REVIEW: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Written by | July 22, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Ben & Jerry's, Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream

Sometimes you have one of those days. You drop your toothbrush in the toilet. You eat shell in your scrambled eggs. You get attacked by three nefarious pigeons while walking to the pharmacy and break your sunglasses.

Such was the day I was having when I walked into a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, half-blind from my sunglasses-less eyes. Craving something to promote my tooth decay, Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream seemed like my Golden Ticket.

Sweet cream. Chocolate ice cream. Caramel clusters. Fudge almonds. Marshmallow swirl. Sounds like a mish-mosh put together by especially creative carnies with ingredients that would make the Grinch’s hearts grow to the strength of 10 Grinches (plus 2). How will its tastes settle on a non-Grinch? Only one way to find out…

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream Must find all the clusters!

Gilly (played by Kristen Wiig) is known as the rambunctious rally-rouser in the Saturday Night Live classroom, having created all sorts of semi-violent mischief, including walloping buckets of Chunky Monkey ice cream at the teacher. That same degree of mischief is evidenced here by the multitude of kooky ingredients pummeled into this frozen dairy concoction.

Let’s start with the two bases: the swirl of sweet cream and chocolate ice creams is distinct. The sweet cream portion reminds me of milk that’s been artfully infused with Frosted Flakes while the chocolate tastes light and sugary, much similar to a Hershey’s bar. It’s perhaps not the best chocolate you’ve had in your life, but definitely lovable. When the two mix together, that chocolate flavor takes over while a tinge of hyper sweetness comes at the back end from the sweet cream, making for a very, very light milk chocolate base. It’s dense and creamy, even if perhaps a bit subtle for my inner chocolate fiend.

Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream The Cluster Cave

But what I’m really here for are the mix-ins. Just look at that rocky terrain obstructing the creaminess. Clusters! Fudgy almonds! Those fudge almonds add a deeper dimension in the universe of chocolates, touting more of a semisweet profile than the base, while the almonds contribute their thudding crunch more than any notable flavor. And, oh yes, the marshmallow swirl: it’s goopy, in that humble marshmallow fluff way, although its one-note, straight-up-sugar flavor comes across tame against the subtly cocoa-y base, a shame as the marshmallow swirl in Phish Food ranks up there in my personal Ultimate Favorite Ice Cream Experiences of All Time Ever.

But, meanwhile, the clusters. Man, those clusters. Those chunky, sweet caramel little crunches add more than all the heart, stars, horseshoes, clovers, and blue moons combined. Chunky. Lightly burnt sugar. A tad sticky. Part of this balanced breakfast. But there aren’t enough of them! Must find all the chunkies! Must eat a whole bowl! Someone must turn these chunkies into a granola. Immediately.

My dad always told me good things come to those who persevere. But sometimes, persevering isn’t easy. Sometimes you have to wait. In a line. For 32 minutes. With a screaming three-year-old. And a tall man’s sweaty armpit in your nose. But the key is to never lose sight of the goal, for the goal will be your reward.

In this case, I was rewarded with some high-quality ice cream and, while it was good, I don’t think I’d go back for Gilly’s. The ingredients were all high quality, yet they mixed together in an altogether subtle way. It almost represents the wackadoodle character of Gilly. It had the kooky ingredients, yet the delivery was muddled. Perhaps more of those amazing clusters, some richer chocolate in the base, maybe a hint of something gritty, like a graham cracker or cookie, and BOOM. It’d be Gilly madness all up in here.

But just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean it can’t be for you. If you like crunchy, caramel things, almonds, and subtle milk chocolate ice cream, this is worth persevering for. It’s really a good ice cream. Don’t be ashamed of your flavor preferences! Find the chunkies! Eat them all! Persevere!

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 250 calories, 130 calories from fat, 14 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 23 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Ben & Jerry’s Gilly’s Catastrophic Crunch Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $3.75
Size: 1 scoop
Purchased at: Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop (Rockefeller Center)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crunchies! Lovable chocolate base. Thuddy almonds. Slow melting. Fudge coating adds different dimension of chocolate. Creative carnies.
Cons: Needs more clusters. Milk chocolate base may be too subtle for some. Marshmallow gets lost in sweet cream. Dropping your toothbrush in the toilet. Getting attacked by three nefarious pigeons.

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REVIEW: Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon and Garlic Parmesan)

Written by | July 21, 2014

Topics: 5 Rating, 8 Rating, Fast Food, Sonic

Sonic Ultimate Cheese & Bacon Cheesy Bread Dog

Is there any sight that makes you want to scream “America!” more than a hot dog? Well, I guess the American flag. Oh, and a bald eagle. A soldier in uniform. Eating loaded cheese fries a monster truck show. Rappers sipping on purple drank in music videos. Playing video games on the toilet. The government spying on us. Going to other countries and asking, “Don’t you speak English?” Hulk Hogan.

Okay, so there are plenty of other things that say America more than a hot dog, but the fact is the beef treat still says America, and in a different voice depending on what city you are in, as places like New York and Chicago are famous for the toppings they use. There’s also pretzel buns, which totally changes the game of a dog.

Now, Sonic is changing the game again with the new Cheesy Bread Dogs.

The last time I was excited by a hot dog to the level the Cheesy Bread ones brought me to was my first and only time at Wrigley Field in 2010, when I ordered a famed Chicago Dog.

A Sonic Drive-In obviously isn’t as scenic and majestic as Wrigley but if I imagined really hard the concrete turned to grass, my car seat to a seat in the bleachers, and my Sonic car server person (their official title, I’m assuming) morphed into Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. Usually in my dreams I’m the one delivering hot dogs to Starlin! I mean… that’s never happened.

I did go into a slight panic when the Sonic worker brought the food to my car, as I had never eaten at the drive-in before and was not sure if these people get tipped or not. He dropped a “well, have a nice day,” and then hesitated before leaving, so I’m assuming I was supposed to tip him. Great, like I need more bad karma!

I ordered both varieties, Garlic Parmesan and Ultimate Cheese & Bacon, but what you want to know about is the cheesy bread, right? I hope so; otherwise I look like a damn fool.

Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog Bun

The first thing you’ll notice before you even taste the bun is how greasy it is. I use a lot of napkins to begin with but I really went over board on these. You can just poke it gently and your finger would be glistening like you just wiped your sweaty brow, which maybe you got from playing pickup basketball, or walking your dog on an exceptionally sweltering afternoon.

This minor inconvenience is quickly dismissed once you taste the bread though. It’s very doughy, and kind of reminded me a stuffed crust pizza because of the cheese flavor, which was a pleasant cheddar. It is a thick bun, too, and I’d be careful ordering two as you may come to regret it later. I know I did. But that’s one for the vault.

The better of the two was easily the Ultimate Cheese & Bacon. Why? AMERICA! It’s the same thing as the Cheesy Bacon Pretzel Dog Sonic offers, but when you replace the pretzel bun with cheesy bread you really get one ultimate cheese and bacon experience, hence the name of the hot dog. It’s a hot mess of cheese, bacon and grease, and I’m using hot mess in a good way. The salty bacon, mild cheddar on the bun, and creamy, sharp cheddar cheese sauce blend together in an explosion of tasty, salty goodness.

The only knock is it’s a bit salty. I happen to enjoy salt so it was fine by me but if you’re not in love with a salty taste I would look to the Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Bread Dog.

Sonic Garlic Parmesan Cheesy Bread Dog

It has a creamy garlic parmesan sauce and onions. I was a bit confused by this one, as I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the sauce, and the onions seemed out of place to me. I think the onions could easily be lost and the dog would be just fine. The sauce seemed out of balance to me, as it was unlike other garlic parmesan sauce I have tasted. I suspect too much or too little of one of garlic or parmesan. Still tasty but could have been better.

Again, the cheesy bread makes these dogs quite filling (especially the Ultimate Cheese & Bacon) so unless you want to see how both taste, just order one. Maybe complement it with a nice slushie? Don’t complement it with tip confusion though. Seeing that Sonic worker do a sad Charlie Brown walk after not receiving a tip has been in my nightmares ever since!

(Nutrition Facts – Ultimate Cheese & Bacon – 550 calories, 290 calories from fat, 32 grams total fat, 14 grams saturated fat, 60 milligrams cholesterol, 1580 mg sodium, 47 grams total carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 3 grams sugar, and 21 grams protein. Garlic Parmesan – Not available on website.)

Item: Sonic Cheesy Bread Dog (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon and Garlic Parmesan)
Purchased Price: $2.89 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Ultimate Cheese & Bacon)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Garlic Parmesan)
Pros: Bun is cheesy, doughy, and delicious. Ultimate Cheese & Bacon ingredients blend perfectly. America! Hulk Hogan. The power of imagination.
Cons: Bun is annoyingly greasy. Unbalanced garlic to parmesan ratio in sauce. Purple drank. Spying government.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (Canada)

Written by | July 18, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 1

Remember when McDonald’s was unabashedly a burger joint? This was before people like Eric Schlosser and Morgan Spurlock entered the scene and made people look at the Golden Arches a bit more critically.

Seemingly overnight it was decided that if parents are foolhardy enough to take their child to McDonald’s on a daily basis and the kid inevitably grows fat and unhealthy, that’s Ronald’s fault, not the parents’. McDonald’s went into damage control mode, falling over itself to introduce healthy items like salads, wraps, and apple slices (never mind that the average McWrap is almost as calorific and fat-laden as a Big Mac).

Of course, burgers are still McDonald’s bread and butter, but they almost seem ashamed of that fact. Here in Canada, I can’t even remember the last new burger they added to the menu. The Angus Third Pounders, I guess? And that was a few years ago. As someone who can remember when McDonald’s used to reliably come out with a new burger every month or two (or every month exactly under the Burger of the Month promotion that ran for a while in the ’90s), it makes me a bit sad.

But let me stop ranting and get to the matter at hand: McDonald’s latest new non-burger item, the Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?). It consists of crispy shrimp, grilled vegetables, lettuce, and Thai sauce, wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 3

The shrimp is surprisingly okay. The breading is nice and crispy, and the medium-sized morsels aren’t terribly overcooked. They’re a bit tough, but for the most part they avoid the rubberiness you might expect. They almost seem to be there more for texture than anything else; there’s a very vague shrimpy flavour, but otherwise the veggies and the very sweet sauce were clearly dominant.

Still, when it comes to something with as much potential to go wrong as seafood, I’ll take no flavour over bad flavour. No one’s going to confuse them for shrimp from a good seafood restaurant, but for what it is, it’s not bad. It helped that they were hot and fresh in my McWrap, but obviously your mileage may vary.

The veggies are the usual assortment of stir-fry selections — carrots, peppers, peas, bamboo shoots, etc. They’re fine; like with the shrimp, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were fairly well cooked. They’re soft without being mushy; firm without being crunchy and undercooked.

The obligatory lettuce does what the obligatory lettuce always does — it adds some fresh crunchiness and makes you feel like maybe you’re eating something healthy.

The sauce is the same one from the Sweet Chili McWrap. It’s sweet and tangy, with a bit of a garlicky hit and the faintest undertones of spiciness. It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that stayed with me all afternoon, but other than that it’s not bad. It’s a sauce that would feel right at home at a Panda Express — with the overall effect being that the wrap tastes like they took a dish from that restaurant and wrapped it up in a tortilla with some veggies.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 2

It’s not bad. I think it adds up to less than the sum of its parts, because while there’s nothing about it that was outright bad, I can’t particularly foresee a scenario in which I’d ever want to order it again. It’s certainly not my favourite of the McWraps (that would be, oddly enough, the entirely vegetarian Santa Fe McWrap), but if you’re curious about how McDonald’s has handled shrimp, you won’t be horrified. That’s a ringing endorsement, isn’t it? “You won’t be horrified.” Feel free to quote me on your marketing, McDonald’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1310 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fibre, 16 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crispy shrimp. Well-cooked veggies. Decent sauce.
Cons: Shrimp is slightly overcooked. Sauce has an unpleasant aftertaste. Inspires apathy. Makes me remember how much I miss the Burger of the Month.

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REVIEW: Kellogg’s Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts

Written by | July 16, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Pop-Tarts

Kellogg's Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts

1964 — it was a very good year. Or so I’ve heard… technically I wouldn’t be born for another 16 years. But there’s something comforting in the idea that, as my parents sat up late, chiseling their homework by the light of whale oil lamps, they might have paused for a study break, pulled out a brand new box of Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts, and heated them over a nearby tar pit.

Or… not. You’d think that to celebrate your product’s 50th anniversary, you might indulge in nostalgia by re-issuing one (or all) of the original flavors, right? That’s what I assumed, anyway.

But no! In actuality, Pop-Tarts launched with four flavors: Blueberry, Strawberry, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, and Apple Currant. Since the first three are still in production today (an impressive .750 winning percentage… not too shabby, Kellogg’s), one can see why “bringing back” the original flavors wasn’t exactly feasible. Apparently if apple currant wasn’t able to entice baby boomers, it isn’t gonna do it for the children of millennials.

Okay, so if it wasn’t one of the launch flavors, where does Milk Chocolate Graham fit in? The answer is that it’s a discontinued flavor from… some point in Pop-Tarts’ history. I’m not really sure from when — basic Googling has failed me, so if anyone knows, light up that comments section! Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter when it vanished, whether it was the ’70s or last year. What’s cool is that we have it now, and can judge for ourselves whether it was a mistake to let this flavor fall by the wayside.

The box is extremely busy, with multicolored balls all over and on the back, a cutout of a Pop-Tart with eyes and limbs. You’re helpfully advised to cut him out and photobomb your friends’ pictures, then share them online, which I predict will be done by ones of people all over the box designer’s house. Luckily I don’t mind suffering for you, lovely readers, so you can see his smiling face in one of the photos in this review. Try to figure out which one’s the real Pop-Tart!

The appearance of the tart is interesting — it’s not the relatively smooth surface I’m used to seeing on most unfrosted Pop-Tarts, with the tiny, perfectly spaced venting holes. There ARE holes, but they seem to be randomly dropped all over the place, and the texture is craggy and uneven, like a miniature desert terrain or a teenager’s face. (That wasn’t just me, right? Guys?) Cut one open and you can see a decent amount of chocolate filling — nothing that’ll knock your socks off, but it’s not indiscernible without an electron microscope either.

Kellogg's Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts 2

Fine, but how does it taste? Well… if your immediate thought on hearing “graham” and “chocolate” was “Hey, sounds like 2/3rds of a s’more!”, you aren’t alone. And the thing about a s’more is, if any one component is missing, it just isn’t as good. Why do I bring that up? Because they have S’more Pop-Tarts, and the fact that those are still around and going strong gives us a pretty big clue as to why Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts, well, aren’t.

To wit, they taste fine. The graham taste is okay, maybe a bit understated but certainly there if you’re tasting for it. The chocolate is reasonably rich, and if it won’t have you checking the label to see if they’re using Lindt, at least it’s sweet enough without making your teeth hurt. They’re about as flaky as most Pop-Tarts, if texture is your thing.

But… well, you don’t realize how much you need that marshmallow until it isn’t there anymore. And the icing on S’mores Pop-Tarts makes a ton of difference, because these taste quite a bit drier than the S’mores variety ever did. They’re not going to cut the roof of your mouth or anything, but plan on having a beverage nearby for sure.

In the final analysis, it’s nice that they brought these back, and I do appreciate the effort. Nostalgia is fun when used sparingly, and every institution deserves to indulge in a little fun upon reaching a milestone. That said, we learn from the mistakes of the past, and it seems to me that Kellogg’s clearly built on and improved this flavor when they created the S’mores variety. Maybe pick up a box of these if you’re a nostalgia buff like I am, but if you’re simply looking for a tasty breakfast pastry, just buy the S’mores.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 toaster pastry – 200 calories, 50 calories from fat, 5 grams of total fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 2 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 1 gram of monounsaturated fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 250 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of total carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 26 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Kellogg’s Birthday Edition Flavor Flashback Milk Chocolate Graham Pop-Tarts
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 8 toaster pastries
Purchased at: Acme
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Intergenerational connection through breakfast pastries. 3 out of 4 launch products still being around half a century later is pretty impressive. Reasonable amount of chocolate. Decent graham flavor. S’mores: proof of intelligent design, or unguided evolution?
Cons: Natural selection already marked this Pop-Tart for extinction. Not being able to figure out when one out of the scores of varieties of a breakfast snack stopped being produced = thanks, Internet. Kind of like a cake with filling, but no frosting. Everyone hates the guy who forgets to bring marshmallows to the camping trip. Don’t be that guy.

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REVIEW: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)

Written by | July 15, 2014

Topics: 5 Rating, Fast Food, KFC

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub

I don’t know how authentic they are, but Italian sandwiches as we know them in North America are pretty much the best. Tender veal — deep-fried to perfection — slathered in a tasty tomato sauce, possibly topped with melty cheese and hot peppers, all on a crusty Italian roll? The best. They’re pretty much the definition of comfort food.

So when I found out that KFC had their own take on one of these sandwiches, I was intrigued. Maybe a little nervous too, coming off my last KFC experience, which was fairly disastrous. But mostly intrigued.

It’s part of their Filler line of subs, which basically consist of two chicken strips laid end-to-end on a nine inch bun, topped with various condiments. This particular one comes with sliced mozzarella and “savoury marinara sauce.”

The woman behind the counter asked if I wanted it spicy, and of course I said yes, because that is always the correct answer to that question. “Do you want this sandwich spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want these chips spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want your car wash spicy?” “I… don’t know what that could mean, but… yes. Yes, I do want that car wash spicy.”

Spice tends to improve things is what I’m saying.

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 2

The bread was weird. Though it appears to be crusty, almost like a baguette, in actuality it was as pillowy soft as a hot dog bun. It wasn’t bad — it suited the sandwich well enough — but the discrepancy between how it looked and how it tasted was pretty jarring.

The two chicken strips in my sandwich were, sadly, radically different in quality. The first half of the sandwich featured chicken that had been ravaged by time; the meat was dried out and had been drained of all heat. If you had measured it, I’m pretty sure it would have been precisely at room temperature. The breading wasn’t quite soggy, but it wasn’t crispy, either.

The chicken strip in the second half, however, was fresh, juicy, and tasty, with a satisfyingly crispy exterior. Its quality differential was a little bit off-putting, but at least one half was good I guess?

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 3

The marinara sauce was awful. I know that the flavours of food are technically subjective, but this was objectively, mathematically horrible. It had the acrid tang of the absolute bottom of the bottom of the barrel. You could practically taste the can it came out of.

I’m pretty sure it’s the result of a KFC exec commanding his underlings to find the absolute cheapest tomato sauce on the market, and then being like “This still tastes vaguely like real tomato sauce. CHEAPER.”

It tastes like a potent mix of tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, and sawdust. I suspect it also contains the tears of orphaned children, but that’s just conjecture on my part. If it’s possible for marinara sauce to be worse than this, I haven’t tasted it.

The mozzarella was fine, at least. It tasted like real cheese and not like the waxy, processed cheese food you might expect given the caliber of the tomato sauce. The heat of the sandwich wasn’t even close to enough to melt it, however. The cheese on the fresh side of the sandwich had softened a bit; on the other side, it was fresh-from-the-fridge cold.

As for the so-called spice, it was negligible. I think it was the least amount of heat you can apply to something and still in good conscience call it spicy.

I think KFC’s heart was in the right place when they created this — in theory, it should have been quite good. But the execution is just way off. Particularly that sauce… Yikes, that sauce.

(Nutrition Facts – 910 calories, 37 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 97 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fibre, 13 grams of sugar, and 48 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)
Purchased Price: $6.79 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Freshly cooked chicken is pretty tasty. Real cheese.
Cons: Stale chicken is not so tasty. Weirdly soft bun. Unmelted cheese. Worst tomato sauce of all time.

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