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REVIEW: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (Canada)

Written by | July 18, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 1

Remember when McDonald’s was unabashedly a burger joint? This was before people like Eric Schlosser and Morgan Spurlock entered the scene and made people look at the Golden Arches a bit more critically.

Seemingly overnight it was decided that if parents are foolhardy enough to take their child to McDonald’s on a daily basis and the kid inevitably grows fat and unhealthy, that’s Ronald’s fault, not the parents’. McDonald’s went into damage control mode, falling over itself to introduce healthy items like salads, wraps, and apple slices (never mind that the average McWrap is almost as calorific and fat-laden as a Big Mac).

Of course, burgers are still McDonald’s bread and butter, but they almost seem ashamed of that fact. Here in Canada, I can’t even remember the last new burger they added to the menu. The Angus Third Pounders, I guess? And that was a few years ago. As someone who can remember when McDonald’s used to reliably come out with a new burger every month or two (or every month exactly under the Burger of the Month promotion that ran for a while in the ’90s), it makes me a bit sad.

But let me stop ranting and get to the matter at hand: McDonald’s latest new non-burger item, the Asian Crispy Shrimp Signature McWrap (it just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?). It consists of crispy shrimp, grilled vegetables, lettuce, and Thai sauce, wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 3

The shrimp is surprisingly okay. The breading is nice and crispy, and the medium-sized morsels aren’t terribly overcooked. They’re a bit tough, but for the most part they avoid the rubberiness you might expect. They almost seem to be there more for texture than anything else; there’s a very vague shrimpy flavour, but otherwise the veggies and the very sweet sauce were clearly dominant.

Still, when it comes to something with as much potential to go wrong as seafood, I’ll take no flavour over bad flavour. No one’s going to confuse them for shrimp from a good seafood restaurant, but for what it is, it’s not bad. It helped that they were hot and fresh in my McWrap, but obviously your mileage may vary.

The veggies are the usual assortment of stir-fry selections — carrots, peppers, peas, bamboo shoots, etc. They’re fine; like with the shrimp, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were fairly well cooked. They’re soft without being mushy; firm without being crunchy and undercooked.

The obligatory lettuce does what the obligatory lettuce always does — it adds some fresh crunchiness and makes you feel like maybe you’re eating something healthy.

The sauce is the same one from the Sweet Chili McWrap. It’s sweet and tangy, with a bit of a garlicky hit and the faintest undertones of spiciness. It’s got a bit of an aftertaste that stayed with me all afternoon, but other than that it’s not bad. It’s a sauce that would feel right at home at a Panda Express — with the overall effect being that the wrap tastes like they took a dish from that restaurant and wrapped it up in a tortilla with some veggies.

McDonald's Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap 2

It’s not bad. I think it adds up to less than the sum of its parts, because while there’s nothing about it that was outright bad, I can’t particularly foresee a scenario in which I’d ever want to order it again. It’s certainly not my favourite of the McWraps (that would be, oddly enough, the entirely vegetarian Santa Fe McWrap), but if you’re curious about how McDonald’s has handled shrimp, you won’t be horrified. That’s a ringing endorsement, isn’t it? “You won’t be horrified.” Feel free to quote me on your marketing, McDonald’s.

(Nutrition Facts – 500 calories, 20 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0.2 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 1310 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of fibre, 16 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Asian Crispy Shimp Signature McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Crispy shrimp. Well-cooked veggies. Decent sauce.
Cons: Shrimp is slightly overcooked. Sauce has an unpleasant aftertaste. Inspires apathy. Makes me remember how much I miss the Burger of the Month.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)

Written by | July 8, 2014

Topics: 7 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 1

McDonald’s seems to be going all-in with their poutines — though they only rolled out the regular one outside of Quebec fairly recently, they’re already starting to add variations to the menu.

A poutine can easily be a base for other stuff, and it’s easy enough for them to throw on ingredients that they’ve already got lying around. If this does well, it’s safe to assume that we can look forward to all kinds of poutine varieties (I’m holding out for the Big Mac poutine — I’m dead serious, I want that in my belly immediately). But first: the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine.

The base is the standard McDonald’s poutine: same gravy, same curds, same fries. I basically liked that, so it’s not a horrible base to start with. Added on top are chicken pieces, Buffalo sauce, and green onions.

The woman behind the counter asked whether I wanted the chicken crispy or grilled; of course, I went with crispy. Because, let’s face it, it’s a poutine. I want it all fried. All of it. Can we just mash the whole thing into a ball and fry that too? How about my beverage, can I fry that? Heck, you may as well fry a Happy Meal toy and throw that in too. Because why the hell not, that’s why.

The chicken is the same type of chicken strip they use for their Snack Wrap, which is chopped into pieces. Though it does add some meaty substance to an already fairly substantial dish, the real differentiator is the spicy Buffalo sauce. It’s actually a pretty great addition. It adds a nice vinegary kick that helps to cut some of the richness from the gravy and the cheese; it also adds some of the flavour that the ho-hum gravy is lacking. It’s a surprisingly effective compliment to the overall poutine. But I wish it were a bit hotter; it has enough heat for you to recognize that you’re eating something spicy, but not enough to cause any real discomfort.

The green onions, however, add very little, aside from an aftertaste; between the salty gravy and cheese, and the vinegary Buffalo sauce, they get almost completely lost. All they did was force me to spend the rest of the afternoon with that taste in my mouth.

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 2

Of course, I can’t get through this review without acknowledging that it’s not the most attractive dish ever. A poutine isn’t particularly presentable to begin with, but somehow this is even uglier than usual. Maybe it’s the way the Buffalo sauce has been globbed onto the chicken as though it were some kind of hot red toothpaste, but the whole thing looks quite unappealing. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that it’s better than it looks.

It reminded me a bit of KFC’s Famous Bowls (or as Patton Oswalt calls them, failure piles in a sadness bowl). Maybe it’s the chicken on top, or maybe it’s the fact that the fries get so thoroughly soggy that they barely have more structural integrity than a bowl of mashed potatoes. Still, they do retain a modicum of their French fry-ness, and the overall dish is more appealing than a Famous Bowl.

I liked it; the base poutine is decent enough, and the additions (mostly) improve things. It’s also a pretty decent value at five bucks. The box isn’t particularly huge, but it has heft. Picking it up, I was surprised at how heavy it was. It won’t make you the fullest you’ve ever been, but you will be satisfied.

(Nutrition Facts – 640 calories, 37 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1640 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)
Purchased Price: $4.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Decent poutine base. Spicy Buffalo sauce compliments the poutine quite well. Fried.
Cons: Fries immediately sog up. Useless green onions. Not particularly spicy. Looks gross. Inability to have them mash it into a ball and fry the whole thing.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Horchata Frappe

Written by | May 26, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald’s Horchata Frappe

Horchata is a white-ish drink often seen in Mexican restaurants in those giant beehive-shaped containers. It’s pronounced or-chah-tah, and it’s really fun to say. Try it. Or-chah-tah. Or-chah-tah. Sorry, cellar door. There’s a new best word. It should be a celebrity child’s name, except if people don’t know how to pronounce it correctly and it was a girl, it kinda looks like it starts with “whore.” It’d probably work ironically, like a boy named Sue. Yeah, probably. “Horchata Cruise.” “Horchata West.” Let’s all make a pact. We all agree to name our first (or next) born “Horchata.” Reading this review is an implicit binding contract. Too late, you started already. It’s done.

Back to the drink. While regional variations exist, the version I am familiar with tastes like it’s made of rice, sometimes steeped in nuts, with a healthy dose of cinnamon up on top and over ice. The refreshing beverage goes particularly well with tacos and burritos, though you’re eating tacos and burritos. You could say garbage water goes particularly well with tacos and burritos. Ever had a Jarritos with Mexican food? It’s way too sweet. But still had that burrito. So it’s still a win. Not just a win. A Seahawks over Broncos win. Though I will say, the first time I drank horchata I thought it tasted a little like watered-down milk.

McDonald’s is taking advantage of the fact that Southern California’s immense Hispanic population and pumping out a McCafe coffee version of the horchata drink. Additionally, I noticed that between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., if you buy one frappe, you get another free. They’re calling it a “social hour.” I remember reading somewhere that McDonald’s décor is made to be unpleasant, because they have such a strong brand and they know we will all eat at the restaurant, but they want you to leave quickly so they can serve more customers. Make up your mind, Ronald. You want book clubs and Algonquin roundtable meetings between two and five, but when I cannonball into the Play Place ball pit you tell me to “put back on my shirt.” How do you know I’m not just an overgrown eight year-old? Stop putting hormones in your meat.

The horchata frappe is pretty decent, but it’s complicated. Imagine the taste of rice and nuts. Not the most in-your-face flavor bombs. But coffee? Coffee is the beast of the taste world. They use coffee in lab tests to reset smell-buds. I think they use coffee to defeat Godzilla in that new movie. Everybody rolls around in coffee grounds and it can’t smell humans anymore. It would overpower poor Nuts and Rice. Thus, there is little coffee flavoring in the frappe. It’s basically an horchata milkshake. And you know how cold tends to strangle certain flavors? Cold is so powerful I think that’s how they defeat Godzilla in that new movie. They freeze dry the lizard. This frappe is cold. Real cold. And honestly a lot of the flavor in the drink is overpowered by how numbingly cold it is.

Near the end of the frappe, when the whipped cream melts into the liquid and the ice is drank away, there is the real drink. It was in there the whole time, like a loved one possessed by the devil. It has a light cinnamon-vanilla flavoring (the drink is made with vanilla syrup), and maybe a small hit of rice-milk flavor, like barely detectable. It does not taste like it’s been steeped in nuts. You know what’s been steeped in nuts, though? I’ve held your hand this far. Write your own joke.

The attempt at subtle flavoring is admirable on McDonald’s part, and it was a pretty nice treat at a good price point. It’s thick like a milkshake so it might be hard to sit there and wait for it to heat up to the exact point when it would be ideal to drink it for maximum flavor. Maybe that’s why two to five is social hour. It takes three hours to get peak frappe. Like standing on a boat at 5 a.m. on vacation watching glaciers fall apart.

With the whipped cream mixed in, the fats boosted the flavoring and I would recommend trying to get a side of whipped cream or bringing your own can. That recommendation extends to all restaurants, however. I’m not sure this flavor is going to be launched nationwide but the unfamiliarity of horchata will probably keep it a regional item. But when she’s old enough, you can put Baby Horchata on a plane for a birthright quest to grab it, if it’s still around. 

(Nutrition Facts – Unavailable on website or anywhere else.)

Item: McDonald’s Horchata Frappe
Purchased Price: $2.89
Size: Medium
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Interesting, pleasant flavor. Works well in frozen treat format.
Cons: Coldness overpowers the subtler horchata flavoring. Not enough rice, nutty taste.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Peaches & Crème Pie

Written by | April 30, 2014

Topics: 9 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald’s Peaches & Cre?me Pie

Is it wrong to like McDonald’s pies over the traditional circular homey baked kind? Not any more wrong than laughing out loud in the theater during a sad scene. I apologized profusely to my wife when I erupted with guttural laughter as Christoph Waltz maniacally beat that elephant off-screen in “Water for Elephants.”

I don’t think animal abuse is funny at all but the scene was so corny, I had to laugh. Worse, I said sorry as I chuckled. Apologizing while snickering appears just as sincere as when your girlfriend who is about to dump you says, “We need to talk.”

What I will not apologize for is having a penchant for McDonald’s pies, which maybe even a bit borderline obsessive.

Famished after running mundane errands, the mind was elsewhere as my eyes were glazed staring at the drive-thru menu at McDonald’s. I knew my wife would get the Quarter Pounder with Cheese and no bun due to her gluten allergen. I was ready to follow suit until my eyes fixed on the pie offering… Peaches & Crème.

Images of fireworks, the mention of “Stephen Strange” in Captain America 2, and former WWE wrestler Chyna getting boogety-humped by X-Pac in the “leaked” sex video flashed in my mind.

I’ve eaten a variety of McDonald’s pies and while they don’t blow me away, they mostly always satisfy. It’s like a color by the numbers action film where everybody plays a familiar archetype. You know, the-sensitive-but-tough guy, the-jokey-but-tough-guy-when-it-counts, and the-misunderstood-jerk-who’s-actually-a-good-guy, blah blah blah. That’s how McDonald’s pies are to me, I love them but they aren’t exactly paradigm shifting.

Sometimes, however, there’s a detour in those films and you’re fully invested only hoping they can deliver.

McDonald’s Peaches & Cre?me Pie Closeup

That is the McDonald’s Peaches & Crème pie.

I’m serious and the bad news is, not only is it a limited offering but from my unscientific research, I don’t think they are widely available. It is not even listed in McDonald’s own website, which make me feel like I found the “secret” negative worlds in Super Mario Brothers.

I spent more time looking for the existence of this pie online than I did watching YouTube clips of unofficial appearances by Superman and Spiderman in Bollywood films.

The crust, as always, was golden brown. This crust was flecked with sugar crystals which welcomed you to take a big friggin’ bite into it. The crust was buttery and crispy with a perfect “Goldilocks zone” thickness that broke away in your mouth pleasantly the way Filo dough does.

The filling in the pie needs to taste good, but I think the texture is just as important as the filling. Maybe that’s why I like the clown’s pies so much, that mass produced crust is what I imagine what perfect pie crust is.

McDonald’s Peaches & Cre?me Pie Innards

As for the fillings themselves, they are mundane and ordinary alone. The crème part tastes a little bit like cheap cream cheese frosting. The peach filling taste of reduced syrupy canned peaches has a slightly distant herby flavor, which is interesting in a very good way. The chunks of peaches are a nice touch to add another element of the mouthfeel equation, if there is such an equation.

However, when the peaches, crème, and crust are combined, it’s like alchemy. The pie is a cheap section of heaven, where the inventors of pogs and die cut comic book covers go (if you believe in heaven). And if they are there, I have a closet full of apologies they need to give me.

The crème really tones down the syrupy sweetness and adds that tiny addition of savory. It’s akin to something acidic to cut through something rich. And I cannot begin to truly explain the essential crust, which just brings it all together.

In all seriousness, if you can find it, it is worth a try. I know the strawberries and crème pies are still regularly sold and if you can’t find the limited peaches one, the strawberry version will give you a good idea of what this is all about. I sincerely hope this pie makes it to the regular line-up.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on website.)

Item: McDonald’s Peaches & Crème Pie
Purchased Price: 89 cents
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: The crust, the filling and the crème all play an equal role of deliciousness. Sugar crystals on the crust. Chunks of peaches. Inappropriate laughing.
Cons: It’s a limited offering. If you eat the crème and the peaches alone (but who does that? And if you do, you need help). Inappropriate laughing.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich

Written by | March 27, 2014

Topics: 9 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald's Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich

For years, I believed the “special sauce” on the McDonald’s Big Mac deserved better.

It deserved a better name because “special sauce” doesn’t sound so…um, special. Let’s be honest, Grimace Snot Sauce would’ve been a better name. I also believed the tangy sauce deserved to be sauce-gunned on sandwiches other than the Big Mac.

Well, almost 50 years since the introduction of the Big Mac, we’re finally get Grimace Snot Sauce on sandwiches that aren’t a Big Mac and don’t have beef. (Although, hardcore fast food aficionados would wipe the Grimace Snot Sauce from their mouths and then point out that there’s been Chicken Big Macs in other countries.) Why hasn’t it happened sooner? Fear of a special sauce shortage, cannibalization of Big Mac sales, or will Ray Kroc’s ghost appear and warn us that the end of the world is nigh? I dunno.

What I do know is that I’m glad it happened, even though it could mean the end of the world, because McDonald’s new line of Bacon Clubhouse sandwiches are damn tasty, especially the Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich.

As you can see in the pictures above, there’s a lot going on with this sandwich. Along with the secret sauce, the sandwich is also made up of lettuce, tomatoes, a crispy chicken breast filet, a slice of white cheddar, Applewood smoked bacon, and caramelized onion on an artisan bun.

McDonald's Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich Bun

Let’s start off with that bun. The first thing I noticed about it was how shiny it was. The top glistens like the skin of a liar on the witness stand, but it isn’t greasy. The two halves are toasted, which help prevent the bun from falling apart. While eating the sandwich, I could’ve sworn the bun had a slight sweet bread vibe to it, but whatever the bun has, it’s good, I want it available with every McDonald’s sandwich, and it makes the other McDonald’s buns taste like what they give with water to prisoners.

McDonald's Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich Top

Let’s move on to the bacon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, McDonald’s Applewood smoked bacon is quite good for fast food bacon. It’s thick, has a wonderful salty porky flavor, and there’s a crispiness to them along the edges, which was absent in the previous pork strips McDonald’s called “bacon.” My sandwich came with four strips, which, after reading other reviews, seems to be an anomaly. (Also, an anomaly, the two tomato slices that came with my sandwich.)

The special sauce’s sweet and tangy flavor goes extremely well with the somewhat thick crispy chicken breast filet, which is the same chicken in McDonald’s other premium chicken sandwiches. So well that I still can’t believe McDonald’s didn’t go sauce gun trigger happy on their other sandwiches sooner. The crispy chicken breast filet was for the most part crispy on the edges and wasn’t dried out. The slice of white cheddar didn’t make an impact with this sandwich. Its flavor got lost among the sauce and caramelized grilled onions.

Speaking of the caramelized grilled onions, a part of me wishes they weren’t included because they took away some of the secret sauce’s flavor. But that can easily be fixed by asking for extra sauce or holding the onions. I mean, the sandwich has so much going on that I don’t think the onions would be missed.

The McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich is the best tasting chicken sandwich on the McDonald’s menu. Some of you may scoff at its premium price, which is in the $4.50-$6 range, but I think it’s worth the price and possible special sauce shortage, cannibalization of Big Mac sales, or the end of the world.

(Nutrition Facts – 750 calories, 340 calories from fat, 38 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1750 milligrams of sodium, 65 grams of carbohydrates, 16 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, 36 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich
Purchased Price: $5.89*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Best tasting McDonald’s chicken sandwich. The artisan bun is better than any other bun McDonald’s offers. Meaty, thick, and slightly crispy Applewood smoked bacon strips. Secret sauce goes wonderfully with the crispy chicken filet. Green lettuce.
Cons: Caramelized grilled onions seem unnecessary and they take away some of the secret sauce’s flavor. McDonald’s not sauce-gunning their secret sauce on other sandwiches sooner. Will be pricey to some.

*Because I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, things are pricier here. You’ll probably pay less than I did.

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