REVIEW: KFC Sweet Chili Crunch Chicken (Canada)

KFC Sweet Chili Crunch (Canada) 1

You’ll have to forgive me if this is a particularly short review; KFC’s Sweet Chili Crunch Chicken is essentially just their Hot & Spicy Chicken, but with a drizzling of sauce on top.

However, KFC’s promotional materials seemed to indicate that the chicken itself is different, which didn’t quite jive with what I was tasting.

I decided to call my local KFC to figure this out, which made me feel very reportery (reporter-esque? Reporter-like? Yeah, I’m gonna go with reporter-like. That sounds legit). I’m like Woodward and Bernstein, only instead of rooting out deep-seeded political corruption in the highest government offices, I’m finding out about fried chicken. That’s about the same, right?

Anyway, what I was told is that it actually is slightly different from the standard Hot & Spicy Chicken. The guy I spoke with said very similar, but that the chicken in the Sweet Chili Crunch is actually a little less spicy — I guess because of the presence of the chili sauce?

Either way, it’s similar enough that I doubt you’d be able to tell the difference unless you ate the two side-by-side. I know I couldn’t.

This basically leaves the Sweet Chili sauce as the differentiator. It’s fairly standard-issue stuff, and pretty much tastes like any number of similar Thai-style sauces you can get at the supermarket. It’s very sweet, with a mild garlicky bite, and an even milder hint of spice. If the prospect of spicy fried chicken is what’s drawing you to this item, look elsewhere. The heat level here registers at more of a mild tingle than anything else.

Though the drizzling of sauce initially comes off as odd and a bit stingy, it’s definitely for the best. If the pieces of chicken had been dunked in the sweet sauce, it probably would have overwhelmingly cloying; in the quantity provided, it adds some vague sweetness and a tiny bit of heat, but definitely doesn’t overwhelm the chicken.

KFC Sweet Chili Crunch (Canada) 2

Anyway, it’s good, because KFC’s standard-issue Hot & Spicy Chicken is good, and that’s basically what it tastes like. It’s nice and crunchy, with that distinctive KFC flavour. I know a lot of people don’t like KFC for various reasons, but I’m generally a fan, despite what my last couple of reviews might lead you to believe. This particular batch of chicken was overcooked and a bit on the dry side, but that’s pretty much the luck of the draw.

For six bucks the meal comes with three pieces of dark meat (a drumstick and two thighs) and an order of fries, so it’s not a bad deal, though I’m not a big fan of KFC’s fries. I’m not crazy about battered fries in general -– I like battering and deep-frying things as much as the next guy, but fries are already delicious as they are. No batter necessary.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 thigh piece – 390 calories, 29 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 95 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 14 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: KFC Sweet Chili Crunch Chicken (Canada)
Purchased Price: $5.99 (CAN)
Size: 3 pieces and fries
Purchased at: KFC
Rating: 7 out of 10
Pros: Crunchy, tasty chicken. Sweet chili sauce isn’t over-applied.
Cons: Not very spicy. Not much reason to order this over the standard Hot & Spicy chicken.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch

The griffin is an awesome mythological creature with the body and tail of a lion and the head, wings and talons of an eagle. And it is a beast. I’m talking “beast” as in Marshawn Lynch, not Hank McCoy.

The griffin was thought of as the king of beasts, and many times was known to guard treasure or rewards. But here’s the thing, my ancient dummy friends, you didn’t need to invent the griffin. An eagle is pretty scary already. Hell, a bird is scary. One time in junior high I rode my bicycle through a field and scared up a murder of crows and they circled my head for a quarter of a mile. I almost started going to church regularly.

And don’t get me started on lions. One time in junior high I rode my bicycle through some plains and scared up a pride of lions and I died. They ripped me limb from limb. Or that’s what would have happened if I did ride through some lions. Don’t let that lie cloud up that first story. The birds thing is super true. Anyway, the concept of the griffin is a little overkill. That’s all.

The Doritos Cheesy Gordita Crunch (DCGC) is a fusion of two beloved Taco Bell items, the Doritos crazy tacos and the Cheesy Gordita Crunch. The fanfare for this product has been noticeably muted, unlike when the Beatles went on Ed Sullivan and ate those Doritos Locos Tacos for the first time in America.

The DCGC promises flatbread with a three-cheese blend that encases a Doritos hard taco with ground beef, lettuce, cheese, and pepper jack sauce. In theory, it’s an exciting conference of the best of the best, like the Olympics: The hard-soft dynamic of the Cheesy Gordita Crunch with the bold flavors of the chip taco. In practice, watching pole-vaulting for fifteen minutes is fun once every four years.

To refresh my memory, I purchased a plain Cheesy Gordita Crunch, and boy, did it deliver. The satisfying crunch of the hard taco shell through flatbread is just so great. And the contrast of cold, crisp lettuce to the warm sodium bomb of ground beef seems so balanced. But those are the places the Doritos version gets it wrong.

Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch 2

The DCGC: Nacho Cheese Edition is made from the Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco, which is thinner than the non-Doritos taco. I ate two of these, about half a week apart at different Taco Bells, and the first time the hard taco shell tasted stale. The second time was better but still could not compete with the rigidity and crunchiness of the plain version.

Because the hard taco shell is flavored, it spins the entire flavor profile off its axis. Everything is now covered in Doritos dust. The three-cheese blend is lost in redundancy and the whole item is salty like a dull wave of cheesy numbness instead of small bursts of salty zest with the plain version. The Doritos flavoring itself is consistent with the brand and is fine, it just overlaps some of the other elements.

Taco Bell is pushing the Doritos collaboration pretty hard. It’s as if they think I’ll come running if they stick two brands together. Sure, I ate Burger King Cinnabons. Sure, I ate Reese’s Oreo Cookies. Sure, I’ll eat a ream of wet printer paper if Staples and Popeye’s put their names on it. Wow, I feel like a sucker. There are so many brand logos on these things it’s like eating a NASCAR car. Though, if we did have to eat NASCAR cars, I’d probably go with Pepsi Max over Tide or Verizon.

Overall, the Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch: Special Victims Unit is not horrible — it’s still a soft bread with a hard taco inside. But it does not live up to the original. We all figured out at 10 years old that making homemade nachos with Doritos chips didn’t turn out as gloriously as we had hoped. The crunchy, corn base is the stage that allows the flavors to dance, but the Nacho Cheese Doritos shell wants to be the stage and the dancer at the same time. When Doritos are involved, there are too many dancers on the stage.

(Nutrition Facts – 490 calories, 250 calories from fat, 28 grams of fat, 10 grams saturated fat, 1 gram trans fat, 55 milligrams of cholesterol, 880 milligrams of sodium, 40 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of sugar, and 20 grams of protein.)

Item: Doritos Nacho Cheese Cheesy Gordita Crunch
Purchased Price: $2.69
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Taco Bell
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Soft on hard. Nacho Cheese Doritos flavoring is fine, but overlaps other ingredients. Still a version of the Gordita Crunch family.
Cons: Does not improve on Cheesy Gordita Crunch. Fails at what makes Cheesy Gordita Crunch great in the first place. Being a sucker for brand collaborations.

REVIEW: Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini (Canada)

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini

Do you like salt? Do you love salt? Tim Hortons Steak & Cheese Panini will test you. Even if you think you have a high tolerance for very salty foods, this one will take you to the limit; it will stare deep into your soul and find you wanting.

Just as Pizza Hut has a Meat Lover’s Pizza, this should be called a Salt Lover’s Sandwich.

The nutritional info claims it has 1440 milligrams of sodium, and as high as that is, it’s gotta be a conservative estimate. It is aggressively, unpleasantly salty.

But then again, even if it weren’t a 40 megaton salt bomb, it still wouldn’t particularly be worth eating.

Most egregiously, the name of the sandwich is pretty misleading — the meat here bares very little resemblance to anything even close to any kind of steak that I’ve ever had. It’s roast beef. That’s a small distinction, but an important one.

But I like roast beef, so who cares what they call it, right?

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini Topless

It also tastes pretty lousy. Have you ever had any bottom of the barrel supermarket cold cuts? You know, the ones that taste more of nitrates and salt than anything you’d identify as any kind of meat? That’s this “steak” in a nutshell. It’s kind of chewy and salty and there’s not much more to it than that.

The cheese was even worse; it was quite possibly the most odiously waxy processed cheese I’ve ever had.

Look, I’m aware that I’m coming off as a complete snob here, but let me make this clear: I don’t mind processed cheese. In particular, on a griddle-cooked, fast-food-style cheeseburger, it’s the only type of cheese there is; it’s perfection.

But even if processed cheese were appropriate for this sandwich (and it’s not — Cheddar or Provolone or Swiss or pretty much anything else would have worked much better), this was a particularly shoddy variety of processed cheese, with almost zero cheesy flavour.

Tim Hortons Grilled Steak & Cheese Panini Side

It wasn’t horrible in the first half of the sandwich, when it was still hot and melty. But by the time I got to the second half, the sandwich had cooled somewhat, and the cheese rapidly congealed into a plasticky morass of saltiness and agony.

And that’s pretty much all there was to this sandwich. Just salty but otherwise tasteless “steak” atop a waxy, cheese-like substance. There are red onions, and they add a little bit of crunch and a mild oniony bite, but their flavour was almost completely unable to stand up to the barrage of sodium.

I should note that I attempted to order the chipotle version of this sandwich, which also comes with a spicy chipotle sauce. In fact, I did order that sandwich — it was on my receipt and everything — but they either forgot to include that sauce, or it was so subtle that I couldn’t taste it (and certainly, that’s not altogether implausible; the panini so incredibly salty that any other flavour attempting to make a dent will get completely annihilated).

I contemplated returning at a later date and ordering another sandwich, making sure that I got the chipotle version this time. But I couldn’t. The idea of eating this again — in any form — was more than I could bear. I’m not strong enough.

And let’s face it, a sauce would have to be mind-blowingly amazing to make this sandwich even borderline edible; I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the sauce isn’t mind-blowingly amazing.

To keep this from being a complete hate-fest, I will say this: the bread was pretty good. It was perfectly toasted, with a nicely crispy exterior and a soft, fresh interior. I liked it quite a bit. I just wish it was filled with literally anything else.

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 70 milligrams of cholesterol, 1440 milligrams of sodium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fibre, 4 grams of sugar, and 29 grams of protein.)

Item: Tim Hortons Steak & Cheese Panini
Purchased Price: $5.49 CAN
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Tim Hortons
Rating: 2 out of 10
Pros: Fresh, perfectly toasted bread. Ben Affleck gives the best performance of his career in Gone Girl (that has zero to do with this sandwich or this review, but I figured I needed at least one more pro).
Cons: Salty, otherwise flavourless “steak.” Salty, waxy processed cheese. Salt, salt, salt. Salt.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta

Binge watching Gilmore Girls, knowing all the lyrics to “Drunk in Love,” enjoying the last Adam Sandler film – everyone has their own guilty pleasure. Mine happens to be my sick addiction for anything claiming to taste like pumpkin pie.

Unlike the crumbly, goopy mess of its cherry and blueberry cousins, pumpkin pie has its shit together. It’s an October tradition that’s sweet, spiced, and confidently autumnal. It’s also, in case you haven’t noticed, everywhere. And that’s fine by me.

Just as ubiquitous, especially in the northeast where I call home, Dunkin’ Donuts may take the prize for pumping out the most pumpkin-flavored products per capita. Say what you want about Starbucks, but I can see another Dunkin’ out the window from the one I am currently sitting in as I typing this. Both are more than eager to dole out my fix of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice in whatever latte, coffee, donut, or muffin concoction they are currently pushing.

This fall, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta, which I can only imagine was created by bored Dunkin’ executive sitting around a beach haphazardly pointing at things to get the pumpkin treatment. Pumpkin-lemonade no good? Then how about a friggin’ Pumpkin Slurpee!

In reality, Dunkin’ Donuts’ Pumpkin Pie Coolatta is not far from exactly that. Like the other Coolattas on the Dunkin’ menu, this one was icy and sweet…almost saccharine.

The difference is that the Pumpkin Pie Coolatta has small granules of graham cracker embedded in the drink, pumpkin puree, and, well, it’s also flavored like a traditional fall dessert, which I am pretty sure no other Coolatta can claim.

Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta Closeup

But seriously, those graham cracker crumbles bring an unbelievable element to the drink. While they are small, their pie crust texture and flavor put the pie in pumpkin pie, as opposed to just reducing the flavor to the spices that dominate the filling of the dessert. The whipped cream also gives the whole concoction not only presentation points, but that real pumpkin pie feel. This is good because the actual pumpkin pie flavor leaves much to be desired, as the flavor leans closer to scented candle then to the authentic dessert itself.

But it’s far from terrible (don’t worry, I guzzled mine down like the sick addict that I am). Although I can’t imagine I will be ordering many more Pumpkin Pie Coolattas anytime soon since there are better pumpkin products to binge on. Like kindergarten, just because it was fun once does not necessarily mean that it needs to be repeated.

(Nutrition Facts – 16 ounces – 280 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 310 milligrams of sodium, 52 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 44 grams of sugar, 5 grams of protein, 35% vitamin A, 20% calcium, and 2% iron.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Pie Coolatta
Purchased Price: $1.99
Size: Small
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Graham cracker bits and whipped cream add to the pumpkin pie flavor. Contains pumpkin puree. Whipped cream gives a real pumpkin pie feel.
Cons: Tastes like it was made by Yankee Candle. Not being able to go back to kindergarten. I know all the lyrics to “Drunk in Love.”

REVIEW: Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich

There are several places I never want to find pulled pork, including a high school cafeteria, the bathroom, and inside an open wound. Fortunately, Wendy’s has nothing to do with these three things.

Similar to Denny’s fascination with bacon, Wendy’s has a newfound obsession with pulled pork. This autumn season, Wendy’s fast food restaurants will be offering a limited-time only menu including BBQ Pulled Pork Cheese Fries, a BBQ Pulled Pork Cheeseburger, and a BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wendy’s introduced a pulled pork Frosty before the month ends. Wait a second…

Oh, Wendy. You sassy, redheaded minx.

Before I continue my review, I must confess: pulled pork has always confused me. Yes, it’s delicious, but I’ve never understood which part of the pig must be pulled in order to procure said barbecued meat. Behind the ears? No. Under the stomach? Nope. Between the legs? Good lord, no!

Still pondering the anatomy of hogs, I found myself inside a local Wendy’s restaurant. With five dollars in my pocket and the hunger-pangs in full effect, I decided it was high-time to try the new BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich, which features hickory-smoked pulled pork meat, a layer of coleslaw, and a toasted brioche bun. Each sandwich is finished with one of three sauces: smoky, spicy, or sweet.

The sandwich arrives in a red, cardboard box decorated with Wendy’s smiling mug. Opening this package reveals the pulled pork sandwich in all its glory, topped with a grease-soaked bun that glistens in the sunlight.

The pulled pork itself is smoky and meaty. A praiseworthy approximation of barbecue flavor, it lacks the dry, chewy qualities I’ve noticed of low-quality pulled pork. Sure, Wendy’s pulled pork might not be as succulent and flavorful as pulled pork from the finest Southern barbecue joints, but it certainly holds its own.

The pork flavor is enhanced by the sweet sauce, which has a pleasant tang reminiscent of the sauce found on both the McRib and Burger King BBQ Rib Sandwich. The amount of sauce on my pulled pork sandwich was just right; the meat was not supersaturated with sauce, but I was still able to taste the barbecue sauce flavor. The only drawback was that the sweet sauce seemed a bit lukewarm when compared to the meat. I suspect the sauce wasn’t heated before the sandwich was assembled. As I continued to eat, the residual heat from the pulled pork slightly improved the sauce’s temperature, but the first few bites were subpar.

Wendy's BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich 2

In comparison to both the pulled pork and sauce, the coleslaw is a letdown. Its flavor is subdued and one-note, hardly noticeable in a mouthful of smoky pork. Its main contribution to the sandwich is textural, adding a light crunch to each bite. Even so, it fails to seem as crisp as the freshest of coleslaws.

My sandwich’s contents occasionally spilled out mid-bite, but this cannot be seen as a flaw — pulled pork is an inherently messy food. Luckily, the cardboard box conveniently doubles as a tray. You will receive full protection from falling meats, just in case you decide to eat the pulled pork sandwich while in the nude, all alone in your empty apartment on a Friday night.

I finished my Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich feeling fulfilled. Though the coleslaw topping lacked bite, the sandwich’s balance of smoky pork and tangy sauce was deeply gratifying. For a fast food take on a Southern classic, Wendy’s pulled it off. The BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich rivals other barbecue sandwiches I’ve tasted at a competitive price.

As a disclaimer, I want to assure the reader that neither I, nor The Impulsive Buy, endorse the pulling of pigs. Furthermore, we have never engaged in any form of hog-yanking activity. Please be kind to our animal friends, no matter how tasty.

(Nutrition Facts – 410 calories, 120 calories from fat, 14 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 0 gram of trans fat, 5 grams of polyunsaturated fat, 4.5 grams of monounsaturated fat, 65 milligrams of cholesterol, 1230 milligrams of sodium, 360 milligrams of potassium, 48 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 17 gram of sugar, and 24 grams of protein.)

Item: Wendy’s BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smoky pulled pork flavor. Tangy sauce. Perfect amount of sauce. Eating in the nude?
Cons: Lukewarm sauce. Coleslaw flavor is one-note. Ethical dilemmas of pulling pigs.