REVIEW: McDonald’s Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap (Canada)

McDonald's Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap

Over the last few weeks, an overwhelming amount of attention has been paid to McDonald’s breakfast menu — specifically, to the Golden Arches finally ceding to popular demand and serving that menu all day.

Sadly, despite being bombarded with news articles and ads, we don’t get to partake in your newfangled “all day breakfast” up here in Canada. So I had to suffer the indignity of leaving the house before 10:00 AM. On a weekend. Like a farmer.

I think the first thing I have to note is that the name of these wraps just does not make sense at all. More-Ning? What does that even mean? What’s a Ning? Why would I want more of it? I guess it’s supposed to be a pun? Apparently someone at McDonald’s didn’t get the memo that puns are supposed to make sense.

Inscrutable wordplay aside, McDonald’s has introduced two breakfast wraps: Sausage & Hash Brown, and Kale & Feta.

I went with the Kale & Feta, which consists of scrambled eggs, feta cheese, baby kale, and a few slices of tomato, all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. That’s it. No sauce, no seasoning — it’s literally just those four ingredients (mostly kale) crammed into a dry tortilla.

This was especially off-putting in the first few bites, which consisted entirely of plain kale and tortilla; it was surprisingly horrifying. There are some vegetables that can be eaten on their own without any dressing or accompaniment; kale is not one of them.

Things improved somewhat once I got to the other three ingredients at the centre of the wrap… but not by much.

There’s something missing here; it doesn’t taste good. It’s not the quality of the ingredients, which were fine. The scrambled eggs were a little dry and way underseasoned, but they were decent enough. And they were downright gourmet when you compare them to the rubbery yellow slabs of sadness that they pass off as eggs at some other fast food joints (Tim Hortons, I’m looking squarely in your direction).

The kale and tomatoes were both reasonably fresh, and the crumbled feta gives the wrap a bit of a salty kick, trying valiantly bring some flavour and personality — an uphill battle that it just can’t win.

McDonald's Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap 2

It’s odd; though the ingredients are all okay, they don’t taste particularly good in this configuration. I’m gonna be blunt: this thing tastes like you went dumpster diving at a health food store and then crammed a few ingredients at random into a tortilla.

What this wrap really needs is something — anything — to lubricate things and provide some flavour. Maybe if the kale had been tossed in a vinaigrette, or if it had been cooked, then this wrap could have been half-way edible. But here — raw, undressed, and abundant — it was a bit of an endurance test.

I actually really enjoyed McDonald’s last foray into the world of kale, the I’m Greek-ing Out salad (which also had the benefit of being named with a pun that actually made sense), so I’m not inherently biased against kale at McDonald’s.

But though that salad was ostensibly healthy, it had enough dressing and other tasty bits to remind you that you were at McDonald’s, and not the cafeteria at your local gym. The Kale & Feta McWrap, on the other hand, tastes like health food through-and-through. It’s tastes like the type of health food that gives health food a bad name.

It might just be the worst thing I’ve ever had from McDonald’s — and I tried the McOnion Bits.

(Nutrition Facts – 400 calories, 19 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.4 grams of trans fat, 420 milligrams of cholesterol, 840 milligrams of sodium, 37 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of fibre, 3 grams of sugar, 21 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Kale & Feta More-Ning McWrap (Canada)
Purchased Price: $3.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Decent eggs. Fresh veggies.
Cons: Tastes like a health food store dumpster. Ingredients don’t work well together. Dry. Raw kale overload. Desperately needs some kind of dressing. McOnion Bits flashbacks.

REVIEW: McWhopper

McWhopper 1

Burger King tried to get McDonald’s to combine their two flagship sandwiches into one hybrid behemoth named the “McWhopper.”

It was proposed to promote World Peace Day. BK built a plan and posted full-page ads in a couple newspapers, reaching out to McDonald’s in the name of “peace.” It even created a website.

McDonald’s said no.

There’s all this boring marketing analysis stuff: McDonald’s is recently down in sales blah blah, Burger King has something like half as many stores blah blah, fast food ads aren’t as effective blah blah blah. Whatever. The McWhopper is not going to happen, at least not officially. So the I decided to go ahead and make my own McWhopper to give it a try to see if I “love havin’ it your way, right away, ba da-da-da-dah.”

Since it takes two restaurant trips to construct the chimera, I mapped out the nearest two franchises to the lab, which were .4 miles away from each other. Burger King first, then McDonald’s. At 2:23 p.m. I had Whopper in hand along with a few extra packets of Heinz tomato ketchup. Five minutes later I arrived to the McDonald’s and at 2:33 p.m. the entire shebang was together. An extra trip back to the laboratory took a few more minutes and after all the construction was done, it was 2:55 p.m.

That’s 32 minutes from the start of the project to eating time. That’s not an ideal amount to wait before eating a fast food burger, sure, and it would be a bit cold. But if you think the McWhopper is a good idea, your time probably isn’t worth that much anyway. And this is considering that all of the ingredients were acquired during relatively off peak hours with little to no wait at the register with locations pretty close in proximity.

McWhopper 2
Big Mac Parts

McWhopper 3
Whopper Parts

Extraction is stunningly easy. The McWhopper calls for the top bun, one beef patty, the cheese, chopped lettuce, special sauce and middle bun from the Big Mac and the tomato, onion, ketchup, pickles, flame-grilled patty and bottom bun from the Whopper. It is a bit of a mess but other than some sauce and lettuce flung about, the ingredients are simple to separate. The things that aren’t featured on the McWhopper are the Whopper’s lettuce, which is a bit chunkier, and the Big Mac’s pickles and onions, which are dinkier. And in theory the Whopper’s mayonnaise, but that is difficult to get completely off the patty.

McWhopper 4

The sandwich is basically a Whopper wearing a Big Mac hat. This method is also necessary, at least in the home version, to avoid being top heavy because the Whopper is considerably wider. The McWhopper’s shape ends up looking like a Machu Picchu pyramid if the Incas worshipped obesity, or Grimace.

The taste is surprisingly decent for a lukewarm fast food offering. The most striking contrast is the sodium hum of the special sauce against the char-grill patty. The combination accentuates the sweetness of the Big Mac qualities and the earthiness of the Whopper, which completes a satisfying union. The fact that these qualities jump out really underlines what these companies want us to remember about these burgers. On the Big Mac even the meat plays second fiddle to the special sauce, with extra bread to dull out the taste. The Whopper has a facsimile of that coat-the-mouth backyard grill flavor and it ambushes the eater, while all the other ingredients aside from the ketchup work to restrain it.

I also got an extra order of Big Mac sauce—which came in a four piece Chicken McNugget container—and spread more on with a higher ratio of ketchup from Burger King, which gave it all a tart kick, and a wet slather that eventually spilled out the sides of the sandwich. Shout out to Carl’s Jr.

The pickles, in particular, added a crunch here and there. The tomatoes and onions and lettuce did not add much but did not detract. There is a ton of bread at play here, and with the added heft of vegetables and a larger second patty, it’s a substantial burger. The Whopper’s bread seems chewier than McDonald’s softer bun, but it is tough to differentiate when it’s taken in at once. The McWhopper suffers a little bit from being monotonous texture-wise, but this one is cobbled together from spare parts, so it’s understandable. Frankenstein could walk and talk like a human but he was still green and had bolts in his neck. Pobody’s nerfect.

McWhopper 5

The entire McWhopper affair hits some nice notes and really avoids being offensive in any way. The interplay amongst the ingredients works well and for people well versed in fast food burgers there is just about nothing unexpected. If you’ve had both the Whopper and the Big Mac before, you can probably imagine how this would taste, and you would be right. It’s almost disappointing how much of a train wreck the McWhopper isn’t.

In my hazy memories, BK’s Big Mac rip off Big King was bad and Mickey D’s Whopper wannabe Big N’ Tasty was okay. Whatever you think of the Big Mac, it seems harder to deliver a sandwich with a distinct (and maybe boring) taste than it is to make a sometimes-mediocre version of a backyard burger. McDonald’s seems to be in the power position here, which is probably why they nixed the idea. Still, it reminded me of this.

Another note is the price of each burger. At least in my neighborhood, the price of the Big Mac and Whopper are exactly the same at $4.19—which seems strange—like they are price fixing us, or both companies are really owned by the Koch brothers.

The McWhopper is surely not an original idea. Thousands of children have probably joked about it and dozens if not hundreds of stoners have carried out the experiment. The time and effort and combined price do not pay out in a way that makes this a regular dining option, although the work put into the construction of the homemade McWhopper gives a slight illusion of cooking, which fosters a feeling of accomplishment. It is an interesting undertaking that seems like it has unique roots in these two signature sandwiches. Who cares if KFC and Popeyes put out a fried chicken? Or Subway and Quiznos made a sub? I wouldn’t eat that. Even for world peace.

(Nutrition Facts – Big Mac Parts – 465.2 calories, 27 grams of fat, 9 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 770 milligrams of sodium, 31.4 grams of carbohydrates, 6.62 grams of sugar, 2.3 grams of fiber, and 22.26 grams of protein. Whopper Parts – 338 calories, 20.5 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 595 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 8.5 grams of sugar, 17.5 grams of protein.)

Item: McWhopper
Purchased Price: $4.19 (Whopper) $4.19 (Big Mac)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King and McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes intermingle well. Feels like cooking.
Cons: Time spent making it will leave it lukewarm. Textural monotony. Expensive.

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: McDonald’s McCafé Strawberry Lemonade

McDonald’s McCafe? Strawberry Lemonade

Part of me feels guilty for buying McDonald’s new McCafé Strawberry Lemonade because I’m probably driving some little girl’s lemonade stand out of business and killing her budding entrepreneurial spirit.

But part of me doesn’t feel guilty because I’m probably teaching her valuable lessons of business innovation which will allow her to up her game and develop sound marketing and costing principles for future lemonade stand expansion. So you might say I have mixed feelings about my purchase. Just like I have mixed feelings about the taste of McDonald’s newest McCafé beverage.

The fast food chain says that their new take on lemonade is “hand shaken for a perfect balance of sweet and tart,” but neither of those points are actually correct. The woman making my lemonade didn’t shake it so much as she pushed a few buttons on a big machine with strawberry lemonade in it, which is a real bummer because everyone knows lemonade is a lot like martinis -— better shaken, not stirred.

Also, the strawberry lemonade is really only the “perfect balance” of sweet and tart if your definition of balance means tasting more tart than sweet, which for a lot of people isn’t the preferred ratio for fruit-flavored foods and drinks (thus, why we have Sweetarts and not Tartsweets.)

Still, the strawberry lemonade is definitely refreshing and unexpectedly sophisticated in its flavor. The tartness, while outweighing the sweetness, isn’t mind blowing like a Warhead, and actually tastes reminiscent of eating a Lemonhead and a Swedish Fish at the same time.

There’s definitely a nuanced strawberry flavor that rounds out the lemon’s acidity, while the three slices of strawberry I received in my lemonade made for a favorable presentation that I really doubt most little boys and girls setting up lemonade stands this time of year can match.

McDonald’s McCafe? Strawberry Lemonade 3

Still, I can’t get past the tartness, nor can I get past the big machine of lemonade that serves up one of the most quintessentially homemade beverages with what I can only describe as “questionable” freshness. The strawberries, while aesthetically very nice to stir around with your straw, are actually pretty insipid and obviously frozen, with a thawed-out sliminess that screams for added sugar. More than anything else, I thought that added sugar would have helped bring out the inherent fruitiness of the strawberries, and justified the $1.79 I paid for a small.

There’s been a lot of McDonald’s Secret Menu talk as of late and I’d like to add a little tip to the conversation. If you’re lucky to live in an area where McDonald’s soda dispensers come equipped with both Minute Maid Light Lemonade and Strawberry Fanta, you can get a sweeter, more strawberry-y lemonade drink for less money.

McDonald’s McCafe? Strawberry Lemonade 2

I like what McDonald’s is trying to get at with their McCafé Strawberry Lemonade, even if the execution is off and the tartness overpowering. Given my guilt over contributing to the decline of brother and sister lemonade stands, I can only hope that our country’s next generation of venture capitalists responds by correcting this imbalance and reclaiming the lemonade market through fresher strawberries and more sugar.

(Nutrition Facts – Small – 120 calories, 0 calories from fat, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 10 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 28 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s McCafé Strawberry Lemonade
Purchased Price: $1.79
Size: Small (12 oz.)
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: More sophisticated flavor than usual takes on lemonade. Nuanced strawberry taste. Comes with real strawberry and lemon slices. Chilled and refreshing on a hot day.
Cons: Too tart for general lemonade drinking public. Strawberry flavor isn’t as concentrated as it should be. Pricey. Questionable freshness, including lack of discernible pulp. Supporting corporate giant over youthful small businesses.

REVIEW: McDonald’s McCafe Oreo Frappe

McDonald's McCafe Oreo Frappe

It took 27 years but I’ve finally learned you can’t always have your cake and eat it too. Sometimes you just get to have the cake, and you can’t eat it, you just get to possess it. We all have to settle at times.

Like how the escaped prisoners in New York had to settle for eating Pop-Tarts without a toaster. Cold Pop-Tarts?! Bleh! You’d have to be pretty desperate to eat those. Oh…yeah…escaped prisoners on the run. Ahem.

Or how in a fantasy draft you have to settle because the jerk picking before you takes the player you had your hopes and dreams set on, and you have to instead draft your fallback option. I cringe just thinking about the time Buster Posey was picked right before I could get him, and I panicked and blurted out John Axford. Please don’t laugh at me too hard, baseball fans.

My most recent case of settling came when I tried to save a few extra bucks by opting to go to McDonald’s for a tasty frozen beverage instead of Starbucks. I know what you’re thinking…life can be a real bitch! Yeah, I’m thinking the same thing!

But McDonald’s Oreo Frappe ended up being so good that I didn’t have to settle for anything. And being cheaper than a Starbucks drink it’s a win in both taste and price. Of course it’s also a win in the sense that I get to say “small” like a normal person, instead of “tall” at Starbucks, which sounds like it’s a large drink, but as most of us know it’s the smallest size.

McDonald's McCafe Oreo Frappe 2

At first glance it’s clear there are Oreo cookies blended throughout the drink. It also has Oreo chunks on top of the whipped cream. I suggest stuffing the whipped cream and cookie chunks into the drink and then mixing it, but that’s just my style. You do you, faithful TIB reader.

The cookie taste is strong with this one. Right away you’ll get a heavy chocolate cookie flavor. Along with frappe, I also noticed notes of vanilla. The drink is made with a cookies & crème syrup, and the crème flavor is definitely noticeable. To put it into fractions, it’s 3/5 Oreo cookie flavor, 1/5 frappe flavor, and 1/5 Oreo cream flavor.

I got a small since I was headed for a Dibella’s sub right afterward, and though my intentions were to sip on it so there would be some left to have with the sub, the Oreo Frappe was so good that it lasted only about a minute and thirty seconds.

There were a couple of issues with the drink. It has a thinner consistency compared with other Frappe flavors. It also has a higher calorie count and much higher fat count than my normal Starbucks choice, the always trusty Green Tea Frappuccino. Normally this would be a huge turnoff for me and I wouldn’t get the drink again but the taste is such a win that it easily negates these issues.

We all do have to settle at times, but when it comes to the Oreo Frappe, there isn’t any settling involved.

(Nutrition Facts – Small – 540 calories, 180 calories from fat, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 82 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 68 grams of sugars, and 7 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s McCafe Oreo Frappe
Purchased Price: $3.01
Size: Small
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great Oreo flavor. Can taste both cookie and crème flavors. Cheaper than Starbucks. Possessing cake. Not having to say “tall” when asking for a small drink.
Cons: Thinner consistency than other Frappes. Not the healthiest drink. Panic picking John Axford.