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REVIEW: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)

Written by | July 15, 2014

Topics: 5 Rating, Fast Food, KFC

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub

I don’t know how authentic they are, but Italian sandwiches as we know them in North America are pretty much the best. Tender veal — deep-fried to perfection — slathered in a tasty tomato sauce, possibly topped with melty cheese and hot peppers, all on a crusty Italian roll? The best. They’re pretty much the definition of comfort food.

So when I found out that KFC had their own take on one of these sandwiches, I was intrigued. Maybe a little nervous too, coming off my last KFC experience, which was fairly disastrous. But mostly intrigued.

It’s part of their Filler line of subs, which basically consist of two chicken strips laid end-to-end on a nine inch bun, topped with various condiments. This particular one comes with sliced mozzarella and “savoury marinara sauce.”

The woman behind the counter asked if I wanted it spicy, and of course I said yes, because that is always the correct answer to that question. “Do you want this sandwich spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want these chips spicy?” “Yes.” “Do you want your car wash spicy?” “I… don’t know what that could mean, but… yes. Yes, I do want that car wash spicy.”

Spice tends to improve things is what I’m saying.

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 2

The bread was weird. Though it appears to be crusty, almost like a baguette, in actuality it was as pillowy soft as a hot dog bun. It wasn’t bad — it suited the sandwich well enough — but the discrepancy between how it looked and how it tasted was pretty jarring.

The two chicken strips in my sandwich were, sadly, radically different in quality. The first half of the sandwich featured chicken that had been ravaged by time; the meat was dried out and had been drained of all heat. If you had measured it, I’m pretty sure it would have been precisely at room temperature. The breading wasn’t quite soggy, but it wasn’t crispy, either.

The chicken strip in the second half, however, was fresh, juicy, and tasty, with a satisfyingly crispy exterior. Its quality differential was a little bit off-putting, but at least one half was good I guess?

KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub 3

The marinara sauce was awful. I know that the flavours of food are technically subjective, but this was objectively, mathematically horrible. It had the acrid tang of the absolute bottom of the bottom of the barrel. You could practically taste the can it came out of.

I’m pretty sure it’s the result of a KFC exec commanding his underlings to find the absolute cheapest tomato sauce on the market, and then being like “This still tastes vaguely like real tomato sauce. CHEAPER.”

It tastes like a potent mix of tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, and sawdust. I suspect it also contains the tears of orphaned children, but that’s just conjecture on my part. If it’s possible for marinara sauce to be worse than this, I haven’t tasted it.

The mozzarella was fine, at least. It tasted like real cheese and not like the waxy, processed cheese food you might expect given the caliber of the tomato sauce. The heat of the sandwich wasn’t even close to enough to melt it, however. The cheese on the fresh side of the sandwich had softened a bit; on the other side, it was fresh-from-the-fridge cold.

As for the so-called spice, it was negligible. I think it was the least amount of heat you can apply to something and still in good conscience call it spicy.

I think KFC’s heart was in the right place when they created this — in theory, it should have been quite good. But the execution is just way off. Particularly that sauce… Yikes, that sauce.

(Nutrition Facts – 910 calories, 37 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, zero grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 930 milligrams of sodium, 97 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fibre, 13 grams of sugar, and 48 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Chicken Marinara Filler Sub (Canada)
Purchased Price: $6.79 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Freshly cooked chicken is pretty tasty. Real cheese.
Cons: Stale chicken is not so tasty. Weirdly soft bun. Unmelted cheese. Worst tomato sauce of all time.

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QUICK REVIEW: Jack in the Box Jalapeño Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger

Written by | July 10, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Fast Food, Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box Jalapeno Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Jalapeños provide almost all of the flavor and a little bit of heat. Jalapeño in every bite. Awesome if your taste buds are tired of eating regular Jack in the Box Ultimate Cheeseburgers. Although it’s almost all jalapeño, it’s a tasty burger. Ranch sauce and cheese give the burger a slightly creamy texture which kind of makes you forget about the slightly dry beef patties. Enough ranch sauce to make salads jealous.
Cons: Even with enough ranch sauce to make salads jealous, its flavor is overwhelmed by the jalapeños. Heck, the flavor of the ranch sauce, meat, and cheese take a back seat to the jalapeños, and that back seat is on a school bus. Let’s be honest, all Ultimate Cheeseburgers aren’t even close to being “ultimate.” I mean, if I add another beef patty and another slice of cheese, then that’s proof the Ultimate Cheeseburger isn’t the ultimate.

Jack in the Box Jalapeno Ranch Ultimate Cheeseburger Topless

Nutrition Facts: 797 calories, 432 calories from fat, 48 grams of fat, 21 grams of saturated fat, 3 grams of trans fat, 147 milligrams of cholesterol, 1783 milligrams of sodium, 545 milligrams of potassium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar, and 50 grams of protein.

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REVIEW: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)

Written by | July 8, 2014

Topics: 7 Rating, Fast Food, McDonald's

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 1

McDonald’s seems to be going all-in with their poutines — though they only rolled out the regular one outside of Quebec fairly recently, they’re already starting to add variations to the menu.

A poutine can easily be a base for other stuff, and it’s easy enough for them to throw on ingredients that they’ve already got lying around. If this does well, it’s safe to assume that we can look forward to all kinds of poutine varieties (I’m holding out for the Big Mac poutine — I’m dead serious, I want that in my belly immediately). But first: the Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine.

The base is the standard McDonald’s poutine: same gravy, same curds, same fries. I basically liked that, so it’s not a horrible base to start with. Added on top are chicken pieces, Buffalo sauce, and green onions.

The woman behind the counter asked whether I wanted the chicken crispy or grilled; of course, I went with crispy. Because, let’s face it, it’s a poutine. I want it all fried. All of it. Can we just mash the whole thing into a ball and fry that too? How about my beverage, can I fry that? Heck, you may as well fry a Happy Meal toy and throw that in too. Because why the hell not, that’s why.

The chicken is the same type of chicken strip they use for their Snack Wrap, which is chopped into pieces. Though it does add some meaty substance to an already fairly substantial dish, the real differentiator is the spicy Buffalo sauce. It’s actually a pretty great addition. It adds a nice vinegary kick that helps to cut some of the richness from the gravy and the cheese; it also adds some of the flavour that the ho-hum gravy is lacking. It’s a surprisingly effective compliment to the overall poutine. But I wish it were a bit hotter; it has enough heat for you to recognize that you’re eating something spicy, but not enough to cause any real discomfort.

The green onions, however, add very little, aside from an aftertaste; between the salty gravy and cheese, and the vinegary Buffalo sauce, they get almost completely lost. All they did was force me to spend the rest of the afternoon with that taste in my mouth.

McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine 2

Of course, I can’t get through this review without acknowledging that it’s not the most attractive dish ever. A poutine isn’t particularly presentable to begin with, but somehow this is even uglier than usual. Maybe it’s the way the Buffalo sauce has been globbed onto the chicken as though it were some kind of hot red toothpaste, but the whole thing looks quite unappealing. You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that it’s better than it looks.

It reminded me a bit of KFC’s Famous Bowls (or as Patton Oswalt calls them, failure piles in a sadness bowl). Maybe it’s the chicken on top, or maybe it’s the fact that the fries get so thoroughly soggy that they barely have more structural integrity than a bowl of mashed potatoes. Still, they do retain a modicum of their French fry-ness, and the overall dish is more appealing than a Famous Bowl.

I liked it; the base poutine is decent enough, and the additions (mostly) improve things. It’s also a pretty decent value at five bucks. The box isn’t particularly huge, but it has heft. Picking it up, I was surprised at how heavy it was. It won’t make you the fullest you’ve ever been, but you will be satisfied.

(Nutrition Facts – 640 calories, 37 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 1 gram of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 1640 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein.)

Item: McDonald’s Spicy Buffalo Chicken Poutine (Canada)
Purchased Price: $4.99 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Decent poutine base. Spicy Buffalo sauce compliments the poutine quite well. Fried.
Cons: Fries immediately sog up. Useless green onions. Not particularly spicy. Looks gross. Inability to have them mash it into a ball and fry the whole thing.

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REVIEW: Starbucks Spiced Root Beer Fizzio Hand-Crafted Soda

Written by | July 2, 2014

Topics: 5 Rating, Fast Food, Starbucks

Starbucks Spiced Root Beer Fizzio Hand-Crafted Soda

I am fascinated by transformations. From The Wolf Man to Teen Wolf, I love to watch things slowly take on new forms. Especially if it involves becoming a wolf. I’m highly interested in one steady conversion in particular.

Over the past five years, Starbucks has undergone a metamorphosis from a somewhat upscale coffee bar into your run-of-the-mill fast food chain. Granted, it’s a “high-end” version of a fast food chain, but they cover all the basics. Instead of cheeseburgers, they prepare paninis. Instead of milkshakes, they offer a plethora of creamy iced beverages and Frappuccinos. Instead of Egg McMuffins, they hawk wraps and sandwiches with slow-roasted ham and Fontiago cheese. Instead of donuts, they sell scones and Mallorca sweet bread. I’m waiting for some hoity-toity French fries – maybe fingerling potatoes with rosemary and garlic?

The latest Starbucks item to fulfill their fast food roots initiative is the Fizzio™ Hand-Crafted Soda. Starbucks has introduced three new carbonated drinks — Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale.

I suppose the Golden Ginger Ale is for later when you’re puking your guts out after having whatever the hell Lemon Ale is supposed to be. (NOTE: The Starbucks press release says that Lemon Ale is “a refreshing, citrus-forward blend of real lemon juice with hints of apricot and ginger.” That ridiculous phrase “citrus-forward” sounds like a marketing term dreamed up by someone who doesn’t understand words anymore.) Anyway, I decided to go with the Spiced Root Beer. Frankly, to me, that flavor seemed to be the one closest to its origins as a diner staple.

After ordering the new drink, I watched a barista pull a carton labeled “Root Beer” from the mini-fridge and pour a small amount into my 12-ounce cup. Then she added ice. So… about that “hand-crafted” business… I don’t know what constitutes hand-crafting except for the fact that the barista had to pour the root beer base into a pitcher in order to make my drink. I wasn’t expecting much, but the phrase “hand-crafted” creates the image of careful measurements, stirring, and taste-testing. Or at least shaking something. Nah. In this case, hand-crafting just means pouring into a blender.

I have no idea what the barista did next, outside of pulling out a magic wand and hollering “Expecto Bubbletronum,” but my drink arrived appropriately sparkling. Apparently, the bubbles were created using a new Starbucks-trademarked contraption called The Fizzio™ machine. Basically, the machine carbonates any drink, so you can walk in and ask for a cold, fizzy whatever for an extra 50 cents.

Unfortunately, bubbles couldn’t save the Fizzio™ Spiced Root Beer from being a mostly bland and underwhelming beverage experience. According to the Starbucks website, the Spiced Root Beer flavor presents “the nostalgic taste of classic root beer with a deliciously unexpected twist – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and star anise add a flavorful kick to this soda.”

Besides the fact that Star Anise sounds like the latest discovery in the Andromeda Galaxy, the use of these interesting spices is your proof that it’s the hoity-toity version of a regular old root beer. In reality, instead of a flavorful kick, it tastes more like a feeble nudge with an outstretched toe. The Fizzio™ Spiced Root Beer tastes like a watered-down version of regular old root beer, but that could be because it’s not full of high fructose corn syrup.

It was certainly spicy, but the flavor was more reminiscent of cinnamon gum — Kind of a delicate spiciness with just a hint of sweetness to balance it. It was an okay drink, but nothing I’d run back to Starbucks to get. I suppose that this is part of the transformation process. When you begin to change into something else, part of you dies forever. I would hope that if I began a metamorphosis, I would change into something that might go well with rum.

(Nutrition Facts – 12 fl oz. – 80 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, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of sugar, 2% Calcium.).)

Item: Starbucks Spiced Root Beer Fizzio™ Hand-Crafted Soda
Purchased Price: $2.55
Size: 12 fl oz.
Purchased at: Starbucks
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Spiced with interesting spices. Bubbly. One of three new flavors. Lycanthropy.
Cons: A bland experience™. Hand-crafted = pouring into a blender. Getting nudged with a toe. “Citrus-forward.”

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REVIEW: Subway Atlantic Canada Lobster Sandwich (Canada)

Written by | June 26, 2014

Topics: 6 Rating, Fast Food, Subway

Subway Atlantic Canada Lobster Sandwich

I know what you’re thinking: lobster from Subway? That sounds amazing.

Oh, I’m sorry, is today not Opposite Day? Well then, you’re probably thinking that a lobster sandwich from Subway sounds like an iffy proposition, to put it kindly.

Remember this, however: McDonald’s rolled out the McLobster to Ontario last summer, and it wasn’t half bad. It wasn’t great, certainly, but it was okay. So when it comes to potentially sketchy lobster sandwiches from fast food joints, you might be surprised! To quote Quato: open your mind.

The six-inch sandwich costs eight bucks, which puts it about in the price vicinity of a real, authentic lobster roll. But if you’re buying this sandwich, I think it’s safe to assume you’re nowhere near where an actual lobster roll can be procured.

Of course, being Subway, you can get your sandwich topped with any number of veggies and sauces. However, for a “truly Maritime” experience, Subway recommends keeping it simple, with just lettuce on Italian bread, which is obviously what I did. If you’re not going to be true to the Maritimes, what’s the point, right?

Subway Atlantic Canada Lobster Sandwich Innards

The first few bites weren’t great. Consisting entirely of shredded, piddly little bits of lobster, there wasn’t a whole lot of flavour or texture; it was basically just a vaguely seafood-flavoured mush. It was unimpressive, to say the least. But pretty much every mouthful after that had at least one reasonably generous chunk of lobster in it. It’s probably about a 60/40 ratio of shreds to chunks. That’s not great, but let’s be honest — it’s a lobster sandwich from Subway. It could have been a lot worse.

The lobster was a bit overcooked, but the chunks actually had a pretty decent texture — they weren’t too stringy or dry. They also had a pleasant flavour, without any of the fishy undertones you might expect from a budget lobster sandwich like this (then again, eight bucks for a six-inch sandwich probably doesn’t fall into the budget category).

Subway Atlantic Canada Lobster Sandwich Closeup

However, aside from the mild lobster taste, there really isn’t all that much flavour here; the mayonnaise adds very little, other than to bind the lobster together, and aside from that there was no real seasoning that I could taste. It was a bit bland. If I were to get this again, I’d probably get it with a sauce of some sort, or at the very least, salt and pepper. I know, I know — this would go against Subway’s wishes, and would jeopardize the sub’s status as a true Maritime experience. I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said “Those who would give up Maritime authenticity for a little bit of flavour deserve neither.”

That’s the quote, right? What, you weren’t aware that Franklin was a huge lobster roll man? Well, now you know. You’ve learned something today. You’re welcome.

For whatever reason I was under the impression that one of Subway’s suggestions was to toast the bread, though according to their website that isn’t the case. Toasting isn’t a bad idea in theory (and in fact the bread in real lobster rolls is typically buttered and toasted), but Subway uses some kind of microwave/conventional oven hybrid to speed things up. This normally works okay, but when there’s no meat or cheese to even out the heat, you wind up with dried out, microwavey bread.

I actually liked this slightly better than the McLobster (which, I will admit, isn’t saying a whole lot). The chunks of lobster were surprisingly generous and reasonably tasty. It’s on the pricey side — and calling it an authentic Maritime experience is kind of laughable — but for what it is, it’s not bad at all.

(Nutrition Facts – Not available on Subway Canada website.)

Item: Subway Atlantic Canada Lobster Sandwich (Canada)
Purchased Price: $8.00 CAN
Size: 6-inch sub
Purchased at: Subway
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: A decent amount of fairly sizable lobster chunks. Lobster isn’t too overcooked and tastes okay. Following Benjamin Franklin’s advice and seeking Maritime authenticity.
Cons: Textureless lobster shreds. Dried out toasted bread. Expensive. Needs some kind of sauce or seasoning. Maritime authenticity at Subway is a pipe dream.

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