REVIEW: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry (Canada)

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry

Mike Myers. Justin Bieber. The McFlurry.

If your answer to this Jeopardy question is “What are things that came from Canada,” then you are correct (and no, we won’t take back Bieber — he’s yours now, America. Enjoy).

Yep, according to the cup (and from now on, I want all my information to come in McFlurry cup form, FYI), the McFlurry was “born in Canada. Loved around the world,” and is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. I very distinctly remember the introduction of the McFlurry — it certainly doesn’t feel like twenty years ago, but why would the cup lie to me? I feel old.

And what better way to celebrate a 20th anniversary than jumping on a years-old fad? I remember red velvet being a pretty big deal a few years ago, but is this still a thing that gets people hot and bothered? I was under the assumption that we, as a society, had reached our red velvet saturation point at least a couple of years ago, but apparently not.

And McDonald’s doesn’t even really seem to get what makes red velvet so appealing: when I think of a red velvet cake, aside from its eponymous dark-red hue, I think of abundant cream cheese frosting. It’s the combination of the mildly chocolatey cake and the sweet tang of the cream cheese frosting that makes red velvet such a comfort food classic.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 2

So it’s weird that McDonald’s has elected to not even try to replicate that particular flavour, sticking to the cake alone (and throwing in Oreo cookies for some reason). You’d think this would lead to so-so (at best) results, but this was surprisingly tasty.

Certainly, the cashier at the McDonald’s I went to liked it. Right after I ordered, she asked me if I had tried it before, and I told her I hadn’t. She leaned in closer, as if to tell me a secret: “it’s really good,” she said, adding almost comical emphasis to the word “really.”

It’s fairly rare that a cashier at a fast food joint even cares enough to offer their opinion on the food, so I took this as a good sign.

McDonald's Red Velvet McFlurry 3

And once I got over my disappointment that the cream cheese frosting was MIA, it actually was quite satisfying. It does a pretty decent job of recapturing the red velvet cake flavour — though I’m not sure how much of that is triggered by the fact that I knew what the flavour was, and by the colour. If I ate it blind, would I have been able to tell that it was red velvet? Or would I have just tasted chocolate? I’m honestly not sure, but either way, it tastes good.

It has a pretty good chocolatey taste without being overwhelmingly sweet, the Oreo bits add some crunch and flavour, and the soft serve is nice and creamy. It’s nothing too mind-blowing — it’s basically just an Oreo McFlurry with chocolate syrup and red food colouring — but sometimes the simplest things are the best.

So thanks, McDonald’s cashier, you were right. This was really good. Did the world really need its 976,874th red velvet flavoured dessert? No, probably not. But it’s here regardless, and it’s pretty tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 530 calories, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.3 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 87 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 66 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Red Velvet with Oreo McFlurry
Purchased Price: $3.79 CAN
Size: Regular
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like red velvet cake. Crunchy Oreo and creamy soft serve is a tasty combo. Not too sweet. Cashier approved.
Cons: No cream cheese frosting. Red velvet flavour might be psychological. Cup factoids that make you feel old. Justin Bieber.

REVIEW: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken (Canada)

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 3

There’s something inherently wrong about a salad at McDonald’s, isn’t there? I mean, it’s McDonald’s — their whole M.O. is supposed to be serving burgers and fries and other tasty junk that might just kill you if you eat them too regularly.

If you told the ten-year-old version of me that McDonald’s would one day be serving salads with kale in them, I’m going to guess that he’d angrily call you a liar. He’d also probably wonder who you are and why you’re giving him useless factoids about 2015. Oh and also, while you’re there? Could you tell him to major in something a bit more useful than political science? What’s that? This is just a rhetorical device? You’re not actually a time-traveller out to blow the minds of ten-year-olds with news from the future? Darn.

Of course, salads aren’t anything particularly new at McDonald’s, but this Kale-fueled relaunch does have an air of desperation about it. This feeling is especially pronounced when combined with the recent high-profile launch of the 21st century take on the Hamburglar; the once-cute cartoon character has been transformed into a generically handsome fashion model (who was almost instantly dubbed the “hipster Hamburglar” by the media).

Clearly, McDonald’s has lost whatever cache they once had (along with loads and loads of money), and it’s easy to think that they’re just throwing random things at the wall to see what sticks.

All that being said? I loved this salad.

It feels weird to even type that. It’s a salad… at McDonald’s… and I loved it.

I know that even mentioning that I love a salad probably means I have to turn in my junk-food-lover’s gun and badge to the junk food angry captain, but hey, if it’s tasty it’s tasty.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken 2

There’s a lot going on in this salad. There’s the lettuce blend (a whopping eight different types of lettuce, as per their website), kale, sliced cucumber and red peppers, crumbled feta, a couscous blend (which has stuff like sun-dried tomato and olives), chicken, a packet of pita chips, and the creamy Greek feta dressing.

It seems like it should be too much stuff, but it all works together surprisingly well.

The kale is actually baby kale; this is a good thing, as regular kale is a bit impenetrably fibrous and can be tough to love. The lettuce mix otherwise tastes like any number of ready-to-eat mixes you’ll find in a plastic box or bag at the supermarket.

All the other stuff works together quite nicely: the creamy dressing, the fresh veggies, the salty pop of the cheese, the hearty quinoa…

Wait, I think I’m going to have to call a Zack Morris-style time out: I never in a million years thought I’d be applauding quinoa and “fresh veggies” when I signed on to write for this site. Seriously, what’s happening right now??

Okay, time in: the pita chips — essentially this salad’s take on croutons — are a little heavy on the garlic powder, but otherwise work pretty well.

McDonald's I'm Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken

The weak point is probably the chicken. You have the choice of grilled or crispy chicken, but since their promotional shots showed grilled, that’s what I went with. It’s not bad, and it does give the salad much of its substance, but it’s a little dry and stringy.

The salad costs seven bucks, which on the surface seems a bit pricey — but I could imagine paying double (at least) for this exact same salad at a restaurant with waiters and menus, so it’s not as bad as it seems.

When all is said and done, however, is this salad even that healthy? I mean, it’s got a bunch of healthy stuff in it, so yeah, probably?

But McDonald’s is sneaky with the way they present the nutritional information on their website; if you look up this salad, the info neglects to include the dressing. In fact, the dressing doesn’t even come up when you click on salads — you have to specifically search for it.

When you add up the creamy Greek dressing and the salad, you’re looking at 420 calories and 26 grams of fat, which is a 110 calories less than a Big Mac, and only three less grams of fat. It’s still much healthier than a burger, I’m sure, but more calorie and fat-laden than you might expect. So maybe I can keep my gun and badge?

(Nutrition Facts – Greek Salad with Grilled Chicken – 280 calories, 12 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 770 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 3 grams of sugar, and 27 grams of protein. Greek Feta Dressing – 40 grams – 140 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 310 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s I’m Greek-ing Out Salad Bowl with Grilled Chicken
Purchased Price: $6.99 (CAN)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s Canada
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Fresh-tasting ingredients. Tasty combination of flavours. Good value for the quality of food. Healthy?
Cons: Stringy chicken. The embarrassment of praising a salad on a junk food site. Bastardization of beloved mascots. Scientific impossibility of time travel.

REVIEW: Burger King Red Velvet Oreo Shake

Burger King Red Velvet Shake

Red.

It’s the color of love.

It’s also the color of anger.

So I guess it’s fitting I loved the idea of Burger King’s new Red Velvet Oreo Shake, but I’m angry it didn’t have much of that cream cheese flavor that most of us know and love…or are completely sick of seeing after the blitz of red velvet-flavored candy, cookies, and ice cream during the Valentine’s season.

Burger King describes their Red Velvet Oreo Shake as a cream cheese and chocolate flavored shake with Oreo cookie crumbles. But what they didn’t mention is how increDYEble their shake is. It looks like a regular Burger King Oreo Shake with enough red food coloring to make the Kool-Aid Man say, “Whoa! Whoa! Why don’t you tone the red down a bit!”

The color of the shake makes it look like a Cherry ICEE, which is something Burger King also offers and it has the same clothing staining and tongue reddening ability as the Red Velvet Oreo Shake. But the red does make it look a bit romantic. Too bad Burger King missed out on it getting lost among the deluge of red velvet-flavored products during January and February.

According to the picture on Burger King’s website and a number of photos on Twitter, the shake is supposed to come with whipped cream topped with Oreo crumbles. Mine did not. But there were a lot of Oreo crumbs floating in the Red Velvet Sea in my cup.

Burger King Red Velvet Shake Closeup

I haven’t had a regular Burger King Oreo Shake in a very long time, so I don’t remember if the Oreo crumbles have always been small. The Oreo Shake at Jack in the Box has well-sized chunks that I can crunch with my molars, but the Oreo crumbles in this Burger King shake seem to be more like Oreo dust.

Oh, in case you were wondering, they do not use Red Velvet Oreo Cookies. But that definitely would’ve been a nice touch.

The Red Velvet Oreo Shake tastes like a regular Oreo Shake. The chocolate flavoring enhances the Oreo crumbs, but, as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to notice the cream cheese flavor. Perhaps Burger King should’ve put as much cream cheese flavoring as they did red food coloring, because if the cream cheese popped more, this would’ve been a sugary winner.

Overall, Burger King’s Red Velvet Oreo Shake gets two out of the three things right when it comes to imitating Red Velvet Cake. A little bit of chocolate flavor…check. Lots of red food coloring…triple check. Tangy cream cheese flavor…not really.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 oz. – 630 calories, 17 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 520 milligrams of sodium, 108 grams of carbohydrates, 90 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Red Velvet Oreo Shake
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: Medium (16 oz.)
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: It tastes like a regular Oreo Shake. Looks pretty. Chocolate flavoring enhances Oreo crumbles.
Cons: It tastes like a regular Oreo Shake. Cream cheese flavor doesn’t stand out. Clothes staining. Oreo crumbles are small compared with other fast food Oreo shakes. Not a thick milkshake.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger

I distinctly remember the day McDonald’s Angus burgers were rolled out.

Actually, I don’t, but I vaguely recall the hoopla surrounding them. This was 2009, mind you, when doing something as simple as giving a cow a Scottish name was considered particularly epicurean in food culture. It was also a day and age when a good many people actually went to McDonald’s for hamburgers, which, in case you haven’t heard, is totally not cool anymore.

I had a few Angus burgers in my day and they were decent, but they never seemed to live up to the hype. So when the Angus burgers went out with a whimper and not a defiant mooooooo in 2013, I didn’t see reason to mourn.

Still, something has been missing. You can talk my ear off all you’d like about streamlined menus and classic sandwiches, but have you eaten a Big Mac lately? If I wanted to ingest three hamburger buns and a bunch of lettuce, I would have gone to a vegan cookout. No, every once and a while—ok, every day—a guy like me just wants to eat an oversized and juicy patty of dead and delicious cow. Something like the the new Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger.

There’s no use beating around the bush when it comes to the Steakhouse Sirloin Burger: I am shocked by how much I liked this cheeseburger. From McDonald’s. Wait, did I really just say that?

Yes, I did, and I don’t say this lightly. I’ve spent the better half of the last decade building burger connoisseur status amidst friends and family. In other words, I know that by admitting I not only tolerated, but enjoyed, a McDonald’s burger, I risk bringing my credibility down to a notch just above Tom Brady.

But like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie. So let me try to break this down. For starters, the sirloin burgers live up to the hype when it comes to size. Heck, I even received mine in one of those big brown bags and not the dopy white ones they use for Dollar Menu items. The five minute ride home from McDonald’s was unbearable; seriously, the aroma of the burger alone conjured primordial petroglyphs of scantly clad stick figures throwing spears at wild cattle. The carnivore in me knew something good was coming.

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 3

Dare I say it, the meat was juicy. Yes, juicy. I know because I squeezed the patty and juice ran out of it (and no, it wasn’t water.) The taste was beefy and meaty and cheesy and altogether very savory, with just the right sweet and sour relief from those incredible grilled onions to make each bite satisfying and complete. The surface of the patty wasn’t flabby and broken up by “tenderization” marks as I remember from the Angus burgers, and while the grind was very tightly packed, there was enough surface browning to lend a slightly sweet and complex flavor to the beef.

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 4

Every other component came together nicely. The two slices of cheese were positioned and melted for optimal gooeyness, but unlike the standard American cheese salt-bomb one expects (and sorta likes) from a fast food burger, there was a mellow but savory flavor from the cheese. Don’t get me wrong, this burger is still salty, but unless you’re oversensitive to those kinds of things I don’t think you’ll walk away from it with that sentiment.

Instead you’ll be trying to pin down the je ne sais quoi of whatever is in the creamy peppercorn sauce. Like an exceptionally thick steak sauce with a little black pepper kick and a fruity tang, it might just be my favorite sauce at McDoanld’s. No, really, as in, “Can I get this to dip McNuggets?”

McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger 2

Oh yes, and the mushrooms.

I’ve deliberately withheld comment on them to this point, but I have to say, they are not bad at all. Slightly overkill and a bit messy? Well yes, but I’m not exactly a sauteed mushroom on burger guy, but in this case they add just another level of umami flavor and help round out the toppings.

I’ve been hard on anything over a buck at McDonald’s in the past, but this is without a doubt a real step in the right direction and the best burger from the Golden Arches since, for me anyways, ever.

At $4.99 for the Steakhouse version it’s also an exceptional value for its hefty size. I’m not saying its going to surpass your favorite fast casual burger, but when it comes to the similarly sized fast food burgers, the new Sirloin Steakhouse Burger proves McDonald’s can still craft a very good and meaty cheeseburger at a price which isn’t going to break the bank.

(Nutrition Facts – 730 calories, 320 calories from fat, 36 grams of fat, 16 grams saturated fat, 2 grams trans fat, 135 milligrams of cholesterol, 1560 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 05 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, and 39 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Steakhouse Sirloin Third Pound Burger
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Beefiest tasting burger yet from the Golden Arches. Pretty solid browning and juiciness from the sirloin patty. Cheese was nicely gooey and intermingled with other components. Sweet and sour grilled onions are outstanding. Sauce is complex and savory. Sesame seed bun has a pleasant and classic taste that’s just the right size.
Cons: Most expensive tasting burger yet from the Golden Arches. Pretty uniform and tightly packed grind. Awesome source of trans fat and sodium. Risking my burger expert credibility by declaring how much I enjoyed a McDonald’s hamburger.

REVIEW: Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill (Canada)

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill

I misread this item at first, and thought “wow, Creamy Chocolate Chili?? Yes please!”

Sadly, the real deal — an attempt to replicate the success of the venerable Iced Capp — isn’t quite as interesting.

The Tim Hortons website describes the Creamy Chocolate Chill as “a delicious combination of real cream and layers of chocolaty goodness.” It’s basically a chocolate milk slushie, though it’s not particularly creamy, nor does it have much of a milky flavour.

It tastes more like Yoo-hoo than like chocolate milk, though the “real cream” claim does make me a bit puzzled at the lack of creaminess.

The flavour is mostly just sweet, with a very mild chocolately hit. If you’ve ever had chocolate milk made with Nesquik syrup (and went very heavy on the syrup), then you have a good idea of what this tastes like.

It’s so sweet. As someone who recently watched Fed Up and is suddenly, horrifyingly cognizant of such things, this drink has a lot of sugar. Fifty grams, which is 11 grams more than a can of Coke, which is — according to that documentary at least — essentially the beverage equivalent of a pack of cigarettes.

Even if you don’t care about such things (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t. I don’t, aside from my recent documentary-induced paranoia), that’s a lot of sugar just from a taste standpoint. This is a very, very sweet drink. It’s kind of one-note sweet.

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill 2

Still, there are certainly worse things on the menu at Tim Hortons. It’s not as good as an Iced Capp, because at least that has flavours slightly more complex than “cocoa + sugar overload,” but it’ll get the job done. If you drink this on a hot day, it will fulfill its purpose of being a cold, refreshing beverage.

It also has a good balance of iciness and liquid; typically, with an Iced Capp, you eventually end up with a sizable mound of mostly flavourless ice slurry. That wasn’t the case here.

The real weak spot is the chocolatey, vaguely cream-like foodstuff that adorns the top of this drink. It bears about as much resemblance to real whipped cream as I do to George Clooney (you probably don’t know what I look like, but let me assure you, I look very little like George Clooney).

Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill 3

It has an unpleasantly thick, paste-like texture with absolutely no dairy qualities; it’s just sweet and gluey, like a demented, off-brand Cool Whip gone horribly awry. I’d strongly recommend asking for the drink without it, as it adds nothing but useless ornamentation. And even at that, it’s a pretty resounding failure – I mean, I think we can all clearly see what it looks like, right? Do I need to say that it looks like poop?

Because it looks like poop.

(Nutrition Facts – 380 mL (small) – 380 calories, 16 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 53 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fibre, 50 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein.)

Item: Tim Hortons Creamy Chocolate Chill
Purchased Price: $2.59 CAN
Size: Small (380 mL)
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Cold and refreshing. Mildly chocolately flavour. Nice balance of liquid and ice.
Cons: Ridiculously sweet. Not very creamy. One-note flavour. Horrifying cream-like topping. Looks vaguely scatological. Not chili.