REVIEW: Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza

Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza

When it comes to garlic, I like enough of it on whatever I’m eating to make folks stay out of my personal space. Close talker…smell the garlic. Vampire…smell the garlic. Hugger…smell the garlic. Dentist…smell the garlic.

I thought I’d be getting a lot of garlic on the end crust of Pizza Hut’s new Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza, but unfortunately, or fortunate for those who invade my personal space, there wasn’t a lot of the pungent ingredient.

Each pizza has 16 stuffed garlic knots around the edges. Wait…did I say “knots”? I meant to say “not knots.” They didn’t have the distinct look of the garlic knots Google Images showed me. They’re more like balls or puffs, and they’re kind of big. They take up enough space on the large pizza to make the inner part of it look more like a medium.

Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza 3

Each not knot was topped with a combination of garlic, herbs, butter, and parmesan cheese. A toasted parmesan cheese flavor stood out, but, as I mentioned earlier, I barely noticed the garlic. The cheese inside the not knots tasted like the standard stuff that’s in their regular Stuffed Crust Pizza. It wasn’t gooey when I bit into it and most were filled with more air than cheese. Because there isn’t a lot of cheese, its flavor gets lost in the dough and whatever little garlic and herb flavor there was.

Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza 2

The pizza is similar to Pizza Hut’s Twisted Crust Pizza in that the appetizer doesn’t make up the entire end crust. Instead, it’s like a sheet of stickers. You know, the ones you put on your Trapper Keeper or composition book. Once you peel off the stickers, you’re left with something that has no redeeming qualities, so you just throw it away. Once the garlic knots are peeled away, what’s left behind is unappetizing, mostly unflavored bread. Mine was particularly unappealing because it was slightly undercooked.

Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza 4

Thankfully the pizza comes with two containers of marinara sauce for dipping. It gave the not knots a bit more flavor, which they definitely needed. But, depending on your double dipping disposition, it might not be enough for dipping the not knots AND the crust that lies beneath them.

As for the rest of the pizza, it’s a typical Pizza Hut fare. My pizza could’ve used more sauce under the cheese, but it was fine. The pizza itself was much more enjoyable and flavorful than the not knots attached to it.

Overall, the Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza wasn’t horrible, but I wouldn’t order it again. If I want a pizza with a garlicky crust stuffed with cheese to prevent folks from coming into my personal space, I could just order a regular Stuffed Crust Pizza with their Garlic Buttery Blend crust flavoring.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/8 Pepperoni Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza – 460 calories, 170 calories from fat, 18 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1120 milligrams of sodium, 54 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 19 grams of protein.)

Item: Pizza Hut Stuffed Garlic Knots Pizza
Purchased Price: $17.99*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Pizza Hut
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Marinara sauce was the sugar that helped the medicine go down. Lots of pepperoni on my pizza. Inner pizza was more enjoyable than the outer pizza.
Cons: Stuffed garlic knots are more like stuffed garlic balls. Bad air-to-cheese ratio. The garlic knots’ size make the pizza look smaller. The crust under the garlic knots was unappealing bread. Not enough marinara sauce to dip garlic knots AND undercrust. Undercrust being a made up word.

*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: McDonald’s Italian and Greek McTasters (Canada)

McDonald's Italian McTaster

I’m going to admit it: I liked the McPizza.

I ordered it quite a few times during its brief but memorable life, and I mourned for its little pizza soul when it inevitably got pulled from the menu (because let’s face it, pizza at McDonald’s was never going to be a thing, as much as they pushed hard to make it happen).

It’s okay, McPizza: you’re in McDonald’s heaven now, partying with the Super Hero Burger and trading war stories with the McDLT.

So when I heard that McDonald’s was taking another culinary excursion to Italy (and stopping off in Greece for good measure), I got pretty excited. It’s never going to fill the McPizza-sized hole in my heart, but then is anything ever going to fill that hole? No. The answer to that question is no.

McDonald's Italian McTaster 2

Happily, the Italian leg of Ronald McDonald’s European tour was actually pretty satisfying. The Italian McTaster consists of a Junior Chicken patty, topped with lettuce, tomato, parmesan and herb sauce, and parmesan flakes, all on a ciabatta bun (dubbed an “artisan-style bun” in a further attempt by the fast food chains to make the word artisan completely meaningless).

McDonald's Italian McTaster 3

I enjoyed it. The herby, slightly garlicky sauce works in tandem with the salty Parmesan to give the sandwich a nice zingy kick of flavour, and the lettuce and tomato adds some welcome freshness. The chicken was a standard-issue Junior Chicken patty, and the chewy ciabatta bun suited it quite well.

However, like a vacation that doesn’t quite know when to end, the Greek McTaster wraps things up on a sour note.

McDonald's Greek McTaster

It consists of a standard beef patty (the smaller one, not the Quarter Pounder or the Angus) topped with lettuce, tomato, red onion, feta cheese, and Mediterranean olive sauce. It’s basically a Greek salad on a burger, which doesn’t sound like a horrible idea in theory, but the execution is off. Despite the inclusion of assertive flavours like salty feta and briny black olives, the flavour here is oddly muddled and far more muted than you’d think it would be. It’s a half-hearted melange of flavours that never comes together or stands out in any meaningful way.

McDonald's Greek McTaster 2

The mediocre patty doesn’t help matters, though after the uncharacteristically tasty patty in the last McDonald’s burger I reviewed, its badness is actually weirdly comforting. McDonald’s beef shouldn’t taste particularly good; it should be inoffensively lousy, with a dry, crumbly texture and no particular flavour. That’s just the way things are supposed to be.

McDonald's Greek McTaster 3

A patty like that needs the toppings to do the heavy lifting, and the toppings here just aren’t up to the task.

Although the chewy, dense ciabatta bun works quite well in the Italian McTaster, the bun proves to be a little bit too hearty for the diminutive beef patty. It’s overwhelming.

The quality difference between the two McTasters becomes even more pronounced when you have both sandwiches in front of you and you’re alternating between the two. The Italian has a nice contrast of textures, with flavours that really pop. The Greek…does not have those things.

So for those keeping track: the McPizza-sized hole in my heart? Still unfilled. Your move, Ronald. Your move.

(Nutrition Facts – Italian McTaster – 370 calories, 18 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 810 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 12 grams of protein. Greek McTaster – 330 calories, 17 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 690 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 14 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Italian and Italian McTasters (Canada)
Purchased Price: $2.99 CAN (each)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10 (Italian)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (Greek)
Pros: Italian has a nice combo of crispy chicken and tasty toppings. Chewy bun suits the chicken well.
Cons: Greek features a mediocre patty with bland toppings that can’t quite save it. Chewy bun overwhelms the small hamburger. Profound McPizza-related sadness.

REVIEW: Burger King Flame Grilled Chicken Burger

Burger King Chicken Burger

Burger King was busier last year than Humpty Hump was in a Burger King ba…ugh, that reference is so old. Half of you aren’t going to get it, so I’m not going to finish it.

Anyhoo, in 2015, the burger chain introduced Buffalo Chicken Fries, an extra long list of Extra Long sandwiches, a red velvet milkshake that may or may not have turned your poop a different color, a black bun Halloween Whopper that may or may not have turned your poop a different color, and, of course, they brought back the dead-eyed King mascot, which will give some of us nightmares…again.

Surprisingly, the year didn’t end with one last Extra Long sandwich, instead BK came out with their Flame Grilled Chicken Burger.

The menu item features a flame-grilled chicken burger patty topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and white onions on a soft, toasted brioche style bun.

Burger King Chicken Burger 2

I have to admit, when I pulled out the burger from its paper cocoon, it looked good. I peeled back the bun and saw those grill marks, which made me want to bite into it even more. Then I cut it in half and the cross section reminded me of photos I saw in the college anatomy class I stopped going to during my junior year after seeing said photos. At that point, the chicken burger lost some of its appeal. But it lost all of its appeal when I took my first bite from it.

Burger King Chicken Burger 3

The patty had a good thickness to it, but it also makes the Whopper patty look scary thin. The patty was also…juicy? I don’t know if saying that is correct. Maybe saying it was sweating hard like it knew it was guilty of not being very good is more accurate because the liquid was like sweat in that it was salty and mostly made of water. I thought it was another ingredient that was bringing the liquid, but that wasn’t the case. Maybe, instead of Flame Broiled Chicken Burger, it should’ve been called the Fully Brined Chicken Burger.

At times, the sandwich as a whole tasted like, I swear, a Subway Cold Cut Combo, which to me isn’t bad. But, again, it was just too salty. The chicken patty itself was spiced in a way that made me think chicken breakfast sausage. Its texture was also sausage patty-like and easy to bite through. If it wasn’t so damn salty, it would probably be nice in a Croissan’wich.

None of the other ingredients did a good job at cutting through that saltiness, and the pickles probably enhanced it. As for the bun, it was shiny like other brioche-style buns, but it don’t think it had the slightly sweet flavor that the McDonald’s and Jack in the Box brioche buns have.

I didn’t get a chance to try every new item Burger King offered in 2015, but I did like almost every one I tried. The two exceptions are the Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich and this Flame Grilled Chicken Burger.

(Nutrition Facts – 480 calories, 25 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 1160 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 22 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Flame Grilled Chicken Burger
Purchased Price: $8.49 (medium value meal)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: At times, it tastes like a Subway Cold Cut Combo (if you like them). Burger King taking chances with protein. Doesn’t turn your poop a different color.
Cons: At times, it tastes like a Subway Cold Cut Combo (if you hate them). Very salty. Lots of liquid. Other ingredients couldn’t cut through that saltiness. Bun didn’t seem that special.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Brookie

Papa John's Brookie

Whether it’s Harry and Sally, Boy and World, or Scooby-Doo and the Harlem Globetrotters, we always love when two things meet. Hell, when it comes to turducken, we even love it when three meats meet.

Papa John’s must have understood this, too, because with their new Brookie, they’ve done more than just have chocolate chip cookies and brownies meet—they’ve baked their sweet, buttery essences together in a big ol’ oven of love.

Now if only Papa John’s could reconcile with his estranged son Jimmy. Maybe we’d finally get the Italian sub crust pizza the world has been yearning for.

But is it really possible for two superstars of the baked goods world to peacefully coexist under the roof of one cardboard box? Or will their sugary egos get in each other’s way? And how will Oatmeal Raisin feel about being left out of this orgy of dough?

Let’s tune in to this week’s episode of Beverly Hills 90,210 Calories and find out.

As I headed home from Papa John’s, the tantalizing, authentically homemade smell coming from my Brookie box made me check my phone to see if my technologically-illiterate grandma had somehow accidentally texted me a dozen fresh-baked cookies.

Feeling more than a little dirty, I locked myself into my room, dimmed the lights, turned on the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, and bit into a super soft, still warm slice. Better put the kids to bed for this one.

Papa John's Brookie 2

With my mouth glued shut by dense, chocolaty goop, I observed that my Brookie’s center was far closer to batter than it was to an actual, fully cooked cake brownie. Fudgy, rich, and delicious: this sinful, eggy chocolate lava had vesicles of flaky crust on top but still melted in my hands and mouth alike. The thin bed of cookie magma it sat on was largely undetectable, but still contributed some welcome bursts of buttered dough flavor.

So while the core of Planet Brookie was molten and sugary, the thicker cookie crust was crispy and firm. It had notes of toasted sugar and browned butter with the occasional visit by a large semisweet morsel. But as a whole, the crust was far milder (and significantly less interesting) than the decadent center.

Papa John's Brookie 3

Just like how the Force needs a dark side and a light, the Brookie benefits most from the magical area where brownie and cookie crust meet to form a tasty yin yang. The “fudgy sweet” and “golden baked” flavors pair well, and the half-crisp, half-gooey textural contrast could be a real crowd-pleaser.

It could even force a truce between those people who like the middle pieces of brownies and those people who only like the corners. I say “could,” because I’m just the guy who’s alone in his room, 48 love songs deep into 69 Love Songs and dripping with fudge. What do I know?

Papa John's Brookie 4

So as you can see from my above pie chart, approximately 87.5 percent of my Brookie currently resembles Pac-Man, while 12.5 percent does not. I’m quite satisfied with the Brookie; after all, did any of us really doubt that chocolate chip cookies and brownies would work together?

It might be a little too small and a little too expensive, and I wish Oreos had been invited to the party, but I look forward to eating the rest of this. And I’ll certainly buy another Brookie in the future and bring it to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner…

…as my date.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/8th slice – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Papa John’s Brookie
Purchased Price: $6
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: The best parts of an undercooked brownie and the edge pieces of a chocolate chip bar cookie. The even better part where they kiss meet. Inevitable post-Brookie milk chugging. The guiding life philosophy of cookie-brownie Taoism.
Cons: The price. The size. Washing out those tricky post-Brookie fudge stains. Still waiting on Grandma to email me an apple pie.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut

I sometimes allow myself to think that maybe, just maybe, some research and development person in the fast casual industry will hear my ideas and implement them. Usually this isn’t the case, but my 2014 review of Dunkin’ Donuts’ Croissant Donut might’ve been the catalyst for Dunkin’s new Fudge Croissant Donut.

…the single-flavor fails to capitalize on a host of sweet croissant fillings, while coming across as overpriced and, yes, mass-produced. There was a part of me which wanted more distinctiveness in the interior layers, wishing for a truly pick-apart dough which was layered with chocolate or marzipan or any number of fillings.

Ok, so maybe attributing Dunkin’s latest donut to me and me alone is arrogant and presumptuous. But I know I wasn’t the only one who liked the original “Cronut” imitator but also thought it could be better. And since chocolate croissants are the logical first step from plain croissants, it only made sense that if Dunkin just added a chocolate filling to their Croissant Donut, it would be a game-changer.

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut 2

Unfortunately, what Dunkin Donuts is piping into the many laminated layers of flaky croissant-donut dough is not fudge. There is definitely a strong, almost-dark cocoa flavor on the back-end, but the mixture itself is far from the buttery, milky, and intensely chocolaty experience you should get from fudge. It’s also not the hardened and concentrated pain au chocolat filling you might see in a real pastry. Instead, it’s somewhat viscous and tastes like artificially-thickened chocolate syrup. But most of all, it immediately comes across as far too sweet.

Also too sweet are the chocolate and white icings, which lack richness and taste mostly of hardened sugar. Granted, each drizzle is applied with impeccable craftsmanship, but for $2.49, I would hope the Croissant Donut’s value exceeds the aesthetic.

The cloying taste of the icing and the faux fudge might offset a genuine croissant, but because the Croissant Donut is already glazed with a thick and hardened coating of donut glaze, each bite is just sugar on top of sugar. Where the original version of Dunkin’s mashup had some of the savory, buttery aftertaste of croissant dough, this version betrayed too much of its mass-produced donut origins.

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut 3

Speaking of donut origins, the texture definitely takes a step back from the original croissant donut; the layers are there, but they’re more fluffy than crispy, giving way with even the slightest pressure.

If Dunkin Donuts’s Fudge Croissant Donut was a hit, I’d for sure take credit for its existence and possibly even sue the company for copyright infringement. As it stands, I’ll save myself the legal hassle and just call it like I taste it: the Fudge Croissant Donut is an overpriced sugar bomb, and does neither a chocolate croissant nor a chocolate-iced donut justice.

(Nutritional Facts – 400 calories, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Addition of chocolate filling into Croissant Donut. Indulgent dark cocoa flavored filling gets good coverage throughout the interior layers. Possible hope that fast casual research and development people read my reviews. Saving money on legal fees.
Cons: Chocolate filling doesn’t taste buttery or milky like “fudge”. Novelty of the croissant layers gets lost in the overly cloying icing and donut glaze. Too much donut taste and not enough buttery balance. More than half a day’s saturated fat.

REVIEW: Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries

Arby’s Curly Fries were already delicious.

How delicious? I’d happily munch away on them until the double helices of my DNA begin to resemble those perfectly breaded and seasoned potato corkscrews.

But now Arby’s has decided to load ‘em up with shredded cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, and bacon. It’s the fast food equivalent of stuffing cupcakes inside a birthday cake or super gluing Emma Stone to Emma Watson.

But wait! Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries also come drizzled in a Parmesan peppercorn ranch sauce! So cram an Oreo into those cupcakes and throw Emma Roberts into the mix, because we’re going for full excess here.

I don’t know why Arby’s wants to mess with a classic, but as long as they don’t start calling them “Shemp Fries,” this hungry stooge will try them anyway.

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries 2

Gazing upon my potato and cheese volcano, I wasn’t sure how to tackle it. A fork seemed too formal, using my hands seemed too barbaric, and actually physically tackling it seemed like a hernia waiting to happen. But then I realized I was snapping photos of greasy potatoes all alone in a deserted Arby’s, so if the crippling weight of my impending existential crisis didn’t kill me, a little cheddar under my fingernails wouldn’t either.

I took a carefully assembled “one of everything” bite, and holy mooing goo, Batman! That’s a lot of dairy! Seriously, between the (appropriately) buttery and milky buttermilk ranch sauce and the creamy cheddar components, it was like my Arby’s chef grabbed a cow, gave her a good shake, and told ol’ Bessie to fire on all cylinders.

Upon closer taste-spection, the fatty tang and zesty finish of the ranch became more pronounced. It overpowered the mild cheddar, which was as far from “sharp cheddar” as a plastic spork is from Excalibur.

Like some weird sequel to Animal Farm, one of the rare shards of haphazardly sliced bacon would occasionally attempt a futile rebellion against its dairy overlords by contributing a charcoal-seasoned, porky twang, but it was often too faint to taste.

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries 3

I’m relieved to say that beneath this class struggle of tang, cheese, and sporadic meatiness, the garlicky and peppery Curly Fries that we all know and shove into our hungry mouths still provide a familiar and tasty flavor base. I suppose even the cruelest ranch dictators can’t take away our seasoned potatoes.

Your enjoyment of these Loaded Curly Fries will ultimately hinge on how you feel about tangy ranch, since the bacon and cheese is more cosmetic than flavorful. I thought the sauce/fry combo was tasty at first, but I grew tired of it over time and eventually found myself wishing instead for some plain Curly Fries that wouldn’t coat my hands with multiple barnyard animal products. I recommend splitting this one with friends to retain the brief novelty.

I ate mine fresh, so they were crispy, but I’ve heard bad things about what happens to these fries’ structural integrity over time. So for science, I saved half of my dish and let it be my passenger seat companion while I ran errands (I even turned the heated seat on for it, because I’m a nice guy).

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries 4

Checking back two hours later, the fries had taken on the slimy texture of oiled calamari. Four hours later, my specimen had coagulated itself into a mushy Lovecraftian horror. The moral of the story? Eat these as quickly as your stomach and social setting will allow.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bury this thing before it becomes sentient.

(Nutrition Facts – 700 calories, 420 calories from fat, 46 grams of fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1990 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein..)

Item: Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Same Curly Fry goodness beneath the goopy-ness. The appreciated zest of Emma Roberts…err, I mean ranch. Savory pork uprisings. Orwellian cheese jokes (thanks, 9th grade English class!). Distantly echoing applause from the National Dairy Council.
Cons: Eventual ranch fatigue. The crushing, creamy hoof of the “moo-geoisie” (thanks, 10th grade history class!). The oppressed cheddar and bacon proletariat. Rapid devolution into something that belongs in a Korean horror movie. Questioning my life choices in the middle of Arby’s.