REVIEW: Jack in the Box Garlic Herb Fries

Jack in the Box Garlic Herb Fries

My hope, when it comes to garlic fries, is that it has enough garlic to prevent any vampire or human being from wanting to invade my neck or personal space.

Unfortunately, the only way Jack in the Box’s Garlic Herb Fries can keep anyone away from my neck or personal space is if I use them to pelt those who want to get up on me.

I’m not Jack. I don’t have a giant head I can swing around to get people away from me. I’m also not a hoatzin. I can’t just eat whatever and then make myself smell like cow manure. I need help and Jack in the Box is preventing me from getting stinky.

The herbs and the way the fries glisten from the butter make them look so inviting. But when I compare them to the pictures I’ve seen of ballpark garlic fries or McDonald’s Gilroy Garlic Fries the chain is testing in California, with their generous amounts of garlic, I can’t help but think I’m getting gypped.

With Jack’s version the butter is infused with garlic. I’m not sure if it’s the exact same stuff on the chain’s line of Buttery Jack burgers, but I assume it is because it would complicate things in the kitchen if there were two garlic herb butter ingredients.

Having had several Buttery Jack burgers over the past few years, I’ve experienced the garlic herb butter and it has a light garlic flavor in the burger. Without having the ingredients of a burger in the way, I thought the garlic would be a bit more pungent, but it’s just as light as it is with the Buttery Jack. Also, oddly, there was a slight cheesy flavor.

That’s not what I want.

I want that garlic herb butter to affect those within a two foot radius around me when I say, “Whaaaat doooo yoooou meeeeean myyyy brrrreeeeath smeeeells?” The only thing the butter did a great job at was laying a greasy coating on and around my lips that gave them a glossy look that I only like when I’m dolled up. Thankfully, a fork came with the fries so I couldn’t build a layer of butter on my fingers.

Jack in the Box Garlic Herb Fries 2

The garlic herb butter was dumped in the middle of the fries and a lot of it ended up on the bottom of the container it came in. So the fries that didn’t get any butter love could get some by mopping up whatever greasy liquid remained. The herbs added a nice flavor to the melted dairy. Surprisingly, even with all that butter, the fries maintained a decent level of crispiness.

Jack in the Box’s Garlic Herb Fries were disappointing. I don’t think they’re worth picking up if you’re a fan of garlic fries. They look good and smell good, but they need a stronger garlic punch.

(Nutrition Facts – 459 calories, 244 calories from fat, 27 grams of fat, 8 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 29 milligrams of cholesterol, 819 milligrams of sodium, 487 milligrams of potassium, 49 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $2.29*
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Jack in the Box
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Comes with a fork. Looks good. Smells good.
Cons: Needs a stronger garlic punch. Garlic-infused butter instead of having chopped garlic. Makes it easy for others to invade my personal space.

*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: Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad

Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad

Why do we put fruit in our salad?

It’s always such a gamble. Either the combination of the salty dressing and sweet fruit tastes weird or the fruit itself is on its last soggy leg because it’s not fresh enough to eat on its own. If I have a choice, I usually go for the salad with the least fruit and the most bacon. Although Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad has fruit and no bacon, I’m thoroughly impressed with it.

I never jump fork first into a fruit-filled salad because I’m paranoid of: a) bad, edges-are-fraying-black lettuce b) worms in my berries. Please don’t ask me about either traumatizing experience; it’s not too far from what you’re imagining.

So, I examined the Summer Berry Chicken Salad for acceptable freshness. Per Wendy’s marketing collateral, the lettuce is chopped in-house daily and there are 11 different greens – not just iceberg lettuce. In real life, the “11 different greens” just sit on top of the iceberg lettuce. But, to Wendy’s credit, the salad does seem fresh – no pink oxidization or rotting lettuce.

Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad 3

Then, I examined each strawberry slice and blackberry very closely for worms, mold or general sogginess. Surprisingly, none of the three ew-factors were in sight. I almost believe it when Wendy’s says the berries are “fresh, hand-picked.” If you’re wondering how long it took me to examine the berries, there really weren’t that many berries – a few strawberry slices and two blackberries at MOST. I did order the half-size salad, so I half-sized my expectations accordingly. Also, I’d rather have quality over quantity.

In between the greens and berries were the feta cheese crumbles and chicken pieces. I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken was warm. The smell of chicken was a little overwhelming, but the warmth was a nice contrast to the cold salad. The feta cheese crumbles were fine on their own but magical with the Marzetti Simply Dressed Light Blackberry Vinaigrette. The feta added a creaminess to the tangy and sweet vinaigrette. Speaking of the vinaigrette, I was expecting Pepto-Bismol pink because of the white opaque packaging. However, the vinaigrette came out a nice, natural beet-like color.

Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad 2

Lastly, the apple crisps (a.k.a. healthy croutons) were served on the side. I wanted my buttery croutons, dammit! But, I tried the apple crisps individually and they were good enough that I could see myself snacking on them. The subtle apple flavor got lost in the overall mix of the salad but was crucial to the crunchy goodness of the salad.

All salad elements together made for a really well-composed salad – a little bit of sweet, a little bit of salty, a little bit of crunch, and a little bit of creaminess. It was also a very visually appetizing salad (for a fast food joint) – fresh green, vibrant pinks, and deep purple/blues. Wendy’s Summer Berry Chicken Salad is on par with salads from more premium chains like Panera, but it’s about $2 less than said premium chains.

As the Fall Equinox is rapidly approaching, I’m sad the fast food world will be a little less fresh and less delicious when the limited time Summer Berry Chicken Salad goes away.

(Nutrition Facts – half-sized salad – 210 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 50 milligrams of cholesterol, 500 milligrams of sodium, 420 milligrams of potassium, 24 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 18 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: Half-size
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Could really be fresh, hand-picked berries. Well-composed salad. Visually-appetizing.
Cons: Overwhelming smell of chicken. Not that many berries.

REVIEW: Krispy Kreme Churro Doughnut

Krispy Kreme Churro Doughnut

Ah, summertime.

Nothing but pool parties and crickets and Christmas in July, and, while I know I’m supposed to celebrate the mid-summer Noel on the 25th, I am a rebel, hooligan, and all-around dastardly naysayer, so it should come as no surprise that I broke all the Christmas laws and bought my present the day after.

It involved churros. I have no regrets.

Krispy Kreme Churro Doughnut 2

Krispy Kreme’s interpretation of the churro starts by going geometrically rogue, translating the fried delight from the commonly seen line into a circumference more tightly braided than Wednesday’s pigtails sent through a Glam Twirl.

The doughnut’s hefty for its size, coming doused with so much cinnamon sugar, one could ball it up and use it as sculpting clay to recreate the Sagrada Familia in edible form. And that mahogany-tinted sugar thwacks into action with cinnamon roll-like warmth, dodging the common flaw in which a cinnamon product ends up tasting like an Atomic Fireball. Instead, bites dissipate into sugary, lightly cinnamon-spiced crumbles, leaving a trace of grease behind.

That isn’t to say the doughnuts are perfect. There’s definitely a “Manufactured cake doughnut” quality to them that makes me think they put them in some Dyson vacuum dehydrator that sucks the moisture out of all that is joy. As a result, the doughnuts taste dry and a little stale, missing out on the eggy, custardy texture of a churro and its crispy, freshly fried outside.

But perhaps that’s nitpicking. Heck, even the leftovers aren’t too shabby if you get creative. Put one in the toaster and witness how it becomes a brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tart crossed with a giant piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, which means tonight’s dinner of doughnuts and ice cream is all sorted out.

Krispy Kreme Churro Doughnut 3

Some days, the world is unbearable. Today? Is not one of those days. Sure, this doughnut may not hold up to Statler and Waldorf’s orthodox standards of traditional churros, but what is a traditional churro? Is it eggy or airy? Custardy or crumbly? Dense or light? With cinnamon sugar? Without? Dipped in chocolate? Dipped in frosting? Dipped in nothing? Do I get them at a bar in Spain? A sidewalk vendor? Disneyland? A kazoo store?

Survey says: whichever version you love!

And while this interpretation may just be a dry-ish cake doughnut that’s been doused in cinnamon sugar, I enjoyed all 51 grams of it, especially when topped, toasted, or dunked in coffee or ice cream, so pull out the eggnog and let the Charlie Brown Christmas album play because Christmas in July comes but once a year. Let’s celebrate.

(Nutrition Facts – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 210 milligrams of sodium, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 16 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Krispy Kreme
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Cakey. Chunked with cinnamon sugar. Does not taste like Atomic Fireball. Even better when toasted. Christmas in July. Glam Twirl. Statler and Waldorf.
Cons: Cake doughnut masquerading as churro. Pretty dry. A little too crumbly. May encourage breaking Christmas laws. Non-July Christmas is still six months away.

REVIEW: Dairy Queen M&M’s Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzard

Dairy Queen M&M's Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzard

At first glance, it’s really easy to read Peanut Butter Monster Cookie as Peanut Butter Cookie Monster. That’s what I did, and the first thought that formed inside my Thunderdome of a mind was of Cookie Monster’s much less celebrated, but much more wholesome brother who Sesame Street forgets to talk about.

He’s a behind-the-scenes hero, taking care of Cookie Monster’s kids, consoling his distraught wife, just being the glue when his brother doesn’t come home at night because he’s fallen off the cookie wagon. Is he in jail? On the cookie version of Skid Row, snorting copious amounts of cookie crumbs? Nobody knows, but Peanut Butter Cookie Monster is there to pick up the pieces. What a stand up, made-up guy.

The Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzard more than lives up to the imaginary character it isn’t named after. The word “monster” is appropriately used too since this Blizzard IS a monster…of peanut butter flavor.

Dairy Queen M&M's Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzard 3

There are two peanut butter factors at play with P.B. cookie chunks and peanut butter being blended throughout the Blizzard. The sweet, nutty condiment is in every bite. It takes over the vanilla ice cream like some kind of edible symbiotic life form. You can try really hard to gather up the M&M’s and choco chunks but you’re still going to get a strong nutty presence.

I like how they put both the cookies and smooth peanut butter topping inside. It’s kind of like spreading some of the popular condiment on a P.B. cookie. You get the authentic peanut butter taste, and the more processed taste from the cookies, and the result is a heavenly combo, never an overkill.

Dairy Queen M&M's Peanut Butter Monster Cookie Blizzard 2

The M&M’s accent the P.B. The candy shells really jump out. Because of their surrounding, they basically turn into Peanut Butter M&M’s. But if the Blizzard scientists had tried to put actual Peanut Butter M&M’s inside, I think that would’ve been an overload. It would most likely result in an actual peanut butter monster being born, only it wouldn’t be friendly like P.B. Cookie Monster. Instead, it would be more like a boss from the Dark Souls game series.

I went to the drive-thru to get mine, and I have to say I really hate how they make it a point of handing you the Blizzard upside down now. The window guy looked so cocky when he did it, like he wanted to rub it in my face I wasn’t going to get a free Blizzard for giving it to me right side up.

Not that I would call them out on that anyways, but man, I wish the next Blizzard he handed out fell right out of the cup. Then he could go make himself a nice humble pie Blizzard.

(Nutrition Facts – small – 730 calories, 280 calories from fat, 31 grams of fat, 16 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 60 milligrams of cholesterol, 340 milligrams of sodium, 98 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 79 grams of sugar, and 16 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $3.79
Size: Small
Purchased at: Dairy Queen
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Two different peanut butter tastes. Chocolate and M&Ms accent peanut butter nicely. Peanut Butter Cookie Monster holding his brother’s home together.
Cons: Cocky Blizzard passer-outers.

REVIEW: Chick-fil-A Egg White Grill Breakfast Sandwich

Chick-fil-A Egg White Grill Breakfast Sandwich

Quite a bit has happened in the world since Chick-fil-A last released a new breakfast sandwich.

The Star Wars franchise has been revived, Nabisco stuck Fruity Pebbles in an Oreo, and Blake Shelton married Miranda Lambert, got divorced from Miranda Lambert, and is now shacking up with the lead singer of my favorite 1990s pop-ska-rock band.

Also, I got sort of chubby. A bit rotund. Somewhat more heavyset.

Frankly, I blame the fast food breakfast sandwiches, in particular Chick-fil-A’s ethereal chicken biscuit. I know I’m supposed to be getting down with this whole moderation thing, but that’s easier said than done. Where other chains at least offer somewhat healthy breakfast sandwiches on their menus, Chick-fil-A offers oatmeal. Oatmeal? Really? Like oatmeal stands a chance against a juicy fried chicken breast nestled between a fresh-baked biscuit slathered with butter.

The new Egg White Grill sandwich changes that, and might just slow the growth of my increasing flabby diameter. And while I’m not normally one to pass on a molten egg yolk, I’m less wedded to the superiority of cooked fast food eggs over egg whites; that is, provided the texture doesn’t remind me of that time I accidentally ate a deflated water balloon (don’t ask).

Chick-fil-A Egg White Grill Breakfast Sandwich 2

Fortunately, that’s not the case with Chick-fil-A’s egg whites. They’re really not at all chewy, and even have a bit of sweetness and a hint of buttery flavor from the grill. I thought they tasted about the same as the whites that McDonald’s uses, but had a better texture.

The grilled chicken is excellent (no surprise) and much better than the overly salty Canadian bacon you’d get on McDonald’s Egg White Delight. The chicken has a bold chargrill flavor and zesty citrusy aftertaste that’s really flavorful without being heavy, while the size is a perfect fit on the toasted English muffin.

The muffin and single slice of cheese, which was melted nicely toward the center of the sandwich, added quite a bit of flavor. If I have one complaint, it’s that there wasn’t a slice of a juicy tomato to add a little sweetness and relieve the gooey saltiness of the cheese. Also: Bacon. But this would probably detract a bit from the healthy angle.

Chick-fil-A Egg White Grill Breakfast Sandwich 3

Along with the new sandwich, Chick-fil-A has revamped some of its sauces and also added a new Sweet and Spicy Sriracha sauce. I tried it on the new sandwich, and while it has an enjoyable kick and sweetness that plays well with the naturally bland egg whites, it leans closer to a conventional sweet chili garlic sauce than a Sriracha sauce. It actually detracted from the savory and salty cheese on the sandwich, and covered up some of the buttery and toasted flavor, but I’ll definitely be grabbing a couple of packets the next time I order nuggets.

Chick-fil-A Egg White Grill Breakfast Sandwich 4

I’m not ready to give up chicken biscuits completely, but the Egg White Grill provides a nice transition for trying to live out this whole moderation thing. Of course, that moderation thing could completely go out the window should Chick-fil-A decide to introduce chicken and waffles, but at this rate, I probably have a six-year cushion before that happens.

(Nutrition Facts – 300 calories, 60 calories from fat, 7 grams of fat, 3.0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 970 milligrams of sodium, 31 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 1 grams of sugar, and 25 grams of protein..)

Purchased Price: $3.35
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Chick-fil-A
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: A healthy breakfast sandwich that actually tastes desirable. Juicy grilled chicken breast and buttery egg whites provide plenty of protein. Melty cheese and perfectly toasted English muffin.
Cons: Not quite the life-changing experience of a chicken biscuit. Lacks a crunchy element like bacon or breaded chicken. Could use some more sweetness. Decreasing metabolism.

REVIEW: 7-Eleven Birthday Cake Slurpee

7-Eleven Birthday Cake Slurpee

It’s Slurpee’s 50th birthday, and to celebrate, 7-Eleven has released a slew of celebratory products, from the Birthday Cake Slurpee I bought to Birthday Cake Cappuccinos and Slurpee doodle Pop-Tarts.

Heck, I’m surprised they didn’t inject their hot dogs with Funfetti, since those same dogs have probably been rolling under that heat lamp for the past 50 years anyway.

Since I rode my bicycle to 7-Eleven in the summer heat, I wouldn’t make it home in time without a birthday puddle in my cup. So I was forced to photograph my Birthday Cake Slurpee in front of pedestrians who looked at me like an escaped zoo animal.

But most of them were capturing Pokémon with their phones anyway, so I like to think my weird photo-shoot was hidden behind a Snorlax.

7-Eleven Birthday Cake Slurpee 2

My first Slurpee sip was more “funeral” than “birthday.” A flowing log flume of watered-down vanilla flavor cascaded through my mouth, and it was chased by a faint lemon zest. If nothing else, I give 7-Eleven’s mad food scientists credit for including a more subtle frosting note.

All debates about icing authenticity aside, the watery vanilla made an awful first impression. Iciness in a cola or fruity Slurpee is acceptable, because soda and fruit juice are things that actually occur in real life. But runny liquid vanilla paste tastes sadly unnatural, as if someone had cried all over a cake.

Maybe 7-Eleven accidentally booked “Prenuppo the Recently Divorced Clown” for Slurpee’s birthday party.

But it wasn’t all tears and tragedy, because the Slurpee actually improved as time and the laws of physics went on. Gravity sent the sweet ribbons of syrupy vanilla extract twisting to the bottom of the cup, while thermodynamics turned the slush into crystallized batter.

The increased vanilla flavor concentration made my Birthday Cake Slurpee considerably more pleasant, so I tried greedily Slurpee-ing down the remaining purée before it could metamorphose into something even more melted and sloppy.

I didn’t make it in time, though (damn you, sun!). I was soon left with a dizzyingly sweet concoction that made me grimace like the time I sipped straight from a vanilla extract bottle (damn you, tempting smell!). But all hope was not lost, because I still had reinforcements to call in.

7-Eleven Birthday Cake Slurpee 3

Slurpee’s birthday celebration also includes a new Birthday Cake Doughnut, and for only 99 cents, I couldn’t resist garnishing my Slurpee and turning myself into a gawk-worthy street performer.

I’m surprised no one tossed a handful of change into my Slurpee cup.

The dry and crumbly doughnut sucks up the “juices,” and the lightly golden-sweet pastry lends a welcome, floury yellow cake flavor to a Slurpee that’s otherwise pure frosting. Meanwhile, the ring’s own caked on icing provides a buttery pop that complements the drink’s vanilla and lemon combo.

This birthday is an afternoon-long affair, too. Even as I tried biking my calories off, an aftertaste of tangy vanilla custard lingered. And like any post-party funk, it was simultaneously uncomfortable, bittersweet, and a little sticky.

So while I was able to derive some enjoyment from its various ups and downs, this Birthday Cake Slurpee was just too high maintenance to ever be a repeat purchase. The Slurpee is barely worth a novelty buy, and I hope 7-Eleven tries a birthday cake milkshake for Slurpee’s 100th birthday party instead. It would be less texturally off-putting, and I likely won’t have any teeth left by then anyway.

Oh, and I hope they don’t hire that darn clown again. I think I saw the poor fella sleeping in his tiny car last night.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 fl oz – 5 calories, 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of cholesterol, 0 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of protein.)

Purchased Price: $1.19
Size: Small
Purchased at: 7-Eleven
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Half-melted cake batter Slurpee abdomens. Spiraling vanilla tentacles. Using a doughnut like a paper umbrella. The sweet feeling of air conditioning on my vanilla-stained face.
Cons: “Crying Clown” cake flavoring. Custard hangovers. Shouting “I am not an animal!” to helpless passerby. Becoming a real life Snorlax after too many doughnuts. Frosting-filled frankfurters.