REVIEW: McDonald’s Horchata Frappe

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.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Peaches & Crème Pie

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.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Premium Crispy Chicken Bacon Clubhouse Sandwich

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.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Burger

McDonald's Bacon Clubhouse Burger

Ronald McDonald clicked his pen. It was the first sound that caught his attention, even though the third quarter numbers had been flying around the conference room for half an hour. A uni-ball Jetstream. Click. The muffled adult-Peanuts voices chorused into a wave of nonsense. Click. Outside the window he could see a hawk. Click. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple knocked against his tie knot. Click. Ronald darkened his previously doodled Stussy “S” on his notepad. Click. Ronald gave a tiny nod. Click.

So another McDonald’s burger finally has special sauce. The Bacon Clubhouse Burger sports a new bun, bacon, and caramelized onions on top of the special sauce. That seems like it should be a bigger deal that McDonald’s put their formerly exclusive Big Mac topping on another thing. Maybe it’s not because customers can ask for it literally any time as a condiment and put it on any sandwich. Or even things that aren’t sandwiches. Bring it home. Put it on some Brussels sprouts. Put it on your cat. Put it on as a facemask, Mrs. Doubtfire style (Hellooo!). Or maybe freeing the sauce is not a big deal because it’s flanked by so many other new components that work together to make a pretty damn good fast food burger. Teamwork, guys. But f’reals, on this Miami Heat of a burger the special sauce is LeBron*.

The bun. Oh, the bun. So soft, so buttery. It sets the tone for the entire sandwich and is probably the softest roll in recent fast food memory. The bun of a burger is like a mattress. You want to have a good one if you’re gonna spend most of your time sleeping on/eating it. Though if the bun is the bed, there’s one hell of a mating ritual going on inside. The special sauce lends a light tang, never overpowering.

McDonald's Bacon Clubhouse Burger Topless

The caramelized onions are sweet and deepen the flavor of the sauce, combining with the slice of creamy white cheddar to coat the burger in a very full taste. The pieces of bacon show up every once in a while too, crispy and adding a bit of a salt kick. The sweetness of the sauce-onion combo overshadows the potential smoke and sugar power of the bacon a bit, but the pig also serves as a good textural change of pace. The tomato is fine. The lettuce is fine. Sorry, you guys don’t get in on the mattress fun, but you can watch if you like.

The actual burger patty is tricky. McDonald’s is using their Quarter Pounder patty here, and as any frequent McDonald’s patron knows, sometimes the meat can be a crapshoot. I ate two Bacon Clubhouse Burgers for this review and the first time I was treated to a rubbery, dry disc that really highlighted a problem. With this burger, McDonald’s is setting itself up to compete with other “fancy” burgers, and while the toppings elevate the Bacon Clubhouse in taste, it left me desiring some decent beef. It was like putting lipstick on a pig. I guess that’s a bit confusing, considering there’s actual swine on this. It was like putting lipstick on Robin Williams (It was a run by fruiting!).

The second time I had the burger it was leagues better. The meat was moist and served as a nice base for the meal. The problem remained, though. The star was most definitely the melded combination of toppings and the bun and not the flimsy, thin protein. Nothing like some so-so cow to remind us we’re still eating McDonald’s. That being said, both times I was very impressed by the depth of flavors in the sandwich and I think that it might be the best burger on the menu in a long time, if not ever.

*LeBron James is special sauce. Erik Spoelstra is the bun. Dwyane Wade is bacon. Chris Bosh is caramelized onions. Shane Battier is white cheddar. Ray Allen is tomato. The beef is Mario Chalmers. Lettuce is Norris Cole.

(Nutrition Facts – 720 calories, 360 calories from fat, 40 grams of fat, 15 grams saturated fat, 1.5 grams trans fat, 115 milligrams of cholesterol, 1470 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 15 grams of sugar, 4 grams of fiber, 39 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse Burger
Purchased Price: $4.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Great flavors. Cheese, special sauce, onions combine to elevate burger to next level. Burger bun is so soft.
Cons: Burger patty is unimproved.

REVIEW: McDonald’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe

McDonald’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe

I believe you hit a certain age when you want a milkshake but you’re an adult now and unless it’s swilling an espresso with milk, that’s not going to go well with the senior partners. Hiding behind that tattered copy of the WSJ or the Financial Times is not an option either. I mean, look at yourself:

You have a dark blazer from Brooks Brothers that screams prep school chic but conservative enough for a Southern highball soiree.

A messenger bag/briefcase from Jack Spade.

That J. Crew navy blue and red striped banker’s tie.

Cashmere red socks from Banana Republic (Heritage edition, of course).

You also use words like “furthermore” or “paradigm” and “synergy” in normal conversations.

Furthermore, a milkshake could rupture that carefully put together image and how is Muffy going to react with you being caught slurping a milkshake and reading (gasp)The Atlantic? (Don’t worry I ain’t going to tell nobody.)

Enter the frappe, which according to Wikipedia (but old sport, you better not admit to looking up anything on there, lest you’ll be laughed off at your next squash match), is a foamed covered iced coffee drink that hails from the land of money strapped Greece.

Like Americans, we soar in taking something from elsewhere and make it, if not always better, patently ours. Just take a look at all the mango sauce/Sriracha reduction/flecks of truffles/sushi rolls that are made to have us believe that’s what the Japanese eat over in Tokyo. Canadians aren’t even safe with the eye-rolling varieties of poutine being ferreted by so called “hot” chefs. Anybody want to argue the merits of the Americanized Let Me In? Poor Swedes, we should have stopped at Ikea and that Swedish Chef from the Muppets.

Yet, the Mcdonald’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe here serves its purpose as a coffee drink and a “sorta” milkshake. Of course old boy, a coffee drink sounds much more sophisticated than a milkshake wouldn’t you say?

Normally I’m not a fan of foods that are literally named what they are. I mean would you eat a “hind leg of the pig that has been cured and topped with cheese” sandwich? Not me. A hind leg sounds too close to the butt and with the word cheese…it just creates an illustration best left in the dark recesses of your mind where forgotten embarrassments live.

However, this works here because McDonald’s is not only telling you that “hey, you can drink the luscious headiness of chocolate covered strawberries,” but they are making it sound way more ravishing than it is. And you will be tricked like me.

Besides, at $3.19 for a medium, that’s a bit way too pricey when you have to walk around with a plastic cup that has a McCafe logo seared on it. Remember image is everything sport. The point is, regarding the high price, you’re better off going to a Starbucks who do Frappucinos way better.

McDonald’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe  Topping

At first sight, there is the standard and inviting whipped cream on top and if you dislike whipped cream, you’re an evil person who probably breaks fertilized chicken eggs. The whipped cream is lovingly glazed with streams of strawberry syrup and it tastes like the strawberry sundae topping with hints of some kind of delightful berries. It’s actually not as sweet as I was expecting and that is a good thing.

This is where everything goes pear-shaped. First, the chocolate flavor is muddled and bland which is not helped by the even blander coffee taste. The chocolate chips residing in the drink are nice and bittersweet but do little, except to convince you that maybe you should have ordered a coffee flavored milkshake.

Although the strawberry syrup was slightly intense in the berry flavor, when drank with the chocolate coffee, it just fades away like internet sensations (anybody remember Little Superstar?). Even worse, the ice bits mixed in the chocolate chips create something that made me want to turn to the camera and have a tear roll down my cheek 1970’s public service announcement Native American style.

The McDonald’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe tasted like a watery cement mix of sadness and despair. The tiny ice crystals did nothing but dilute an already boring coffee drink. The concoction was so soupy and awful, I threw it out with the other incriminating documents.

To hell with wondering if you’re going to be invited to the annual partners’ dinner or if that preppy cowlick on the back of your head is just right. If you want a coffee, order a coffee. If you a want a milkshake, order a milkshake. If you want a combination, go elsewhere (like maybe Starbucks) and avoid this dreadful offering that will only confirm that all of us are going to hell in a spiffy bow-tie.

(Nutrition Facts – Medium – 630 calories, 240 calories from fat, 30 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 160 milligrams of sodium, 107 grams of carbohydrates, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 98 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Chocolate Covered Strawberry Frappe
Purchased Price: $3.19
Size: Medium/16 oz.
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: The strawberry syrup has hints of berries and is not as sweet as one would think. American Psycho. Who doesn’t love whipped cream? When a senior partner tells you a joke and you laugh. The chocolate chips are bittersweet. Wearing one of those suits from The Great Gatsby.
Cons: Bland coffee flavor. Psycho IV: The Beginning. Too many ice crystals mixed in that diluted an already bland coffee. When a senior partner tells you a joke and you have to laugh. Watery and sad. Speaking like you’re from The Great Gatsby.