REVIEW: Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini (Canada)

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini

Do you like salt? Do you love salt? Tim Hortons Steak & Cheese Panini will test you. Even if you think you have a high tolerance for very salty foods, this one will take you to the limit; it will stare deep into your soul and find you wanting.

Just as Pizza Hut has a Meat Lover’s Pizza, this should be called a Salt Lover’s Sandwich.

The nutritional info claims it has 1440 milligrams of sodium, and as high as that is, it’s gotta be a conservative estimate. It is aggressively, unpleasantly salty.

But then again, even if it weren’t a 40 megaton salt bomb, it still wouldn’t particularly be worth eating.

Most egregiously, the name of the sandwich is pretty misleading — the meat here bares very little resemblance to anything even close to any kind of steak that I’ve ever had. It’s roast beef. That’s a small distinction, but an important one.

But I like roast beef, so who cares what they call it, right?

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini Topless

It also tastes pretty lousy. Have you ever had any bottom of the barrel supermarket cold cuts? You know, the ones that taste more of nitrates and salt than anything you’d identify as any kind of meat? That’s this “steak” in a nutshell. It’s kind of chewy and salty and there’s not much more to it than that.

The cheese was even worse; it was quite possibly the most odiously waxy processed cheese I’ve ever had.

Look, I’m aware that I’m coming off as a complete snob here, but let me make this clear: I don’t mind processed cheese. In particular, on a griddle-cooked, fast-food-style cheeseburger, it’s the only type of cheese there is; it’s perfection.

But even if processed cheese were appropriate for this sandwich (and it’s not — Cheddar or Provolone or Swiss or pretty much anything else would have worked much better), this was a particularly shoddy variety of processed cheese, with almost zero cheesy flavour.

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini Side

It wasn’t horrible in the first half of the sandwich, when it was still hot and melty. But by the time I got to the second half, the sandwich had cooled somewhat, and the cheese rapidly congealed into a plasticky morass of saltiness and agony.

And that’s pretty much all there was to this sandwich. Just salty but otherwise tasteless “steak” atop a waxy, cheese-like substance. There are red onions, and they add a little bit of crunch and a mild oniony bite, but their flavour was almost completely unable to stand up to the barrage of sodium.

I should note that I attempted to order the chipotle version of this sandwich, which also comes with a spicy chipotle sauce. In fact, I did order that sandwich — it was on my receipt and everything — but they either forgot to include that sauce, or it was so subtle that I couldn’t taste it (and certainly, that’s not altogether implausible; the panini so incredibly salty that any other flavour attempting to make a dent will get completely annihilated).

I contemplated returning at a later date and ordering another sandwich, making sure that I got the chipotle version this time. But I couldn’t. The idea of eating this again — in any form — was more than I could bear. I’m not strong enough.

And let’s face it, a sauce would have to be mind-blowingly amazing to make this sandwich even borderline edible; I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the sauce isn’t mind-blowingly amazing.

To keep this from being a complete hate-fest, I will say this: the bread was pretty good. It was perfectly toasted, with a nicely crispy exterior and a soft, fresh interior. I liked it quite a bit. I just wish it was filled with literally anything else.

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1440 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 4 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of protein.)

Item: Tim Hortons Steak & Cheese Panini
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Fresh, perfectly toasted bread. Ben Affleck gives the best performance of his career in Gone Girl (that has zero to do with this sandwich or this review, but I figured I needed at least one more pro).
Cons: Salty, otherwise flavourless “steak.” Salty, waxy processed cheese. Salt, salt, salt. Salt.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta

Binge watching Gilmore Girls, knowing all the lyrics to “Drunk in Love,” enjoying the last Adam Sandler film – everyone has their own guilty pleasure. Mine happens to be my sick addiction for anything claiming to taste like pumpkin pie.

Unlike the crumbly, goopy mess of its cherry and blueberry cousins, pumpkin pie has its shit together. It’s an October tradition that’s sweet, spiced, and confidently autumnal. It’s also, in case you haven’t noticed, everywhere. And that’s fine by me.

Just as ubiquitous, especially in the northeast where I call home, Dunkin’ Donuts may take the prize for pumping out the most pumpkin-flavored products per capita. Say what you want about Starbucks, but I can see another Dunkin’ out the window from the one I am currently sitting in as I typing this. Both are more than eager to dole out my fix of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in whatever latte, coffee, donut, or muffin concoction they are currently pushing.

This fall, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta, which I can only imagine was created by bored Dunkin’ executive sitting around a beach haphazardly pointing at things to get the pumpkin treatment. Pumpkin-lemonade no good? Then how about a friggin’ Pumpkin Slurpee!

In reality, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pumpkin Pie Coolatta is not far from exactly that. Like the other Coolattas on the Dunkin’ menu, this one was icy and sweet…almost saccharine.

The difference is that the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta has small granules of graham cracker embedded in the drink, pumpkin puree, and, well, it’s also flavored like a traditional fall dessert, which I am pretty sure no other Coolatta can claim.

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta Closeup

But seriously, those graham cracker crumbles bring an unbelievable element to the drink. While they are small, their pie crust texture and flavor put the pie in pumpkin pie, as opposed to just reducing the flavor to the spices that dominate the filling of the dessert. The whipped cream also gives the whole concoction not only presentation points, but that real pumpkin pie feel. This is good because the actual pumpkin pie flavor leaves much to be desired, as the flavor leans closer to scented candle then to the authentic dessert itself.

But it’s far from terrible (don’t worry, I guzzled mine down like the sick addict that I am). Although I can’t imagine I will be ordering many more Pumpkin Pie Coolattas anytime soon since there are better pumpkin products to binge on. Like kindergarten, just because it was fun once does not necessarily mean that it needs to be repeated.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 280 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 44 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 35% vitamin A, 20% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: Small
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Graham cracker bits and whipped cream add to the pumpkin pie flavor. Contains pumpkin puree. Whipped cream gives a real pumpkin pie feel.
Cons: Tastes like it was made by Yankee Candle. Not being able to go back to kindergarten. I know all the lyrics to “Drunk in Love.”

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: Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco

Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco

They say if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

But I’m quite sure the person who came up with that saying never saw the meat in a Jack in the Box taco. It’s the only taco meat in the known universe that makes school cafeteria and Taco Bell taco meat look damn good. When I asked on Twitter for ways to describe Jack’s taco meat, I received these responses: cat food, potted, jacked, slop, and already chewed for you.

But despite the meat looking like the droppings of an animal that ate something that its stomach didn’t agree with, they make Jack in the Box’s tacos oddly satisfying. Yes, I’m writing this sober.

The latest taco from Jack in the Box is their Southwest Monster Taco. It’s stuffed with their finely ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese, black beans, roasted corn, grilled onions, and a creamy Southwest Sauce.

If you love black beans and corn as much as Winnie the Pooh loves honey and your eight year old niece still loves Frozen even though the damn movie came out almost a year ago, you’ll like what the Southwest Monster Taco offers. There’s a good serving of both ingredients, although only the corn seems to have any flavor, providing a little sweetness. I thought the black beans would, at least, significantly up the fiber content of the taco, but they only added a gram more of fiber over a regular Monster Taco.

Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco Innards

Despite having large grilled onion pieces in my taco, which didn’t appear to be grilled, they didn’t have as much breath-ruining flavor as I hoped. But along with the corn, they give the taco a different crunchy texture than the taco shell. As for the Southwest Sauce, it has a mild smoky flavor that complement the ground beef and it has a barely noticeable level of heat.

The Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco’s flavor doesn’t pop as much as the Nacho and Original Monster Tacos, but I think it’s still a decent addition to the Monster Taco lineup and I would probably buy it again…sober, drunk, or high.

(Nutrition Facts – 353 calories, 213 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 32 milligrams of cholesterol, 483 milligrams of sodium, 269 milligrams of potassium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Southwest Monster Taco
Purchased Price: $1.99*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Lots of corn and black beans. Sweet corn. Southwest Sauce a decent smoky flavor. Love the flavor of the taco shell…well, the parts that aren’t grease soaked.
Cons: Wish the sauce was a bit spicier. Black beans don’t up the fiber content and don’t have much flavor. Grilled onions lacked flavor. Useless shredded cheddar cheese. Ground beef is still not very pretty to look at.

*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 Spicy Sriracha Burger

Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger

I imagine there are a number of you who got really excited when you saw the the word “sriracha” in the title of this review. In your head, you’re probably yelling, “SRIRACHA!!!” But I am here to extinguish your excitement like milk extinguishes the capsaicin in your mouth when you eat something spicy.

I can understand your excitement because my head was screaming, “SRIRACHA!!!” after I ordered one. However, my head was thinking something else after I ate it.

The Spicy Sriracha Burger looks like a Sourdough Jack that’s been given a make over by a Subway Sandwich Artist. It has a beef patty, hickory smoked bacon, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, pickled jalapeño slices, and a creamy sriracha sauce on a toasted sourdough bun.

I’m not sure why Jack went with the shredded lettuce. Their lettuce is awful to begin with, so shredding it won’t make it better. But shredding it does make the burger messy. Despite a kung-fu grip around my burger, the lettuce kept falling out. You might be thinking that’s a good thing because the lettuce is so sad, but it’s not because the sad lettuce was usually coated with the creamy sriracha sauce. So if I let the lettuce fall, most of the sauce won’t be in the burger.

Yup. I just spent an entire paragraph talking about lettuce. But the shredded lettuce isn’t the worst problem.

Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger 2

It’s the jalapeños.

I raved about the flavor and heat of Jack’s jalapeños in previous menu items, like their Jalapeño Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger, but that had “jalapeño” in its name. This menu item does not, but it sure tastes like it does. If you’re hoping to get the sweet, spicy, and garlicky flavor of sriracha, I’m sorry to say your hopes and taste buds are going to be smothered by the jalapeños’ flavor and heat. Granted, Jack’s creamy sriracha sauce, as I learned with their Sausage Grande Breakfast Burrito, is noticeably mild compared with the Rooster Sauce, but it should be the sriracha that stands out, not the jalapeño.

There were bites here and there when I could taste other ingredients in the burger, like the bacon’s smokiness and the thin, dry burger patty, but it was mostly The Jalapeño Show Starring Jalapeño Jalapeño with musical guests Jalapeño and cameos by Bacon and Beef Patty.

So if the thought of sriracha excites you and makes you scream “SRIRACHA!!!” in your head, I’d recommend skipping Jack in the Box’s Spicy Sriracha Burger. But if the thought of jalapeño excites you and makes you scream “JALAPENO!!!” in your head, I’d recommend Jack in the Box’s Spicy Sriracha Burger.

(Nutrition Facts – 691 calories, 411 calories from fat, 46 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1612 milligrams of sodium, 478 milligrams of potassium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar, and 33 grams of protein.)

Item: Jack in the Box Spicy Sriracha Burger
Purchased Price: $7.49 (small combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Great if you love jalapeño. Flavor of bacon and beef patty pops up every so often behind the jalapeño. Good heat, thanks to the jalapeño.
Cons: Bad if you love sriracha because the creamy sriracha sauce isn’t noticeable. Thin beef patty. Sad shredded lettuce falls out easily, taking much of the sriracha sauce with it. The number of times I used “jalapeño” in a sriracha burger review.