REVIEW: McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

If McDonald’s took its chicken sandwich menu and made it into one of those evolution progress pictures of the monkey slowly crawling out of the sludge and walking upright, the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich would be somewhere on the right side, while dollar menu stalwart McChicken would be somewhere on the left.

That’s not to trash the McChicken, of course. On some days I would rather be a half-fish, half-monkey thing wandering around just chillin’, eating snacks on an island. Maybe I’ll eat a coconut today. Maybe I’ll eat some sand. Can I digest sand? Oh, it’s time for bed? G’nite!

The Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich boasts a buttermilk crispy chicken filet, an artisan roll, tomato, lettuce, and mayonnaise. That’s only a handful of ingredients, which is good news, because I can’t count past five. (My developmental years were spent eating McDonald’s.) But the low number also means they are putting stock into each element. It mostly pays off.

The chicken patty itself has a particularly fine breading and a nice uniform texture throughout the meat. The breading is also a bit grittier, which gives each bite a little more crunch. At first taste, it comes off a bit over-salted, but as the entire sandwich is taken in, the flavor seems to even out. The protein is a step up in quality from the other chicken offerings, but it’s unclear what part buttermilk actually plays in the cooking process. Doused? Marinated? Friends with benefits? Admired from afar for many years?

McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich 2

The artisan roll is the same one featured on all the other premium McDonald’s sandwiches. It’s soft, chewy, and a suitable springboard for this sandwich. The tomato is unspectacular but inoffensive and the lettuce has a decent snap that breaks up the monotony. In fact, the entire item is a textural success, with almost every bite featuring a spectrum of feelings, like a teenage romance.

If there is a complaint, it is of the mayonnaise. I will concede that on my particular sandwich the construction was uneven—the “mayonnaise dressing” was applied in a glob on one side and sparsely on the other. So your mileage may vary, but my bites that contained the mayo spread were pretty overpowering. They actually reminded me a lot of the taste of the McChicken, which is often doused in the stuff like it came out of a fire hose. That treatment seems especially egregious since this sandwich is around three bucks more than the McChicken.

The quality is there and so is the price. Is the Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich three times better than a McChicken as the price would indicate? I’m not sure. While it has all the trappings of a higher quality sandwich, if I were scratching that chicken itch, I don’t know if I would regularly splurge. Now, if McDonald’s made a sandwich out of that half-fish, half-monkey thing, I would be all over it. But they’d probably only offer it in Norway or something.

(Nutrition Facts – 580 calories, 220 calories from fat, 24 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 65 grams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 11 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.79
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Great texture. Chicken is quality compared with previous chicken offerings. Artisan bun is soft.
Cons: Could be too salty for some. Globs of mayonnaise. Pricey.

REVIEW: Burger King Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger

Burger King Extra Long Jalapen?o Cheeseburger

With all of these “Extra Long” sandwiches Burger King has been pushing, I wonder if the fast food chain is bragging or overcompensating for something.

Anyhoo, the fast food chain’s latest limited time only menu item to use their hoagie bun is their Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger. It features two flame-grilled 100 percent beef patties, mayo, ketchup, two slices of American cheese, iceberg lettuce, white onion slices, and marinated jalapeños.

Marinated jalapeños? Sounds fancy.

Well, after pulling out one of the jalapeño slices from my burger and trying it, I have to say it is fancy. Marinated jalapeños is a fancy name for pickled jalapeños because they taste and crunch exactly like them.

If you’ve tried all the previous Extra Long sandwiches, you’ve probably realized that this is basically their Extra Long Cheeseburger with jalapeños on it. If you’ve figured that out, congratulations my flame-grilled loving friend.

Burger King Extra Long Jalapen?o Cheeseburger 2

I counted six jalapeño slices on my cheeseburger. It’s enough to get a little jalapeño in almost every bite, but it’s not enough to add any significant heat thanks to the other parts of the burger. Eating the jalapeños separately brings a spiciness to my mouth that Burger King’s Fiery Chicken Fries could only dream of. But when eating the sandwich whole, the lettuce, ketchup, onions, and mayo are the firefighters that extinguish the jalapeños’ flames. Someone should totally make a sexy calendar with them.

While the peppers don’t bring the spicy, they do bring a flavor that’s familiar if you’ve had marinated…I mean, pickled jalapeños before. Their salty and peppery flavor is the most dominant in the burger. While the other toppings are strong enough to douse the jalapeños’ spiciness, they can’t hold a candle to the peppers’ flavor. All I could taste were the beef patties and their unique Burger King flavor, the American cheese, and the jalapeños.

Burger King Extra Long Jalapen?o Cheeseburger 3

Burger King’s Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger is okay and I would probably buy it again. But I do wish it was spicy enough to make me sweat a little. Also, Burger King could’ve gotten a little creative with it. Instead of the ketchup and mayo, they could’ve brought back their Angry Sauce (which is probably in the same storage facility as The King and his scary gigantic head) and used it to give the burger a unique flavor.

(Nutrition Facts – 590 calories, 310 calories from fat, 35 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1190 milligrams of sodium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 26 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Extra Long Jalapeño Cheeseburger
Purchased Price: $6.99 (small combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Decent burger I’d probably buy again. Jalapeños’ flavor. Enough jalapeños to get a little bit in almost every bite. One really green leaf of lettuce (seen in middle photo).
Cons: Not much creativity went into this burger. Lettuce, ketchup, onions, and mayo are the firefighters that extinguish the jalapeños’ heat. Sexy calendars of burger condiments. Marinated jalapeño is a fancy name for pickled jalapeño.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza

Papa John's Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza

Ol’ Papa John just can’t seem to stop turning other things into pizza. He has a seemingly insatiable love for it, whether it’s a Philly Cheesesteak, a cheeseburger, Fritos chili pie, spinach dip, or even a cookie. Okay, sure, the last one isn’t that far-fetched, but still.

I have a few suggestions for future Papa John’s mash-ups:

Deluxe Nachos Pizza – nacho cheese sauce base, all the usual nacho toppings, maybe some tortilla chip crumbles on top. Tagline: “This is nacho grandma’s pizza!”

Lobster Roll Pizza – mayonnaise/lemon base topped with buttered lobster chunks, celery and scallions. Tagline: “We’re on a roll with this pizza!”

General Tso’s Pizza – teriyaki glaze base topped with crispy glazed chicken, broccoli and hot peppers. Tagline: “There is tso much flavor baked right into this pizza!”

Matzo Ball Pizza (seasonal item) – matzo crust with a schmaltz base, topped with chicken, carrots, shallots and garlic. Tagline: “Don’t pass over this deal!”

Just some food for thought, if you will. Also, I fully expect some of these to become realized in the future. You’re welcome, Papa.

With all this talk of crazy pizzas, you may think this review is about a crazy pizza. Well, think again! Also, read the title of this review!

Papa John’s newest creation is the Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza, a name that evokes one of the oldest, simplest and most traditional pizza creations straight from Italy. It’s history time!

The year is 1889. Italy has been unified for 28 years, but the southern portion is still as salty as pasta water about it. The Italian king and queen decide to visit Naples, which used to be the capitol of Westeros – er, sorry, the Kingdom of the South, in an attempt to convince them that hey, it’s all good, bros.

The queen is totally sick of the gourmet French cuisine that is normally served to royals, because who doesn’t, so she summons famous pizza-tosser Raffaele Esposito to bake her three pies. Goldilocks-style, she rejects the garlic one and the anchovy one, but finds the one with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil to be juuuust right.

The queen’s name? Daenerys Targaryen, of course.

Oh, wait, sorry again. It was Margherita.

And thus, the Margherita Pizza was born. Or was it? There’s strong evidence that this whole story is bogus, so take it all with a big grain of Italian sea salt.

Pizza Margherita is one of only three pizzas with a Traditional Guaranteed Specialty EU label, which means that it comes with some very strict rules in regards to preparation. Papa John’s has, of course, followed none of those rules.

I mean, they’ve got the basic components. Tomatoes, mozzarella and basil are present, but in no way are the arranged in the way of a traditional Pizza Margherita.

Papa John’s describes the Chicken Margherita Pizza as “loaded with grilled all white meat chicken, basil pesto sauce, fresh cut Roma tomatoes, mozzarella and pizza sauce”.

Upon opening the box, I was greeted with the scent of tomatoes and a hint of pesto. Not a bad start. I also noticed there was a healthy amount of both tomatoes and chicken spread across the pizza. Topping coverage is important, people. It’s the #1 way a pizza can give me a sad face. Okay, pineapples are #1. But it’s a close second.

The tomatoes were absolutely juicy and tasted fresh, bursting between my teeth. That sounds more gross than delicious, but it wasn’t. The chicken was moist and tender, and seemed to be seasoned with something, but I couldn’t quite tell what, as they were covered in sauce.

Papa John's Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza Slice

While I enjoyed the chicken, it seemed to suspiciously resemble, in both structure and texture, those pre-cooked chicken strips you can buy in bags at the grocery store from Tyson or Foster Farms. I like those chicken strips perfectly fine, but let’s just say it’s a good thing Papa John’s didn’t throw “fresh” in the description of the chicken.

If you do a Google Image Search for “margherita pizza”, you will see some very pretty pictures of pies covered with circles of melted white deliciousness. You will also get hungry. This is what mozzarella on a margherita pizza is supposed to look like.

Papa John’s did not do that. The mozzarella on their Chicken Margherita Pizza looks like…well, it looks like mozzarella on a pizza. Absolutely nothing special about it. Fresh mozzarella has a distinct taste to it, and this was just the same ol’ cheese PJ’s uses on the rest of their pizzas. It stinks of not trying.

One of the things I was most enthusiastic about in regards to this pizza was the pesto sauce. I love pesto. I love pesto so much. And while, once again, this is definitely not part of a traditional margherita’s design, I appreciated the attempt at including at least some form of basil.

That is, until I tasted the pesto on its own. It seemed like it was watered down – where was the boldness, the garlic, that rich, savory taste I love so much about pesto? It was there, it was just too faint.

And then they went and added pizza sauce to it. Why? Papa, you already had tomatoes as a topping; couldn’t you have just made the entire base pesto and ran with it that way? With the pizza sauce and the pesto mixed together, the former overwhelmed the already underwhelming latter, furthering my pesto disappointment. It just became muddled.

I’ve spent a lot of time griping about Papa John’s Chicken Margherita Pizza, and I feel my points are justified. But it’s a completely edible pizza at the end of the day. I liked the chicken and the tomatoes were really fresh and juicy. I guess I just wish they hadn’t pretended that it actually is a margherita pizza. That name comes with certain expectations that certainly were not met. I also wish they’d kept the pizza sauce off and gone with a really robust pesto base. The combination of all these factors just left me disappointed. You could say it was more of a mehgherita pizza, amirite guys?

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6 of a small pizza – 230 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 9 grams of protein, 4% vitamin A, 4% vitamin C, 10% calcium, and 8% iron.)

Item: Papa John’s Grilled Chicken Margherita Pizza
Purchased Price: $12.00
Size: Small
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: Fresh, juicy tomatoes. A history lesson! Chicken was moist and tender. I’m pretty proud of those fake pizzas and taglines. The idea(?) of a pesto pizza.
Cons: Totally not a margherita pizza. Picky queens. Pesto tasted watered down. Ending the review with a bad pun. Addition of pizza sauce was unnecessary and muddled everything up.

REVIEW: Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries

Yes, that box is adorable. And I like it more than the Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries that came in it.

Up front I should tell you I have a history of making fun of Chicken Fries. I believe I once called them…let’s see now, “deep fried tampons.” When they were discontinued I didn’t shed a tear for them. And when they came back I didn’t rush to the nearest Burger King to relive 2005 all over again. But then Burger King did something with them that’s hard for me to resist. They offered a spicy version.

I’m a sucker for anything that claims to be “spicy,” “hot,” “fiery,” “blazin’,” “burnin’,” “lava,” “angry,” “hella,” and any other term used to describe a product that may force me to grab a glass of ice water to soothe my taste buds. But about 80 percent of the time, I’m disappointed by the heat of those products. And these Fiery Chicken Fries ensure that percentage stays high.

On the Burger King website, they’re calling these “offensively spicy.” To make them “offensively spicy,” the white meat chicken is coated in a breading that contains cayenne pepper, black pepper, and savory spices. Yup, tongue-burning cayenne pepper and sweat-inducing black pepper.

Oh wait, I meant to write none-burning cayenne pepper and sneeze-inducing black pepper.

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries 2

The cayenne in the slightly crispy breading gives the poultry filled fries a sinister glow, but that’s mostly for show. There was a mellow cayenne peppery burn that showed up after I ate a few. Actually, “burn” isn’t the best word. I think “warm” is better. It’s like the warm body heat from a long hug, except it’s in your mouth. The cayenne and black pepper do give the chicken sticks a decent flavor sans sauce, but, again, they do nothing to them that I’d consider fiery. Or even smoldering.

My experience with the Fiery Chicken Fries reminded me of my taste test of another one of BK’s “spicy” products, the Angry Whopper. With the burger I was expecting angry, but instead got perturbed. And with these fries, instead of offensively spicy, I got annoyingly not offensively spicy.

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries 3

Like the original Chicken Fries, each box comes with nine pieces and your choice of sauce — BBQ, Honey Mustard, Ranch, Zesty, Buffalo, Sweet & Sour, and Chicken Fries Sauce. I went with the Chicken Fries Sauce, which was something I haven’t tried before. It’s tangy, sweet, and tasty, but it’s no Zesty Sauce, which I think is spicier than these Fiery Chicken Fries.

Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries 4

And thank goodness these come with a sauce because the meat within the coating was a bit dry. So instead of “In Case of Fire Smother With Sauce,” perhaps the inside of the box should’ve said, “In Case of Dryness Smother With Sauce.”

While Burger King’s Fiery Chicken Fries are not as fiery as I hoped, they do have a flavor that makes them better tasting than the original version. But I still don’t like them more than the box they came in. Again, that container is adorbs.

(Nutrition Facts – 290 calories, 18 grams of fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 870 milligrams of sodium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Fiery Chicken Fries
Purchased Price: $3.49*
Size: 9 pieces
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Better tasting than original Chicken Fries. Chicken Fries Sauce is tasty. The container they come in is adorable.
Cons: Not fiery. Not offensively spicy. Dry innards. More limp than crispy. Liking the box more than what was inside the box.

*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: Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers

Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers

I have a confession, dear readers.

I am a weenie.

That’s right: I’m the guy who needs a tissue after a single Flaming Hot Cheeto. I’m the guy who thinks playing Doritos Roulette is cruel and unusual punishment. And Thai food? More like “I want to die food.”

And I’ve been mocked for it my whole life.

That’s why taking on the challenge of Taco Bell’s new Dare Devil Loaded Grillers, which come in three escalating levels of spiciness, was a personal quest for me. If I can handle these, maybe I can regain some self-respect. No longer will I quiver before a bottle of Sriracha.

So without further ado, allow me to channel my inner Dante and dive into these three tortilla-wrapped circles of Hell.

Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers 2

First up was Mild Chipotle. The wrapper seemed to mock me with its condescending tone and mellow yellow colors. The insides were kinda squished together, but between the many, thick layers of tortilla were scant amounts of beef, plenty of gooey cheese, strangely damp wads of red corn chips, and the tempting beige sauce.

Flavor-wise, the toasty, grilled flour of the tortilla and the slight edge of the cheese dominated all else, with the sauce backing it up with a savory creaminess that had a palpably high fattiness. Little meatiness could be found, and the chips got too soggy to lend any sort of fun crunch. Regardless, as a fan of quesadillas, this tasted a lot like a pleasantly zesty one.

As for the spice, after finishing a bite I noticed a relaxed buzz in the back of my throat, but nothing even my greenhorn tongue couldn’t handle.

Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers 3

Kicking it up a notch (shame on Taco Bell for not working in the phrase “kick it up a nacho” somehow), I bit into the Hot Habanero griller. Aesthetically, it looked nearly identical to its plain-Jane little brother, except with a much thinner and angrier looking orange layer of creamy sauce.

Compared to Chipotle, the taste here was like a “hot beef injection.” Wait, wait. That’s not what I mean. Don’t Google that, please. But anyway, the noticeable tang of the pepper made the smoky, seasoned beef flavor much more prominent here, with undertones of garlic and black pepper. Our “chipper” friends manage to pop in with a brief, hot corniness, too.

The heat was a slow buildup, so much so that I thought I was safe until my tongue and throat started to tingle and whimper like a dog who played with a porcupine (thank my German Shorthair, who took a faceful of quills to bring us that analogy). Fortunately, the steady burn wasn’t nearly intense enough that a long swig of milk couldn’t wash it out.

Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers 4

But then it was time for Fiery Ghost Pepper. It was to be my personal final boss: my Bowser, my Ganondorf, and my last mine in a tense game of Minesweeper. Unlike its creamy siblings, this one just oozed a sinister, bubbly red liquid (okay, maybe I imagined the bubbles).

In terms of flavor, I was barely able to sense a salty combo of meat and corn chips before the acrid acidity of the sauce took over, with the harsh, concentrated pepper flavor overwhelming and seeping into all else. Even the formerly friendly cheese betrayed me and became pasteurized magma.

Et tu, nacho?

To seasoned veterans of seasoned spice, the heat may not quite be “1,000,00 Scovilles,” but it was enough to make me say “Sco-ly s***!” My tongue went numb to flavor, my throat resonated with capsaicin, and trying to wash it down with milk was as futile as Smokey the Bear crying tears of disappointment onto a forest fire.

Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers 5

For a total price of $3, the Dare Devil Grillers were a fun novelty, but outside of Chipotle, I can’t imagine buying any for an actual meal (though they are large enough for one), since the burn takes way from the familiar flavor, which you could easily get from many of Taco Bell’s other items.

Since I can see my word count here is already starting to rival Dante’s Divine Comedy, too, and since I’m still nursing a crispy tongue, I think a brief haiku summarizing each Griller will suffice:

Chipotle, my friend:
Cheesy, zesty mayo-filled
Beef quesadilla

Habanero, oh!
Peppered meat, slow-building heat
(That sounded dirty)

Ghost pepper: need Tums
Like Pompeii, heat buries taste
Ow ow ow, owww, ow!

(Nutrition Facts – Chipotle – 420 calories, 200 calories from fat, 22 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 940 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Habanero – 380 calories, 160 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 900 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Ghost Pepper – 400 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 970 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 11 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Dare Devil Loaded Grillers
Purchased Price: $1 each
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Chipotle)
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Habanero)
Rating: 5 out of 10 (Ghost Pepper)
Pros: Flavorful beef with cheese and toasty flour tortilla. Unbeatable value. The sinful goodness of “palpably high fat content.” Conquering your personal Ganondorf.
Cons: Pain and heat mask flavor as you move up in heat. Only difference between Grillers is flavor emphasis. Soggy chips. The crushing betrayal of “pasteurized magma.”