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: Jack in the Box Portobello Mushroom Buttery Jack

Jack in the Box Portobello Mushroom Buttery Jack

Jack in the Box’s Buttery Jack is much like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, crab legs at an all you can eat buffet, and baby back ribs at a barbecue joint.

What do these have in common? Besides being foods you’ve seen on your friend’s Instagram that shows EVERYTHING he eats (STOP IT, BRANDON!), they’re also messy enough that you’ll need a few extra napkins if you’re eating them.

The Buttery Jack originally came in two varieties — Classic and Bacon & Swiss. But now there’s a third, the Portobello Mushroom, so get your napkins ready. The burger comes with a 1/4 lb beef patty topped with garlic herb butter, Portobello mushrooms, buttery grilled onions, Swiss cheese, and peppercorn mayo on a gourmet signature bun. So, yeah, it’s basically a mushroom and swiss burger with a fancy name.

If you’re thinking someone’s A-key isn’t working on their keyboard because you thought it was “portabella” not “portobello,” then let me do your Google search for you and say either one is acceptable. So if a Facebook friends corrects you, tell them that they’re wrong, play the instrumentals to Billy Ocean’s “Caribbean Queen,” and then sing the following lyrics:

Spelling bee queen.
Now we’re spelling the same thing.
There are more spellings than one.
No more confusion.

Jack in the Box Portobello Mushroom Buttery Jack 2

Like the plastic wrap Dexter uses to secure his prey, the melted Swiss cheese holds the mushrooms and onions down on the beef patty, preventing them from escaping. My burger came with a decent amount of fungi and aromatics, and they both provided a decent amount of flavor. But to be honest, they don’t taste any different than what’s been on other fast food mushroom and swiss burgers I’ve had.

Although the Portobello mushrooms are in the name, the real star of every Buttery Jack is really the garlic herb butter. As I mentioned in my review of the other varieties, it helps compensate for the patty’s dryness and gives your hands a slick coating that’ll make it easier to slide down fire poles and make Jenga a bit more exciting. The garlic flavor isn’t strong enough to prevent a vampire from invading your personal space, but it does enhance the patty’s flavor.

Jack in the Box Portobello Mushroom Buttery Jack 3

Besides allowing the top bun of the slightly sweet and sturdy gourmet bun to stick to the rest of the burger, I’m not sure about the inclusion of the peppercorn mayo. I didn’t get any pepperiness from the burger. Although, combined with the Swiss cheese, the two did give the burger an added creamy texture. As for the Swiss cheese itself, its mild flavor is hard to detect with the garlic herb butter also hitting my taste buds.

A mushroom and swiss version of Jack in the Box’s Buttery Jack was inevitable. Whenever fast food chains offer a new burger line, it seems mushroom and swiss is almost always one of the options or a later addition (See McDonald’s Sirloin Burger and Angus Third Pounder, Burger King’s Whopper and Big King, Carl’s Jr.’s All-Natural Burger). But the garlic herb butter does help this burger stand out among those others I’ve tried. It’s a good burger, although not as good as the Classic version. And it’s a good addition to the Buttery Jack line.

(Nutrition Facts – 807 calories, 462 calories from fat, 51 grams of fat, 23 grams of saturated fat, 2 grams of trans fat, 128 milligrams of cholesterol, 1081 milligrams of sodium, 51 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 12 grams of sugar, and 38 grams of protein..)

Item: Jack in the Box Portobello Mushroom Buttery Jack
Purchased Price: $9.27* (large combo)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Garlic herb butter helps hide the dry patty and makes this burger stand out among other mushroom and swiss burgers I’ve had. Gourmet signature bun is still great. Swiss cheese helps prevent mushrooms and onions from falling out.
Cons: Messy. Hard to notice the Swiss cheese and peppercorn mayo. Predictable burger variety.

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

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.

REVIEW: Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

Sonic loves screwing around with their hot dog menu. That may sound like an insult, but it’s not; it’s a compliment. Keeping a fast food menu fresh and rotating earns you high marks in my book. That is, unless you discontinue something I love; then I hate you.

To give you an idea of Sonic’s wiener range, they’ve played with such toppings as blue cheese dressing, Fritos, guacamole, garlic parmesan sauce and crispy onions. They’ve also played with their buns, introducing pretzel, cheesy bread, and now croissant varieties.

The new croissant bun hot dogs come in two varieties: the Original, which comes topped with mustard, and the Bacon Double Cheddar, which I chose because it sounded infinitely more interesting. Here’s how Sonic describes it:

“SONIC’s Croissant Dogs take a new, gourmet twist on a Sonic classic hot dog. We start by baking a soft roll, with all of the flakey goodness and buttery taste of a delicious croissant. Then, we nestle the juicy premium beef hot dog in the croissant and top it off with cheddar cheese and bacon.”

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog Bun

Of all the different types of breads out there, I wouldn’t have even thought of turning a croissant into a hot dog bun. Croissants are for breakfast. Although, now that I think about it, how long has Pillsbury been telling you two wrap tiny hot dogs in their croissant dough? Well-played, Sonic.

Since the crux of this new menu item is the bun, I immediately tried it on its own once it had been procured. I found it to be flaky like a croissant, but quite a bit denser than the dainty bakery product you would consume with an espresso. It also had a tiny bit of buttery flavor, but there was no buttery sheen or greasiness to the bun itself.

Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog Innards

When I bit into the dog, I could see the layers that are one of the signatures of the croissant. However, in addition to being more dense than a traditional croissant, the bun was also quite thick. As I worked my way through the hot dog, the bun didn’t compress like some cheap buns – it retained it’s fluffiness throughout.

And it’s a good thing, too, because the Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog is loaded with toppings. I couldn’t even see the hot dog under all that cheese and bacon.

While the subtle buttery taste of the bun immediately disappeared due to the toppings, the texture still worked and the bun managed to both not sog and actually contain the toppings, which I figured would be all over my hands by the end of my meal. Unexpectedly, it was the bun that wound up making the most mess – it flaked off all over the place, which would leave you with a lap full of crumbs if you were to eat this on-the-go.

As for the toppings, as I mentioned, they were ample. However, they diverged rather mysteriously from both the description on the website and the picture. First of all, it’s called “Double Cheddar”, and the picture on their online menu clearly shows both cheese sauce and melted shredded cheese. However, mine only came with cheese sauce.

If there was anything “double” about it, it was the amount, which was a heaping ladle full. Again, I was impressed that the croissant bun was able to contain that much oozing cheese.

The cheese sauce was incredibly artificial-tasting, but what do you expect from a fast food joint? It’s one of those situations where you either like or you hate that kind of unnatural orange goo. I personally enjoy it.

Another deviation from the menu description is the addition of brown mustard. While not mentioned or pictured on their website, my Croissant Dog came with a little squiggle of brown mustard on top of the cheese sauce. It added a nice little twang and a bit of a kick to the hot dog.

Speaking of the dog itself, I wasn’t going to say much, because I’ve been through the Sonic hot dog experience several times and found them downright unremarkable. This time, however, I was struck at how juicy the dog was. I’ve never had a Sonic dog this good. I don’t think they changed their dogs, so maybe I just hit them on a good day, but either way – good job, Sonic!

The real star of the Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog was the bacon. Thick, crispy and wonderfully flavorful, it tasted just like it had come straight from the cast iron skillet on my stove at home. And there were a lot of the pieces, too. This has to be some of the best fast food bacon I’ve ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much praise for Sonic before!

Overall, Sonic’s Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog was one of the most satisfying fast food hot dogs I’ve ever had. I prefer natural casing hot dogs, but this dog was juicy and satisfying. The toppings were more than generous, which is a minus if you hate processed cheese sauce, but the bacon was fantastic.

Of course, the whole point of this new dog is the croissant bun, which I declare a fine substitute to regular buns that can easily fall apart. While the buttery qualities got masked by the toppings, you can see the layers when you bite into the dog, and it is both fluffy but sturdy at the same time. While your toppings won’t land in your lap, watch out, because flakes from the bun certainly will. Just use a napkin, you savage, and enjoy your dog!

(Nutrition Facts – 510 calories, 310 calories from fat, 34 grams total of fat, 15 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 1670 milligrams of sodium, 34 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 4 grams of sugars, 18 grams of protein, 15% calcium, 30% iron, 6% vitamin A, and 2% vitamin C.)

Item: Sonic Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog
Purchased Price: $3.87
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Sonic Drive-In
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Bun was fluffy but sturdy. Making weiner and buns jokes. Bacon was both plentiful and excellent quality. Hot dog was juicy and flavorful. Lots of cheese sauce.
Cons: Cheese sauce was very artificial. I congratulated Sonic way to many times in this review. Croissant bun flakes will get everywhere. Whoah, that’s a lot of fat for one hot dog! Mysterious deviations from the menu description – where’s my double cheddar?

REVIEW: Burger King Doritos Loaded

Burger King Doritos Loaded

Burger King might be in trouble.

They seem like they’re pulling out all the stops lately, bringing back the King (great move), Chicken Fries (decent move, absolutely terrible marketing) and now trying to branch off into that weird menu item market Taco Bell lives in. I’m not sure what they’re hoping to gain by offering a product that has been sold at 7-Eleven locations for some time, but I’m definitely sensing an air of desperation.

This may be a controversial statement, but I don’t really like Doritos Locos Tacos. Don’t get me wrong, I was first in line to order them and I thought the idea was brilliant, but the execution? Ehhhhhh. After the first bite, I barely even noticed any Doritos flavor. The new Burger King Doritos Loaded are no different.

Doritos Loaded – which is a really stupid name – smelled awesome. The drive home was tense, because their aroma filled my car almost instantly. I was pretty hungry and toyed with the idea of just busting them out right there, but chose to avoid Doritos fingers for a couple more minutes. Still, I was pumped to throw these babies down by the time I got home. Oh what a naïve fool I was.

Burger King Doritos Loaded 2

Doritos Loaded look cool and have a little heft to them, about the same weight as a chicken nugget. They have a nice salty, crispy outer shell, but it’s also a bit dry. If I stopped eating them after one bite, my review score would have been a lot higher.

They make a really good first impression. I could taste the nacho cheese Doritos flavor, but it’s immediately masked by the cheese filling. After that, I never really tasted nacho cheese Doritos again.

Burger King Doritos Loaded 3

The cheese inside is gross! I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what kind of cheese. I naturally thought nacho at first, then maybe American? After some Googling that took way too much time, I learned it has a combination of American, cheddar and Romano. I never would have been able to tell you that myself. The cheese was just indiscriminate, bland, and gooey. The decision to use that mix was my biggest problem with the Doritos Loaded.

They would have been so much better if the center was a bit solidified with a cheese like mozzarella. I considered letting them sit around and cool off a little before eating more, but agita was kicking in. And, to be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to eat more.

I absolutely hate wasting food, but I threw away two of the four Doritos Loaded. I would have given them away, but I was alone. I didn’t even have someone to make hand uprights for me so I could attempt to flick one of these across the room paper football-style.

I’m so lonely. All I want is for someone to finish my gross food and make finger field goals for me. Is that too much to ask?

But I digress.

I think the idea of crusting snacks in Doritos crumbs is a great one. I’ve often said Frito-Lay could make a killing selling Doritos dust in the spice aisle. I’d definitely put that on a chicken breast. In fact, Burger King should strike while the iron is hot, and offer chicken nuggets crusted in Doritos crumbs. There’s zero chance that wouldn’t be a hit. It would certainly crush the Doritos Loaded.

Can someone pass this along to the King? Doritos crusted nuggets! And get Darius Rucker to sing in the commercial like the good old days. And no more unlawful marriages between chickens and French fries.

Doritos Loaded were a novel idea, but the execution was awful. Not to mention, for $2.99 there are about 100 better fast food values out there.

I don’t know, I guess this is worth a shot for Burger King. I don’t necessarily think these will pair well with a burger, so 7-Eleven seems like a better place to buy them. With all that said, I hope they release a Cool Ranch version. But if they do, they better make them with mozzarella.

(Nutrition Facts – 360 calories, 24 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 40 milligrams of cholesterol, 1,080 milligrams of sodium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 gram of fiber, 0 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein..)

Item: Burger King Doritos Loaded
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: 4 bites
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 3 out of 10
Pros: Smelled great. Nice crispy exterior. Cool packaging/shape. Hootie’s “Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch” jingle. The King is back!
Cons: Dry. Almost no Doritos flavor. Terrible cheese filling. Chicken Fries commercials. No one to play paper football with.