REVIEW: Wendy’s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad

Wendy s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad

Remember when putting an apple slice in a salad was considered avant-garde for fast food? We’ve come a long way since the Caesar and House salads of a decade ago, with chains like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s giving us all kinds of fruit, nuts, and cheese combinations to serve over something green and, presumably, healthy. That said, most of these salads have been established flavor combos —- berries and blue cheese, apples and almonds, stuff like that.

But strawberries and mango? Can’t say that’s something I’ve ever heard of before.

I’m not sure how Wendy’s came up with their new Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad other than to suggest someone spilled their smoothie on top of their Greek chicken salad, and decided it was the best thing in the world. Spoiler alert: It’s not.

That’s not to say this salad isn’t close to being really, really good. But being close to really, really good doesn’t count, otherwise we’d be comparing the current Patriots dynasty to the early 1990s Buffalo Bills dynasty.

Wendy s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad 4

Surprisingly, the mango is a hit. It’s one of those fruits that absolutely sucks when it’s overripe, but thankfully the mango in the salad is slime and sinew free. Its firm bite and tropical flavor match nicely with the familiar taste of the strawberries, with each providing a nice contrast to the greens.

Wendy s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad 2

Wendy s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad 3

Wendy’s grilled chicken, which got a facelift last year, is solid, with a juicy texture and robust flavor that outmatches anything I can do on the backyard Weber. Meanwhile, the mild and salty feta cheese is not that bad until you add the honey citrus vinaigrette and the honey roasted sunflower seeds.

How do I explain this?

Imagine taking a bite of something and tasting nothing but pineapple. Now, imagine adding a crunchy, slightly burnt honey-glazed sweetness to the end of that taste. Yeah, that’s what happens once the salad dressing and roasted seeds go on.

Wendy s Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad 5

Overall, the tastes just don’t play nicely together. Think a kazoo and a saxophone dueling for time in a pop song. What’s more, they overpower every other taste with the exception of the chicken, which suddenly finds itself the reluctant centerpiece of a tropical salsa.

I love Wendy’s commitment to salad — their Mediterranean Power Salad might just be the best fast food salad around -— but the Strawberry Mango Chicken Salad is less than the sum of its parts. That said, if you prefer your smoothies in salad form, and don’t mind overly tart citrus notes, you’ve got a total winner.

(Nutrition Facts – Full size – 470 calories, 170 calories from fat, 19 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0.0 grams of trans fat, 105 milligrams of cholesterol, 1140 milligrams of sodium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 31 grams of sugar, 39 grams of protein, 100% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 20% calcium, and 15% iron..)

Purchased Price: $6.59
Size: Full size
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: xcellent grilled chicken breast. Fruits are firm, fresh, and full of flavor. Feta cheese works surprisingly well with the mango and strawberry. The evolution of fast food salads.
Cons: Dressing puts the citrus notes way off the chart and makes the whole salad taste like pineapple. Deep flavor the honey roasted sunflower seeds is too strong a contrast for the light flavors of the fruit. The salad equivalent of a kazoo and saxophone duet.

REVIEW: Arby’s Liger Shake

Arby s Liger Shake

Heading into this limited-time-only product, I knew three things about ligers:

  • It’s the technical name for the offspring of a male lion and female tiger (the inverse, in case you were wondering, is called a tigon.)
  • There’s a famous Japanese wrestler named Jushin “Thunder” Liger, who was inspired by a short-lived anime of the same name (why he has a head shaped like a demonic pinata, though, I can’t explain.)
  • It’s Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite animal.

It’s an unorthodox name for a novelty milkshake, but after you’ve tried Arby’s newfangled beverage it all makes sense. The Liger Shake isn’t called that just because it looks like a pair of Cincinnati Bengals Zubaz workout pants in drinkable form – it truly is the harmonious synthesis of two distinct flavors that you’d never expect to merge together so well.

Arby s Liger Shake

The Liger Shake’s hook is pretty straightforward. It’s half orange cream – think, a ritzier version of that sherbet stuff we all ate in elementary school – and half Ghirardelli chocolate ice cream, with several rings of sludgier, in-house chocolate syrup tying everything together. Naturally, there’s also a hearty dollop of whipped cream to top things off, which makes comparisons to the beverages sold at a certain ubiquitous coffee chain all but unavoidable.

Unlike the Unicorn Frappuccino, however, this competing, swirl-centric offering from Arby’s is a classic milkshake through and through. While I’ve never been particularly fond of orange or chocolate-flavored shakes, combining the two makes for an unexpectedly satisfying combination. I guess the best thing to liken the Liger Shake to are Terry’s Chocolate Orange products – you know, those aluminum foil wrapped delicacies on store shelves every Christmas – mixed with the traditional Wendy’s Frosty.

Arby s Liger Shake 3

The shake has a very nice congealed consistency and the flavors mingle together quite well without either becoming too dominant. Somehow, someway, the fast food wizards at Arby’s managed to keep the orange-to-chocolate flavor ratio at an even-keel, and the end product is certain to please chocoholics and citrus-holics alike.

If I had to be a nitpicker, I’d take a few points off for the whipped cream (it has a nice aesthetic, but it gets milky fast and muddles with the flavor a bit) and the perhaps too sludgy chocolate swirls, which have a texture and overall mouthfeel that just doesn’t gel with the rest of the ingredients. That said, those minor flaws can easily be overlooked seeing how yummy the product taken as a whole is, and for less than three bucks, you simply can’t complain about the volume you’re getting here.

And as a nice bonus, this is one of the few fast food shakes that seems impervious to freezer burn. My leftover Liger Shake tasted just as flavorful and filling after two nights in the freezer as it did fresh out of the drive-thru lane – an attribute we can only pin on the product’s sturdy, crossbred genetics, perhaps?

(Nutrition Facts – Large – 680 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of total fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 440 milligrams of sodium, 116 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 104 grams of sugar, 15 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Large
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The drink has a nice, creamy consistency. The orange and chocolate flavors mix together surprisingly well. Even the smaller version will fill you up.
Cons: The whipped cream doesn’t add a whole lot to the experience. The chocolate “rings” don’t complement the rest of the shake as well as they could. Wondering how long it’ll be before Arby’s rolls out their Zebroid, Wholphin and Beefalo follow-up shakes.

REVIEW: Starbucks Matcha Lemonade

Starbucks Matcha Lemonade

Starbucks’ Matcha Lemonade looks like water from a pond that has too much nitrogen and phosphorus causing excessive algae growth. But does it suck as much as algae blooms suck out the oxygen from ponds? Let’s find out.

Science reference! High five!

According to Starbucks, the Matcha Lemonade combines finely ground Teavana matcha green tea and lemonade, shaken, not stirred, with ice.

I do the matcha-cha every so often by eating matcha ice cream, Kit Kat from Japan, Jamba Juice smoothies, and lattes. But combining the green tea’s bitter flavor with sour and sweet lemonade, creating a Matchalf & Matchalf, doesn’t seem like a good match-a to me. Sorry.

But I do like matcha green tea flavored products. And I do like lemonade. So I should like this combination, right?

Starbucks Matcha Lemonade 2

Well, it doesn’t suck as much as algae blooms suck out the oxygen from bodies of water. But it also doesn’t make me want to pay a medium $500 to do a seance to speak to Arnold Palmer’s ghost to tell him this tea and lemonade mashup is better than his.

With all the matcha products I’ve had in the past, they’ve been made with either dairy or chocolate, which help cut through the tea’s bitterness. But the lemonade doesn’t quite do the same here. I get a sweetness from the lemonade, but unlike a Half & Half where there a balance, this leans more towards the tea and I don’t taste the lemonade. It’s pretty much sweet matcha water.

Now this reads like I’m putting down the beverage, but there was a part of me that enjoyed it. I didn’t spit it out or dump it down the drain. But I’m not going to proclaim it to be My Summer Beverage of 2017. It’s weird, but sometimes weird is good. And the weird part of me enjoyed this. But I don’t think it’ll appeal to most taste buds.

(Nutrition Facts – Grande/16 oz. – 120 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 29 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 27 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, and 80 milligrams of caffeine.)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: Grande
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A part of me enjoyed it, but that’s probably because of my love of matcha. Doesn’t suck as much as algae blooms sucks out oxygen from bodies of water. Science reference!
Cons: Won’t appeal to most taste buds. Lemonade doesn’t really shine. Looks like algae in a cup.

REVIEW: 7-Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut

7 Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut

I open my review with a quote from pop culture’s most famous convenience store proprietor, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon:

“You’ve clearly taken items from the candy rack and placed them on top of the donut in an attempt to pass them off as sprinkles. A Mounds bar is not a sprinkle! A Twizzler is not a sprinkle! A Jolly Rancher is not a sprinkle, sir. Perhaps in Shangri-la they are, but not here!”

So, is a Twix bar a sprinkle? Did 7-Eleven break the convenience code, or do they use a different rulebook than the Kwik-E-Mart?

I guess a better question is do you care?

You don’t care. You just wanna know if a donut sprinkled with Twix pieces is good. I’ll kill the suspense right here. Yes. Of course a donut covered in Twix pieces is good.

Do you like heavy donuts? Your entire enjoyment of the 7-Eleven Caramel Bar made with Twix Donut might hinge on that question. This donut was almost as big a mouthful as that name.

I personally like really dense donuts, so this was right up my alley. If you wanna know what the texture was like, think of two chocolate frosted Dunkin’ Donuts violently mashed together. This is a heavy piece of pastry. The fact it’s oblong and hole-less definitely added to that density.

Sticking to that comparison, this basically tastes like a chocolate frosted Dunkin’ Donut with caramel added (Note to Dunkin’ Donuts: Sell those.)

7 Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut 2

The caramel is painted on top like a standard icing, and definitely tasted authentic to a Twix. I will say that it did get a bit overshadowed due to the chocolate drizzle and candy pieces that were caked on top as well as the dense dough, but it was still tasty.

The Twix bits, which looked like pretzel pieces on first glance, did their job just fine. I probably could have even used more of them. The Homer Simpson approach of just tossing an intact bar atop the donut may have worked better. Instead of chopping Twix up, I would have liked five or six mini Twix on top – one per bite.

7 Eleven Caramel Bar Made with Twix Donut 3

I thought for sure there would be some kind of caramel or chocolate filling, but I cut it open and was proven wrong. That may have been overkill, but I can imagine some people yearning for a little something to cut the dough.

The donut had a pleasant scent, but everything in a 7-Eleven bakery cabinet smells the same over time.

I would recommend the 7-Eleven Caramel Bar made with Twix Donut for sure. I’d also recommend picking up a Twix and chasing each donut bite to really hammer home the Twix experience. Why not? You’ve been good all week.

This is a winner for 7-Eleven in my eye, but it might be too heavy and too skimpy on the Twix pieces for some people. Still, if you’re stopping in for a morning coffee, this beast will hold you over ’til lunch.

Thank you, come again.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available.)

Purchased Price: $1.69
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: I really like dense, chewy donuts. Fresh. Tasty combination. Can’t go wrong with Twix. Your brain reading that quote in Apu’s voice. There’s a Simpsons reference for everything.
Cons: Caramel gets masked a bit. Not enough Twix pieces. Oblong donuts. Could have come up with a better name. Nutritional facts not available on website.

REVIEW: Arby’s Pizza Slider

Arby s Pizza Slider

Simple is good. You don’t need to reinvent the proverbial wheel for a limited time product to work – you just have to switch up the core idea of a product and present it as aesthetically and gustatorily pleasing as possible.

Arby’s all-new Pizza Sliders are a great example of fast food minimalism. It’s not too ambitious, it’s not too gimmicky, and it doesn’t try to be anything bigger or better than it really is. It’s just a gloriously uncomplicated minor tweak to the chain’s tried-and-true Sliders formula and that makes for a great value-priced (read: dollar menu) offering.

Arby s Pizza Slider 2

It’s basically a miniature version of your classic Italian sub sammich. There’s a big chunk of pepperoni, several meaty chunks of Genoa salami, a hearty smattering of melted provolone cheese and a dollop of roasted garlic marinara sauce wedged in between the “mini-buns,” which are actually much larger than you’d expect them to be (for comparative purposes, I’d say they’re about twice the size of the mini-burgers at White Castle and Krystal.)

Arby s Pizza Slider 3

If you’re trying to stretch a dollar, you’re definitely going to get your money’s worth here. Don’t let the “miniature” gimmick fool you, these things are remarkably dense and surprisingly filling. I ordered three of them and by the time I put down the third Slider I felt as if I had crammed down a full-sized meatball hoagie.

Arby s Pizza Slider 5

But not all is well in Pizza Slider Town. The sandwich is also very salty, packing a walloping 930 milligrams of sodium. That’s about half the sodium content you’d find in something like Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.’s Baby Back Rib Thickburger, a competing LTO burger easily three times the slider’s girth. So if you tear into these things sans a beverage on the side, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Arby s Pizza Slider 4

It’s a minor point of contention, but I also thought the marinara sauce could’ve been better (and, believe it or not, it’s not the same stuff Arby’s uses for its mozzarella sticks.) The sauce here is less tangy and more watery, and could really benefit from a pulpier blend and just a wee bit more garlic or oregano. It’s no deal breaker, though – and since the burger is only a buck, I suppose I can let it slide (get it, because it’s called a Slider?)

Terrible puns aside, these things are just dandy. They’re yummy, satisfying and super-duper affordable — essentially, everything you want out of a seasonal fast food item. And as far as imitation pizzas go, these things beat the susceptor-coated sleeves off Hot Pockets’ wannabe pizza sandwiches in overall quality and price.

(Nutrition Facts – 300 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 13 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: The sandwiches have a LOT of pepperoni and salami on them. The melted mozzarella is fairly flavorful. Despite their stature, they are astonishingly filling.
Cons: The marinara sauce is kinda’ weak. All that sodium will have you chugging Aquafina like your uvula is on fire. Having no idea which packet of sauce to ask for to accompany the sandwich.