REVIEW: McDonald’s Chocolate Shamrock Shake

McDonald's Chocolate Shamrock Shake

It’s that time of the year again, lads and lasses. St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner.

You know what that means. It’s time to drink! Drink like you’ve never drank before. Drunk like you’ve never dronk before! Just dance a lil’ jig and drink!

Drink what? Jameson? Guinness? Come on, guys! This is a family site. Drink McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes!

Unless you got beat with the stupid shillelagh, or have been living under the Blarney Stone, a Shamrock Shake is a mixture of reduced fat (lol) vanilla ice cream, mint flavored “Shamrock” syrup and green sugar crystals. The result is a light green minty spin on a standard McDonald’s vanilla shake, and like the weed it borrows its name from, we’re lucky to have it.

From this point forward, I’ll try to keep this review short of stereotypical Irish things. Leprechaun. The Boston Celtics. Corn beef. Sully. Murph. Go Sox! Ok, starting now.

This year marks the expansion of the famous Shamrock Shake line. Not only is the original back, but McDonald’s has released four new drinks under their McCafe label. With shakes, fraps and hot cocoa choices to choose from, I opted for the Chocolate Shamrock Shake.

I can’t remember the last time I had a chocolate shake. It’s been ages. I guess I’ve just been subconsciously holding out for McDonalds to get frisky and cross pollinate their chocolate shake with my all time favorite item they offer, the Shamrock Shake. Seriously, I’m a Shamrock Shake junkie. If a group of nutjobs traveled the country for this like they did for the McRib, I’d consider abandoning my life and hitching a ride.

McDonald's Chocolate Shamrock Shake 2

Like I mentioned above, the shake had the familiar green pastel like color, with a couple of brown blotches. It looked nothing like the press release photo that had the two colors perfectly halved in a cup, but what fast food ever looks like the press release photo?

Chocolate and mint were noticeable on the nose, even though the shake itself was buried under a mountain of “whipped topping.” I always forget to ask for no “whipped topping.” Don’t get me wrong, I like phony whipped cream, but sometimes it’s completely unnecessary. I don’t need a maraschino cherry either. I always let it sink, and forcefully suck it into my straw when I somehow forget it’s there. I’d suggest just skipping the toppings and letting the mint and chocolate shine.

Speaking of mint and chocolate, whenever something has those flavor profiles, reviewers seem to default to, “Ummm, It tasted like Andes Mints.” Well, in this case, I’m gonna default as well. This shake instantly put me in mind of those after dinner mints. The familiar – in no way overpowering – cool mintiness of the Shamrock was the more powerful of the two flavors, but the chocolate definitely added a perfect new element.

McDonald's Chocolate Shamrock Shake 3

As I chugged on, the colors melted together into a delicious camouflage. Well, they would have if I gave them much of a chance to melt. I drank it so quick, I considered calling Guinness, not Guinness as in “Irish stout,” but Guinness as in “Book of World Records.” Ripley’s won’t return my phone calls. Long story.

The last few sips actually flip-flopped and were stronger on the chocolate, but I’m not complaining. When, and it’s only a question of when, I get this again, I’ll opt out of the whipped topping, and give it a few spoon swirls just to make sure the flavors are distributed properly.

You have until March 24th to give this a try. Get shakin’.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 610 calories, 150 calories from fat, 17 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 78 grams of carbohydrates, 84 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: Medium (15 oz.)
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Delicious harmony of mint and chocolate. February and March are the best McDonald’s months of the year. No brain freeze. McRib disciples. A happy and healthy St. Patrick’s Day.
Cons: Whipped Topping and plastic cherry are unnecessary. Could’ve probably been blended a bit better. Limited availability. McDonald’s suddenly giving all new drinks the fancy “McCafe” moniker. Sat fats. 84 grams of sugar!

REVIEW: McDonald’s Grand Mac

McDonald's Grand Mac

Do you see that party over there? It’s an LTO (limited time offer) party and I see the King from Burger King and the chihuahua from Taco Bell absolutely going crazy and for what seems like forever. Oh, and who’s that I see over there making a fashionably late entrance? WHY IT’S RONALD MCDONALD WITH TWO NEW BURGERS!

Welcome to the party, McDonald’s! Glad to see you here even if it is for just two size variations of your top performer.

McDonald's Grand Mac 6

The burgers are siblings to McDonald’s signature item the Big Mac, one of which is called the Grand Mac. Thinking about the name, though, a Grande at Starbucks is a medium and if you translate grand from French it means “big,” so jeez McDonald’s this is confusing.

McDonald's Grand Mac 3

I got a regular Big Mac too just so I could see the difference. And if the package wasn’t warning enough (you’re gonna need two hands), you truly see the magnitude when you open the box. This thing is big! Actually, scratch that since it’s confusing. It’s huge!

McDonald's Grand Mac 4

It’s definitely larger than its star sibling but not so much in height. However, getting a bird’s eye view is simply breathtaking as you compare the diameters of the two sesame seed buns.

McDonald's Grand Mac 5

The taste is right on point with the Big Mac as the usual components are there in all their glory. The lettuce, onions, and pickles add some really nice crunch while the cheese is a sort of middle ground in texture to marry up all the different components, which it does so beautifully. However, the star here is the Big Mac sauce, which is as it should be. It’s the flavor you know and love, both creamy and delicious in full force. If you absolutely love the Big Mac but usually finish it without feeling as full as you’d like then the Grand Mac is for you.

The one disappointment I had were with the meat patties. The taste was fine but they were a bit too thin for me considering everything else that was going on. So, here’s to hoping McDonald’s has another option in the works. I even mocked one up using the gloriously sized patties from a Double Quarter Pounder. Drive-thru patrons of America? The Hamburglar? The enormous gigantic Jumbo Mac has arrived…

McDonald's Grand Mac 2

(Nutrition Facts – 860 calories, 470 calories from fat, 52 grams of fat, 18 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 140 milligrams of cholesterol, 1470 milligrams of sodium, 62 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 13 grams of sugar, and 41 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $5.00
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: A truly super-sized Big Mac experience. Ronald McDonald partying with the King and a chihuahua. Packaging warnings that actually hold true.
Cons: Meat patties that are underwhelming. The French translation of Grand Mac is Big Mac.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Chicken McGriddle

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle

McDonald’s has been stuck in a rut. The clown king of fast food may still push billions of burgers a year, but a dipping sales trend and changing cultural attitudes have investors shaken. Attempts to produce higher-end burgers have flopped, leaving the Golden Arches with few options.

But in a sea of dry mozzarella sticks and sexy Hamburglars, one promotion was an undeniable hit. All-Day Breakfast broke the morning menu free from a 10:30 a.m. cutoff, and brought the Golden Arches a much-needed PR win.

So it wasn’t long before cross pollination of the breakfast and dinner menus began, and bore fruit.

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle 2

Currently available in select markets as part of a 2 for $3 promotion, the Chicken McGriddle is hilariously basic. It’s a standard McChicken patty, slapped between the syrup-infused McGriddle buns. No condiments, no cheese, nothing but what the name promises. A sweet and savory hybrid, echoing the ‘Chicken and Waffles’ pairing that headlines so many late-night food porn binge sessions on the Food Network. But in practice this sandwich is too simple to offer anything but novelty.

The issue is that McGriddle buns aren’t quite sweet enough to harmonize with the chicken. When getting a plate of fried chicken and waffles, it’s common to see fried breasts smothered in sweet maple syrup. The Chicken McGriddle has only a few artificial pockets of maple brown sugar to offset a peppery chicken patty.

You’ll get a nice sweet hit at first, and cinnamon taste that lingers on the tongue – but the meat of the bite is all about the chicken. I found myself longing for some sort of maple spread, or even a slice of cheese. Anything to give the sweet side more of a leg to stand on.

McDonald's Chicken McGriddle 3

It’s hard to understand where the Chicken McGriddle fits into the average McDonald’s order. The taste it leaves behind is too sweet for a large soda, but far too heavily seasoned for coffee. It’s not going to fit in at breakfast, but seems too simplistic for lunch. As such, it makes sense for this to be part of a combo promotion. Paired with a Double Cheeseburger or Spicy McChicken, it works as an interesting novelty. Failed experiment or not, it’s worth it to see McDonalds trying something undeniably odd.

(Nutrition Facts – 390 calories, 130 calories from fat, 15 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1000 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: 2 for $3
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Unique offering by McDonald’s standards. Cheap enough to try on a whim. Watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives at 4 a.m. while not wearing pants.
Cons: Not sweet enough to offset the savory. Hard to pair with a beverage. Very bland.

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: McDonald’s Jolly Burger (Canada)

McDonalds Jolly Burger 1

Ever since McDonald’s (and pretty much every other fast food joint) started storing pre-cooked patties in those weird food drawers, their burgers have ranged from “dry” to “super dry” all the way to “oh my lord is that dry.”

Imagine my shock and befuddlement, then, when not only was the Quarter Pounder patty in my Jolly Burger not dry, but actually kind of juicy. A juicy patty at McDonald’s? Where’s the weird, pebbly texture? Where’s the dessicated beef that crumbles into dry little meat granules? What is this wizardry?

I don’t know if McDonald’s have somehow improved their process, or if I just got lucky with a one-off burger that happened to be fresh from the griddle. I suspect the latter, but I would love to be wrong.

McDonalds Jolly Burger 2

The patty even had a decent beefy flavour that I would categorize as “not unpleasant,” so basically the whole experience made me wonder if Ronald McDonald had snuck into my house and Incepted me.

But of course, the bigger question is how the toppings were; even if I just got very lucky with the patty (and I suspect that I did), the toppings will be more consistent no matter which McDonald’s you go to.

They were pretty tasty!

McDonalds Jolly Burger 3

The star of the show is the creamy peppercorn sauce. It tastes kind of like a variation on peppercorn gravy, with a sweet, pleasantly zesty flavour, and a kick of savoury oomph that complements the burger well. 

The grilled onions were a touch undercooked, with a bit more bite than you’d probably want, but otherwise added more savouriness and blended quite well with the peppercorn sauce.  

The combined sweetness of the sauce and the griddled onions might have been sweet overload, but the two slices of melty processed white cheddar added a nice dose of saltiness to round out the sweet.

McDonalds Jolly Burger 4

As for the one piece of leaf lettuce, it seemed present more for colour than anything else; it added nothing to the taste or texture of the burger.

The whole thing comes on a cross-split bun, which basically tasted like a slightly denser, heartier version of what you’d find on a Quarter Pounder. It was a good fit for the burger at hand.

McDonald’s bills this burger as “holiday-inspired,” and yeah, with the gravy-like sauce and the savoury grilled onions, I can see it. It’s not exactly a turkey dinner, but it’s probably about as holiday-appropriate as you’re going to get from the golden arches.

(Nutrition Facts – 540 calories, 28 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 90 milligrams of cholesterol, 1220 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fibre, 8 grams of sugar, 29 grams of protein..)

Item: McDonald’s Jolly Burger (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.69 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Juicy, mildly flavourful patty. Blend of zesty peppercorn sauce, savoury grilled onions and salty cheese is quite tasty. Hearty cross-split bun.
Cons: Slightly undercooked onions. Borderline too sweet. Getting Incepted by Ronald McDonald.