REVIEW: McDonald’s Signature Sriracha Burger and Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

McDonald s Signature Sriracha Burger

Welcome to 2014, McDonald’s!

Okay, I kid.

But McDonald’s Sriracha Signature Crafted Recipe would’ve been way more exciting back in 2014 when sriracha was still making its way onto almost every product imaginable.

But now that it has ended up onto almost every product imaginable, I look at this new Signature Crafted Recipe and go, “Hey! Glad you finally made it to the party. Um, almost everyone went home and we’re cleaning up. But you’re welcomed to stay. There’s not much food or drinks left. I think there’s some warm salad and maybe a slice of pizza somewhere and, um, some bottled water sitting in melted ice.”

But after tasting the sauce, I got excited. Because McDonald’s didn’t use some ordinary sriracha, it created a sriracha-Big Mac Special Sauce hybrid, and it tastes wonderful. It’s creamy, spicy, sweet, and tangy. I want to dip McNuggets in it (sorry, my beloved Hot Mustard). Heck, I want to dip everything in it. And I can because it’s also available in a dipping container.

The Sriracha Mac Sauce is not, using a McDonald’s reference, Hot Habanero-spicy, but it might be the second or third spiciest sauce to ever be available on the McDonald’s menu in the U.S. It’s also not Huy Fong Foods Sriracha-spicy, if you want another heat reference.

McDonald s Signature Sriracha Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich

I experienced this new sauce with the Signature Sriracha Burger and Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Both also feature baby spinach and kale, tomato, crispy onions, white cheddar, and your choice of an artisan roll or sesame seed bun. I went with the artisan roll for both.

McDonald s Signature Sriracha Burger 2  1

McDonald s Signature Sriracha Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich 2

There was a decent amount of the bright orange goop in both sandwiches. Smeared inside the top bun, it’s used as glue to help prevent the crispy onions and greens from falling out (some still did).

The crispy onions remained crunchy even though they sat on the sandwich for several minutes while I took photos, but had no meaningful flavor. White cheddar has been McDonald’s go-to cheese for these premium sandwiches, and while it provides a creaminess, it doesn’t do anything for the overall taste since the sauce overpowers it. As for the baby spinach and kale, it was nice having a different set of greens than the usual green leaf lettuce or shredded iceberg lettuce.

McDonald s Signature Sriracha Burger 2

McDonald s Signature Sriracha Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich 3

But as I ate the burger and chicken sandwich, both of which I enjoyed, I couldn’t help but think the three toppings are there more for aesthetics than anything else. They don’t enhance the flavor of the sandwiches. They’re just there to justify the “premium” price.

It’s not like the Big Mac where the pickles and onions add to the flavor of the Special Sauce. But then again, their blandness allows the Sriracha Mac Sauce to shine. Ugh, maybe I’m analyzing this deeper than any normal human should, after all, it’s just fricken’ fast food. Who cares? As long as it’s tasty.

With that said, I do think the Sriracha Signature Crafted Recipe is tasty. As a matter of fact, it’s the best tasting one so far. I thought the original varieties — Pico Guacamole, Maple Bacon Dijon, and Sweet BBQ Bacon — lacked strong flavors (Pico Guacamole and Maple Bacon Dijon) or were boring (ANOTHER BBQ bacon cheeseburger).

This latest recipe has none of those issues.

Welcome to McDonald’s, sriracha!

(Nutrition Facts – Burger with artisan roll – 670 calories, 320 calories from fat, 35 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 1010 milligrams of sodium, 56 grams of carbohydrates, 13 g 4 grams of fiber, 32 grams of protein. Buttermilk Crispy Chicken with artisan roll – 730 calories, 300 calories from fat, 33 grams of fat, 7 grams of fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1430 milligrams of sodium, 75 grams of carbohydrates, 13 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber, and 32 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price:
Size: N/A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Sriracha Mac Sauce tastes wonderful and is available as a dipping sauce (HELLO, McNuggets and Fries!) Toppings give it the appearance of premium. The best tasting of the Signature Crafted Recipes.
Cons: Other toppings don’t enhance the flavor of the sandwiches. McDonald’s coming late to the sriracha party.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Bacon Queso Burger

Wendy s Spicy Queso Burger

Historically, fast food “spicy burgers” have been pretty underwhelming.

Try as they may, neither Burger King’s Angry Whopper nor Carl’s Jr.’s El Diablo Thickburger lived up to the hype, and let’s not even get into the deluge of disappointing spicy-in-name-only chicken sandwiches that we’ve seen over the last couple of years.

Wendy’s themselves are no stranger to so-so spicy sammiches, such as the okay-but-that’s-about-it Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich from 2015. And while their latest and greatest tongue-torching burger makes a few noticeable improvements over their last foray into hot-ass hamburgers, the Bacon Queso Burger still feels more than a few degrees shy of being a truly top-notch, perspiration-inspiring product.

Wendy s Spicy Queso Burger 2

The quarter-pounder burger comes topped with a creamy poblano queso sauce, a heaping helping of fire-roasted salsa, three strips of Applewood smoked bacon, some chopped up red onions (an aside, but is it just me or do those things look more purple than red?), and a smattering of shredded cheddar cheese. And all of it is wedged between two roasted red jalapeno buns, which I didn’t even notice until I Googled the product after I already ate it, which, yeah, should tell you just how potent the jalapeno taste is here.

Wendy s Spicy Queso Burger 3

First, the good. Wendy’s has long had some of the best bacon in fast food, and this limited-time-only offering is no exception. Secondly, the beef is flavorful and doesn’t get lost amid the goulash of other ingredients. And thirdly, the poblano queso sauce has a unique taste and texture (thicker than aioli sauce but still not thick enough to be a traditional fondue) that doesn’t have an analogue at any other mainstream burger chain.

Unfortunately, there are more negatives than positives here. The salsa is way too pulpy and has virtually no spiciness, and it doesn’t blend that well with the queso at all (at first, I thought they just dumped a bunch of chili on the burger and called it good.)

Additionally, the onions feel (and taste) way out of place – that is, if you can even taste them at all after rubbing up against so many different sauces. And I was not a fan of the shredded cheese adornments – the icy cold taste and texture clashes with the rest of the burger AND every time you go for another bite it seems like half of the cheddar falls out.

Speaking of which, this might be the messiest non-Sloppy Joe sandwich I’ve ever eaten – forget tying on a bib; you’ll probably have to eat this one with a beach towel wrapped around your shoulders.

But the ultimate transgression of Wendy’s new burger, of course, is that it isn’t spicy enough. It’s unique and fairly flavorful and pretty filling, but it doesn’t come anywhere close to making good on that particular advertising point. And when you can’t deliver the primary thing your L-T-O marketing promises, can we really consider the offering as a whole anything less than a substantial disappointment?

(Nutrition Facts – 550 calories, 290 calories from fat, 29 grams of total fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 1.5 grams of trans fat, 110 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,140 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber, and 33 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: Single patty (also available in double and triple versions)
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: The bacon is juicy, plump, and delicious. The hamburger patty is flavorful and filling. The queso tastes unlike anything else you’ve probably had at a big name burger joint.
Cons: The product isn’t spicy – at all. The salsa is too clumpy. The shredded cheese adds nothing to the experience (and in fact, detracts from it). Realizing beard + queso burger = shame the hard way.

REVIEW: Burger King Chicken Parmesan Sandwich (2017)

Burger King Chicken Parmesan Sandwich  2017

Sometime during our rich cultural history, America forgot what “Parmesan Cheese” is.

Once a noble hard cheese, the name now conjures images of tall green plastic cans. Industrial cylinders full of white dust, kept in the fridge long past all flavor has faded away. It’s now closer to a condiment than a proper dairy product.

It’s a hit job on a fine piece of Italian cuisine, executed by decades of corporate cheese ownership. So imagine my surprise when Burger King gave this proud cheese a primary placement on its Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, which is an updated version of the one that came out in 2012.

It starts with a crispy chicken patty, topped shavings of real Parmesan cheese, a slice of gooey mozzarella, and enveloped by two layers of marinara sauce. It’s all put between a toasted potato roll, for a thick and decadent sandwich. The chicken is the same as BK’s recently revamped Crispy Chicken Sandwich – a juicy whole breast fillet that tastes fresher than one would expect. It isn’t quite Chick-fil-A quality, but it’s impressive for the price point.

The first bite was concerning, as the side of the sandwich was coated in marinara sauce. A heavily acidic taste overtook my mouth, reeking of undercooked tomato. Fortunately, the sauce was more evenly distributed in the remaining bites – having soaked into the bun. Each bite delivered a satisfying blend of the soft potato roll, salty cheeses, and hearty white meat chicken. It’s a very rich sandwich, with the two kinds of cheeses and sweet roll creating a buttery mouthfeel.

Burger King Chicken Parmesan Sandwich  2017 3

Since the chicken patty is the same as Burger King’s other premium chicken sandwich, it lacks the heavy Italian seasoning you’d expect from a more authentic chicken parm. But the King has crafted a workable version, largely thanks to a generous helping of Parmesan cheese. Forget the weak powder that stuffs the paper packets in pizza boxes; this is the real deal. The shavings are piled on thick, ensuring no bite goes without.

Burger King Chicken Parmesan Sandwich  2017 2

The Parmesan is under a layer of mozzarella, which is notably more processed. Resembling a white Kraft single, it doesn’t get a satisfying melt. As a result, it serves only a structural purpose – gluing down the pile of Parmesan. It’s a necessary element, and nothing more.

Overall, Burger King’s “new and improved” Chicken Parmesan Sandwich is a success. Building on their strong Crispy Chicken base, this is a delicious offering that stands above most fast food chicken.

(Nutrition Facts – 570 calories, 25 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1340 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 9 grams of sugar, and 32 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $6.99 (for meal with large drink and fries)
Size: N/A
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Generous helping of real Parmesan. Delicious chicken patty. Soft, decadent potato roll.
Cons: Sauce is acidic and can be overwhelming in large doses. Mozzarella was under melted. Gross green can cheese.

REVIEW: Wendy’s Bacon Queso Fries

Wendy s Bacon Queso Fries

Bacon. Cheese. Potatoes.

As far as I’m concerned those are three of the major food groups. Toss some nuggets and a Chocolate Frosty in there and you’ve covered them all –- the Wendy’s Food Pyramid.

Make no mistake; Wendy’s ever evolving innovative menu makes her The Queen of Fast Food. I’m never disappointed in their releases. So when I heard about this new queso line of products, I was all in.

The ad claims queso “makes everything better.” Far be it from me to call out the validity of Wendy’s crack marketing team, but I’m not sure it’s true.

Case in point – Wendy’s Bacon Queso Fries.

I love Wendy’s fries. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I eat them monthly, but let’s just say it’s quite often. Too often.

The large order of Bacon Queso Fries come drenched in “spicy” poblano queso, with generous helpings of shredded cheddar and strips of Applewood smoked bacon.

Okay, so, as you can see, this isn’t exactly the prettiest dish. Obnoxious people like to tell us that “we eat with our eyes first,” so these fries were already off to a rough start.

The queso was warm and immediately made me feel like I was trying Wendy’s take on nachos.

Wendy s Bacon Queso Fries 3

The little green poblano peppers added a nice heat kick, but you won’t be running for a large Frosty to offset the burn. These are probably right on par with Wendy’s Spicy Chicken products at the very bottom of the Scoville Scale.

Wendy s Bacon Queso Fries 2

The shredded cheese wasn’t necessary, but I guess it added a mild flavor balance and another textural element. Speaking of, the bacon was firm and stayed a bit crispy, so that was good. Wendy’s usually comes through with the bacon.

The first few bites were satisfying, but after a while the spice mixed with the fry and bacon saltiness got overbearing. I can’t believe I’m whining that something was too salty, but, man, were these salty. The queso spice dried out my mouth, so it intensified the salt tenfold. I definitely recommend having a drink nearby when you’re eating these, if only to re-moisten your mouth.

Wendy s Bacon Queso Fries 4

Another knock is these got unappetizing as they lost temperature. By the time I was halfway done, they were cold and clumpy, so I lost interest in shoving the rest down. I hate wasting food, but I couldn’t finish.

I appreciate Wendy’s continuing to put out fry variations, but these didn’t hold up to the previous few concoctions I tried. I’d definitely prefer a smaller portion. Maybe if I had a friend to share with, I would have given these a higher score. Plus, I’d have a friend, and I desperately need those.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Serving – 510 calories, 30 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 630 milligrams of sodium, 47 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and less than 15 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Wendy’s has great fries. Bacon was on point. Queso was tasty when hot. Not too spicy. The Wendy’s Food Pyramid. The price was right for the size.
Cons: Way too salty. Got cold quickly. Clumps of plasticky cheese after a couple minutes. Pretty huge serving size. Forever alone 🙁

REVIEW: Starbucks Berry Prickly Pear and Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Cremes

Starbucks Berry Prickly Pear and Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Cremes

Starbucks created THE fall drink with its Pumpkin Spice Latte.

And it might’ve created the drinks of summer with its new Berry Prickly Pear Frappuccino Blended Crème (berries and prickly pear with side notes of hibiscus and passion fruit) and Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Blended Crème (mango, caramelized pineapple, and a hint of lime).

Visually, both scream SUMMER with the pretty magenta and yellow color schemes. Even though magenta/yellow/white looks better than magenta/yellow/brown, I was a little bit wary of the crème base because the said coffee-less line is generally more like an icy milkshake.

The base was icy as expected but worked better than I imagined because it was fruit-forward. It’s supposed to be blended with milk, ice, and mango syrup, but I picked up a subtle coconut flavor instead. As for the purées, the mango overpowered the pineapple and the berry prickly pear mainly tasted like prickly pear. For those who are wondering, prickly pear has a very subtle sweetness – it tastes like a wax/rose apple or a less-pronounced watermelon. I was relieved that neither of the purées tasted artificial.

Starbucks Berry Prickly Pear and Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Cremes 2

However, I must warn that form does not follow function for these drinks. The layered purée is only good for the ‘gram! I made the mistake of not mixing it enough. I swirled my straw a few times, but still sucked up a hidden pocket of purée. It was very unpleasant texturally as the viscosity reminded me of Children’s Motrin Syrup. I think real mango or strawberry bits would help. Be sure to take your ‘gram first and then stir vigorously!

Starbucks Berry Prickly Pear and Mango Pineapple Frappuccino Cremes 4

As I continued sipping, the mango pineapple began to stand out as my frontrunner. I kept thinking it would taste fantastic with rum. It was like a virgin piña colada minus the artificial sweetness that usually accompanies it. The familiarity of mango, pineapple, and coconut also gave the flavor a leg up over the berry prickly pear which had an unpleasant note that reminded me of cough medicine.

Both drinks included lime, and like having it in a cocktail, it helped break up some of the sweetness and add brightness. However, the lime flavor floated in and out. I guess you could brand that as having a flavor adventure with each sip being slightly different than the last, but I prefer consistency.

Also, I’d say that I have a pretty discerning palate but I didn’t pick up on any of the caramelized pineapple in the mango pineapple or hibiscus in the berry prickly pear.

I was able drink both of these in the same sitting without feeling a sugar high and neither tasted artificially or disgustingly sweet. They still delivered on Starbucks quality as I could tell they used real fruit as opposed to sno-cone high fructose corn syrup.

Much like the PSL returning this fall, I can see these drinks being brought back next summer.

(Nutrition Facts – Tall – Berry Prickly Pear – 180 calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 150 milligrams of sodium, 36 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 34 grams total sugars, 3 grams of protein. Mango Pineapple – 180 Calories, 30 calories from fat, 3 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 170 milligrams of sodium, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 34 grams total sugars, 3 grams of protein.

Purchased Price: $4.45
Size: Tall
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 6 out of 10 (Berry Prickly Pear)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Mango Pineapple)
Pros: I don’t feel a sugar high drinking these unlike other Frappuccinos. Mango Pineapple is a better piña colada. High quality – none of that sno-cone high fructose corn syrup!
Cons: MAKE SURE YOU STIR. Viscosity of purée reminds me of Children’s Motrin – real fruit bits might help. Inconsistent sour notes. Where’s the caramelized pineapple and hibiscus?