another. As a whole, it’s a decent burger, but it’s also boring when you compare it with something like the chain’s Buttery Jacks or anything from the late night Munchies menu. Think of it as a slight upgrade from a Jumbo Jack.

I have to admit, being the headliner of a special inexpensive $4.99 combo does make it taste a little bit better. But it’s not something that would make me beckon the Crave Van and its property damage wake so that I can eat it.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Purchased Price: $5.99* (combo)
Size: N/A
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Decent burger. Cheese’s smokiness is noticeable. Green lettuce. Being part of a $4.99 combo makes it taste a little bit better.
Cons: Blanket of poppyseeds on bun might cause you to fail a drug test. Kind of boring when comparing it to other Jack in the Box offerings. Dry beef patty. Chewy bacon. I don’t crave it.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are a bit pricier here. In most areas the Smoky Jack combo is being advertised for $4.99.

REVIEW: Starbucks Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

Summertime arrives each year following much anticipation of great weather, long days, and lots of opportunities for seasonal activities. By the time most of us get to August, the luster is gone. Skin in a mosaic pattern of sunburn and bug bites remain as a reminder of the overcrowded beaches, holiday weekend traffic jams, uncomfortable humidity, and unfinished must-reads that we experienced over the last six weeks.

Starbucks aims to rekindle some of that summer charm by introducing their new line of Teavana Shaken Iced Tea Infusions. Teavana, previously a member of the top five free mall samples, was an expert at pairing blends and other enhancers (fruit among them) to create samples that were steeped (pun intended) in flavor. Their iced tea offerings (often paired with lemonade) were always the most strongly flavored and had me looking forward to their presentation of how “Good Feels Good,” represented in each drink by two infusions (tea and a fruit/plant/floral infusion) shaken together.

Teavana Peach Citrus Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

The first variety, Peach Citrus White Tea, was inspired by Teavana Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea. The tea and a small amount of liquid cane sugar (just 70 calories and 19 grams of sugar in a 30 ounce Trenta), enhanced with an infusion of apples, licorice root, rose hips, hibiscus, orange peels, lemon verbena, chamomile pollen, lavender flowers, AND nondescript “natural flavors.”

It was generally light on peach flavor. This clearly wasn’t a Snapple or Nestea offering that beat you over the head with peach flavor. Peach does not show up on that lengthy infusion list in any form. But as I consumed more, the flavor evoked the scent of peach blossoms.

This drink captured the blending benefits I was familiar with from Teavana, and that’s a big win in my book. Iced tea is not complicated to make, and you don’t have to have exotic additions like rose hips or flower pollen to enjoy it. This is clearly a premium experience you’re being offered, and comparing other soft drinks puts this in a class by itself. Reviewer-speak aside, I nearly drank it too quickly to do the review justice!

White tea’s ability to be a featured and flexible background player (the Katherine Hahn of herbal beverages) was key, and I was concerned black tea might overwhelm the floral intonations and green tea might dampen their impact with a bitter counterpart.

Teavana Pineapple Black Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

My first fear was confirmed by the Pineapple Black Tea variety, inspired by Pineapple Kona Pop herbal tea, frequently used in Teavana’s iced tea samples. The strong tea choice did, in fact, overwhelm any subtler influences, and without the appropriate level of sweetness emanated a slight smoky nature in the aftertaste.

The pineapple flavor is a positive, a rare fresh pineapple taste infrequently found in beverages, particularly without coconut. This was the real deal. At least I think, despite a more tidy infusion list devoid of actual pineapple, save for the ubiquitous “Natural Flavors” catch-all.

Teavana Strawberry Green Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

The third variety was the Strawberry Green Tea, oddly inspired by the Strawberry Paraiso White Tea. How would the change to a more pungent tea change the overall complexion of the drink?

I found the strawberry green interesting, as it feels like it’s working backwards. This beverage’s initial impact is very plant-based, surely due in part to the earthy herbal quality of green tea. The strawberry hits after you swallow, and, like the pineapple, tastes pretty close to “real” strawberry flavor (once again no strawberry indicated, although spearmint and lemongrass each made an appearance). If you consume the drink faster, the delay of the fruit impact lessons, but I appreciated having two taste profiles in one beverage. This option is meant to be savored slowly, which after all, is what iced tea’s heritage is all about.

Teavana Pina Colada Shaken Iced Tea Infusions

BONUS SEGMENT! Reviewing the Starbucks website, I discovered a less-promoted option: the Pina Colada Infusion. Through the generosity of the Main Street Newark partners, I had the chance to try this version on the house. The only change was a simple addition of coconut milk to the Pineapple Black Tea Infusion, or so it appeared. This time the ingredients list revealed a potentially significant adjustment, the reversal of the black tea and the plant/fruit, indicating less of the former and more of the latter in this incarnation.

The drink now consisted of creamy, slightly sweet, and slightly floral coconut milk; a greater concentration of plant/fruit infusion; and a reduced amount of black tea. The results were a marked improvement, albeit a beverage unlike iced tea you’ve ever had. Instead, a mildly sweet, fresh-tasting, not-cliche pina colada beverage is created, one that largely hides the black tea component and could be a counterpart to the Violet Drink. It’s unique, and perhaps not as impressive as the Peach Citrus White Tea, but it’s the option I find myself hankering for.

On my summer bucket list, I’ve got a few of the usual things left to do — catch a superhero flick, ride a roller coaster, read through the last seven reasons why. Thanks to Starbucks, I can leave planting in the garden far off the list. I’ve got all the flowers and pollen I need from this delightful line of tea infusions.

(Nutrition Facts – Trenta – Peach Citrus White – 70 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, and 40-45 milligrams of caffeine. Pineapple Black and Strawberry Green – 70 calories, 0 grams of fat, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 19 grams of sugar, and 50-55 milligrams of caffeine. Pina Colada – 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 26 grams of sugar, and 50 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $4.25 each except Pina Colada ($4.75)
Size: Trenta
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Peach Citrus White Tea)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Pineapple Black Tea)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Strawberry Green Tea)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Pina Colada Tea)
Pros: A gourmet effort at iced tea. Light balance between tea, fruit, and flower in the Peach Citrus White. Pineapple and strawberry flavors. The re-balancing act with the Pina Colada infusions ratios. The other members of the top five samples: (Auntie Anne’s, whatever places give out hibachi chicken or smoothies, and Charley’s Philly Steaks)
Cons: Overwhelming smokey black tea aftertaste. Starbucks adding another competitor’s outlets to the RIP pile (Seattle’s Best, Evaluation Fresh, La Boulange). When you’re a kid and move to a new house with a pool that your parents immediately replace with a vegetable garden.

REVIEW: Baskin-Robbins Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream

Baskin Robbins Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream

The crafty cookie-obsessed churners at Baskin-Robbins entered the middle of 2017 facing a real dilemma. How the hell could they make another dessert-themed frozen dessert with the iconic Oreo?

It isn’t enough that the chain always stocks Cookies n’ Cream and now has Golden Oreo ’N Churro as a summer seasonal. Even last month’s All About Oreo couldn’t possibly quench America’s thirst for the beloved sandwiched “white stuff.” There needed to be another…layer.

After malted chocolate and cake batter and birthday cake and cereal and mint, there’s seemingly only one place to go – the decadent, heavy, cheesecake. One of the oldest desserts in history, which was allegedly served to athletes at the first Olympic Games, was destined to make sweet creamy magic with Nabisco’s #1 seller during the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Baskin-Robbins’ Oreo Cheesecake combines Oreo cookie pieces, cheesecake pieces, and a chocolate cookie crumb ribbon in cheesecake flavored ice cream.

The base is immediately apparent with a distinct tanginess that jumps out from the first bite and doesn’t fade. It’s smooth, velvety, and delicious with a good balance of sweet and savory. Oddly, the tang reminds me a little bit more of Greek yogurt than cheesecake, as I don’t get any particular cheesiness coming through. But the point gets across and I don’t think I’m eating vanilla or sweet cream.

Baskin Robbins Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream 2

The cheesiness goes up a notch with the actual cheesecake pieces. They’re like those small-to-medium sized ones you can find at build your own frozen yogurt shops. They’ve maintained their squishy-dense texture and give off a hint of graham cracker crust flavor that pops against the tangy ice cream base.

Baskin Robbins Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream 3

I worried about the redundancy of the Oreo pieces and cookie crumb ribbon, but the two are distinct and interwoven very well throughout the scoop. The ribbon is more akin to what you find in typical cookies and cream flavors, with some good gritty texture and mellow bitter cocoa notes.

Baskin Robbins Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream 4

Much more prominent are the bigger pieces of Oreo cookie, which have entire layers of creme filling intact. They’re a welcomed sweet element to temper the tang of the cheesecake. The wafer cookies soften and soak up the creamy goodness, and the sizes of the mix-ins are pretty big for Baskin-Robbins’ standards which makes the whole experience elevated and impressive for what I expect at a chain shop.

It’s a pretty simple recipe – Oreo and cheesecake. Baskin-Robbins could’ve been lazy with this one and made a cookies & cream ice cream with a cheesecake base, but they didn’t. By hitting each element from two different angles, this monthly special is one of the more enticing in recent memory. It’s worth scooping up to end the last full month of summer on a blissfully tangy sweet frozen note.

(Nutrition Facts – 4 oz. scoop – 300 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 200 milligrams of sodium, 33 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 22 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 4 oz. scoop
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tangy creamy cheesecake base. Ample cheesecake chunks. Big pieces of Oreo cookie with distinguishable creme.
Cons: Tang is a little closer to yogurt than cheesecake.