REVIEW: Burger King Flame Grilled Chicken Burger

Burger King Chicken Burger

Burger King was busier last year than Humpty Hump was in a Burger King ba…ugh, that reference is so old. Half of you aren’t going to get it, so I’m not going to finish it.

Anyhoo, in 2015, the burger chain introduced Buffalo Chicken Fries, an extra long list of Extra Long sandwiches, a red velvet milkshake that may or may not have turned your poop a different color, a black bun Halloween Whopper that may or may not have turned your poop a different color, and, of course, they brought back the dead-eyed King mascot, which will give some of us nightmares…again.

Surprisingly, the year didn’t end with one last Extra Long sandwich, instead BK came out with their Flame Grilled Chicken Burger.

The menu item features a flame-grilled chicken burger patty topped with tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, and white onions on a soft, toasted brioche style bun.

Burger King Chicken Burger 2

I have to admit, when I pulled out the burger from its paper cocoon, it looked good. I peeled back the bun and saw those grill marks, which made me want to bite into it even more. Then I cut it in half and the cross section reminded me of photos I saw in the college anatomy class I stopped going to during my junior year after seeing said photos. At that point, the chicken burger lost some of its appeal. But it lost all of its appeal when I took my first bite from it.

Burger King Chicken Burger 3

The patty had a good thickness to it, but it also makes the Whopper patty look scary thin. The patty was also…juicy? I don’t know if saying that is correct. Maybe saying it was sweating hard like it knew it was guilty of not being very good is more accurate because the liquid was like sweat in that it was salty and mostly made of water. I thought it was another ingredient that was bringing the liquid, but that wasn’t the case. Maybe, instead of Flame Broiled Chicken Burger, it should’ve been called the Fully Brined Chicken Burger.

At times, the sandwich as a whole tasted like, I swear, a Subway Cold Cut Combo, which to me isn’t bad. But, again, it was just too salty. The chicken patty itself was spiced in a way that made me think chicken breakfast sausage. Its texture was also sausage patty-like and easy to bite through. If it wasn’t so damn salty, it would probably be nice in a Croissan’wich.

None of the other ingredients did a good job at cutting through that saltiness, and the pickles probably enhanced it. As for the bun, it was shiny like other brioche-style buns, but it don’t think it had the slightly sweet flavor that the McDonald’s and Jack in the Box brioche buns have.

I didn’t get a chance to try every new item Burger King offered in 2015, but I did like almost every one I tried. The two exceptions are the Extra Long Pulled Pork Sandwich and this Flame Grilled Chicken Burger.

(Nutrition Facts – 480 calories, 25 grams of fat, 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 1160 milligrams of sodium, 42 grams of carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 22 grams of protein.)

Item: Burger King Flame Grilled Chicken Burger
Purchased Price: $8.49 (medium value meal)
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Burger King
Rating: 4 out of 10
Pros: At times, it tastes like a Subway Cold Cut Combo (if you like them). Burger King taking chances with protein. Doesn’t turn your poop a different color.
Cons: At times, it tastes like a Subway Cold Cut Combo (if you hate them). Very salty. Lots of liquid. Other ingredients couldn’t cut through that saltiness. Bun didn’t seem that special.

REVIEW: Papa John’s Brookie

Papa John's Brookie

Whether it’s Harry and Sally, Boy and World, or Scooby-Doo and the Harlem Globetrotters, we always love when two things meet. Hell, when it comes to turducken, we even love it when three meats meet.

Papa John’s must have understood this, too, because with their new Brookie, they’ve done more than just have chocolate chip cookies and brownies meet—they’ve baked their sweet, buttery essences together in a big ol’ oven of love.

Now if only Papa John’s could reconcile with his estranged son Jimmy. Maybe we’d finally get the Italian sub crust pizza the world has been yearning for.

But is it really possible for two superstars of the baked goods world to peacefully coexist under the roof of one cardboard box? Or will their sugary egos get in each other’s way? And how will Oatmeal Raisin feel about being left out of this orgy of dough?

Let’s tune in to this week’s episode of Beverly Hills 90,210 Calories and find out.

As I headed home from Papa John’s, the tantalizing, authentically homemade smell coming from my Brookie box made me check my phone to see if my technologically-illiterate grandma had somehow accidentally texted me a dozen fresh-baked cookies.

Feeling more than a little dirty, I locked myself into my room, dimmed the lights, turned on the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs, and bit into a super soft, still warm slice. Better put the kids to bed for this one.

Papa John's Brookie 2

With my mouth glued shut by dense, chocolaty goop, I observed that my Brookie’s center was far closer to batter than it was to an actual, fully cooked cake brownie. Fudgy, rich, and delicious: this sinful, eggy chocolate lava had vesicles of flaky crust on top but still melted in my hands and mouth alike. The thin bed of cookie magma it sat on was largely undetectable, but still contributed some welcome bursts of buttered dough flavor.

So while the core of Planet Brookie was molten and sugary, the thicker cookie crust was crispy and firm. It had notes of toasted sugar and browned butter with the occasional visit by a large semisweet morsel. But as a whole, the crust was far milder (and significantly less interesting) than the decadent center.

Papa John's Brookie 3

Just like how the Force needs a dark side and a light, the Brookie benefits most from the magical area where brownie and cookie crust meet to form a tasty yin yang. The “fudgy sweet” and “golden baked” flavors pair well, and the half-crisp, half-gooey textural contrast could be a real crowd-pleaser.

It could even force a truce between those people who like the middle pieces of brownies and those people who only like the corners. I say “could,” because I’m just the guy who’s alone in his room, 48 love songs deep into 69 Love Songs and dripping with fudge. What do I know?

Papa John's Brookie 4

So as you can see from my above pie chart, approximately 87.5 percent of my Brookie currently resembles Pac-Man, while 12.5 percent does not. I’m quite satisfied with the Brookie; after all, did any of us really doubt that chocolate chip cookies and brownies would work together?

It might be a little too small and a little too expensive, and I wish Oreos had been invited to the party, but I look forward to eating the rest of this. And I’ll certainly buy another Brookie in the future and bring it to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner…

…as my date.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/8th slice – 190 calories, 80 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 95 milligrams of sodium, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 17 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein..)

Item: Papa John’s Brookie
Purchased Price: $6
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Papa John’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: The best parts of an undercooked brownie and the edge pieces of a chocolate chip bar cookie. The even better part where they kiss meet. Inevitable post-Brookie milk chugging. The guiding life philosophy of cookie-brownie Taoism.
Cons: The price. The size. Washing out those tricky post-Brookie fudge stains. Still waiting on Grandma to email me an apple pie.

REVIEW: Dunkin’ Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut

I sometimes allow myself to think that maybe, just maybe, some research and development person in the fast casual industry will hear my ideas and implement them. Usually this isn’t the case, but my 2014 review of Dunkin’ Donuts’ Croissant Donut might’ve been the catalyst for Dunkin’s new Fudge Croissant Donut.

…the single-flavor fails to capitalize on a host of sweet croissant fillings, while coming across as overpriced and, yes, mass-produced. There was a part of me which wanted more distinctiveness in the interior layers, wishing for a truly pick-apart dough which was layered with chocolate or marzipan or any number of fillings.

Ok, so maybe attributing Dunkin’s latest donut to me and me alone is arrogant and presumptuous. But I know I wasn’t the only one who liked the original “Cronut” imitator but also thought it could be better. And since chocolate croissants are the logical first step from plain croissants, it only made sense that if Dunkin just added a chocolate filling to their Croissant Donut, it would be a game-changer.

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut 2

Unfortunately, what Dunkin Donuts is piping into the many laminated layers of flaky croissant-donut dough is not fudge. There is definitely a strong, almost-dark cocoa flavor on the back-end, but the mixture itself is far from the buttery, milky, and intensely chocolaty experience you should get from fudge. It’s also not the hardened and concentrated pain au chocolat filling you might see in a real pastry. Instead, it’s somewhat viscous and tastes like artificially-thickened chocolate syrup. But most of all, it immediately comes across as far too sweet.

Also too sweet are the chocolate and white icings, which lack richness and taste mostly of hardened sugar. Granted, each drizzle is applied with impeccable craftsmanship, but for $2.49, I would hope the Croissant Donut’s value exceeds the aesthetic.

The cloying taste of the icing and the faux fudge might offset a genuine croissant, but because the Croissant Donut is already glazed with a thick and hardened coating of donut glaze, each bite is just sugar on top of sugar. Where the original version of Dunkin’s mashup had some of the savory, buttery aftertaste of croissant dough, this version betrayed too much of its mass-produced donut origins.

Dunkin' Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut 3

Speaking of donut origins, the texture definitely takes a step back from the original croissant donut; the layers are there, but they’re more fluffy than crispy, giving way with even the slightest pressure.

If Dunkin Donuts’s Fudge Croissant Donut was a hit, I’d for sure take credit for its existence and possibly even sue the company for copyright infringement. As it stands, I’ll save myself the legal hassle and just call it like I taste it: the Fudge Croissant Donut is an overpriced sugar bomb, and does neither a chocolate croissant nor a chocolate-iced donut justice.

(Nutritional Facts – 400 calories, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 25 milligrams of cholesterol, 300 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 25 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein.)

Item: Dunkin’ Donuts Fudge Croissant Donut
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Dunkin’ Donuts
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Addition of chocolate filling into Croissant Donut. Indulgent dark cocoa flavored filling gets good coverage throughout the interior layers. Possible hope that fast casual research and development people read my reviews. Saving money on legal fees.
Cons: Chocolate filling doesn’t taste buttery or milky like “fudge”. Novelty of the croissant layers gets lost in the overly cloying icing and donut glaze. Too much donut taste and not enough buttery balance. More than half a day’s saturated fat.

REVIEW: Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries

Arby’s Curly Fries were already delicious.

How delicious? I’d happily munch away on them until the double helices of my DNA begin to resemble those perfectly breaded and seasoned potato corkscrews.

But now Arby’s has decided to load ‘em up with shredded cheddar cheese, cheddar cheese sauce, and bacon. It’s the fast food equivalent of stuffing cupcakes inside a birthday cake or super gluing Emma Stone to Emma Watson.

But wait! Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries also come drizzled in a Parmesan peppercorn ranch sauce! So cram an Oreo into those cupcakes and throw Emma Roberts into the mix, because we’re going for full excess here.

I don’t know why Arby’s wants to mess with a classic, but as long as they don’t start calling them “Shemp Fries,” this hungry stooge will try them anyway.

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries 2

Gazing upon my potato and cheese volcano, I wasn’t sure how to tackle it. A fork seemed too formal, using my hands seemed too barbaric, and actually physically tackling it seemed like a hernia waiting to happen. But then I realized I was snapping photos of greasy potatoes all alone in a deserted Arby’s, so if the crippling weight of my impending existential crisis didn’t kill me, a little cheddar under my fingernails wouldn’t either.

I took a carefully assembled “one of everything” bite, and holy mooing goo, Batman! That’s a lot of dairy! Seriously, between the (appropriately) buttery and milky buttermilk ranch sauce and the creamy cheddar components, it was like my Arby’s chef grabbed a cow, gave her a good shake, and told ol’ Bessie to fire on all cylinders.

Upon closer taste-spection, the fatty tang and zesty finish of the ranch became more pronounced. It overpowered the mild cheddar, which was as far from “sharp cheddar” as a plastic spork is from Excalibur.

Like some weird sequel to Animal Farm, one of the rare shards of haphazardly sliced bacon would occasionally attempt a futile rebellion against its dairy overlords by contributing a charcoal-seasoned, porky twang, but it was often too faint to taste.

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries 3

I’m relieved to say that beneath this class struggle of tang, cheese, and sporadic meatiness, the garlicky and peppery Curly Fries that we all know and shove into our hungry mouths still provide a familiar and tasty flavor base. I suppose even the cruelest ranch dictators can’t take away our seasoned potatoes.

Your enjoyment of these Loaded Curly Fries will ultimately hinge on how you feel about tangy ranch, since the bacon and cheese is more cosmetic than flavorful. I thought the sauce/fry combo was tasty at first, but I grew tired of it over time and eventually found myself wishing instead for some plain Curly Fries that wouldn’t coat my hands with multiple barnyard animal products. I recommend splitting this one with friends to retain the brief novelty.

I ate mine fresh, so they were crispy, but I’ve heard bad things about what happens to these fries’ structural integrity over time. So for science, I saved half of my dish and let it be my passenger seat companion while I ran errands (I even turned the heated seat on for it, because I’m a nice guy).

Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries 4

Checking back two hours later, the fries had taken on the slimy texture of oiled calamari. Four hours later, my specimen had coagulated itself into a mushy Lovecraftian horror. The moral of the story? Eat these as quickly as your stomach and social setting will allow.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go bury this thing before it becomes sentient.

(Nutrition Facts – 700 calories, 420 calories from fat, 46 grams of fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 35 milligrams of cholesterol, 1990 milligrams of sodium, 57 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of protein..)

Item: Arby’s Loaded Curly Fries
Purchased Price: $2.99
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Arby’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: Same Curly Fry goodness beneath the goopy-ness. The appreciated zest of Emma Roberts…err, I mean ranch. Savory pork uprisings. Orwellian cheese jokes (thanks, 9th grade English class!). Distantly echoing applause from the National Dairy Council.
Cons: Eventual ranch fatigue. The crushing, creamy hoof of the “moo-geoisie” (thanks, 10th grade history class!). The oppressed cheddar and bacon proletariat. Rapid devolution into something that belongs in a Korean horror movie. Questioning my life choices in the middle of Arby’s.

REVIEW: Taco Bell Sriracha Chicken and Spicy Beefy Nacho Crunchwrap Sliders

Taco Bell Sriracha Chicken Crunchwrap Slider

Cheap.

It’s what Taco Bell does best.

What Taco Bell is also good at is coming up with a gazillion varieties of the same products. So many different tacos. So many different burritos. So many different Freezes. And now so many different Crunchwrap Sliders.

If you’re not familiar with Crunchwrap Sliders, let me put it to you this way. If the original Crunchwrap is Khloe Kardashian, then Crunchwrap Sliders are the significantly smaller Kourtney Kardashian. Oh wait…I should really write the previous sentence this way: If the original Krunchwrap is Khloe Kardashian, then Krunchwrap Sliders are the significantly smaller Kourtney Kardashian. Now it’s korrect.

Last year, about this time, these smaller Crunchwraps debuted with three varieties — Beefy Cheddar, Spicy Chicken, and BLT. This year two of the flavors are back — Beefy Cheddar and BLT — but this time they’ve brought along the new Sriracha Chicken and Spicy Beefy Nacho.

The Sriracha Chicken comes with shredded chicken, Fritos chips, and Taco Bell’s sriracha wrapped hexagonal in a flour tortilla. The Spicy Beef Nacho has seasoned beef, Fritos chips, creamy chipotle sauce, and nacho cheese sauce in a flour tortilla.

Yes, there aren’t a lot of ingredients in each one. But the lack of components does two things: it keeps the menu item cheap and allows our taste buds to really notice the sauces in them.

The Sriracha Chicken is somewhat similar to last year’s Spicy Chicken with chipotle sauce. The only part that’s different is the sauce. I didn’t think too highly of the Spicy Chicken because it wasn’t very spicy. But this new chicken Crunchwrap Slider has a bit more heat, although I wish it had more. It’s not “Oh my God, I need some Mountain Dew Baja Blast NOW” hot, but it’s a step above what the Spicy Chicken offered.

As you can see in the photo above, the chicken wasn’t shredded, it was chopped into chunks, which I didn’t mind. It was also a little dried out, but still easy to chew. Again, because there weren’t a lot of ingredients, I could really taste the garlic and peppers from the sriracha, which was something I really didn’t experience with Taco Bell’s Sriracha Quesarito. Because of the sriracha, this Crunchwrap Slider is my favorite out of all of them.

Taco Bell Spicy Beefy Nacho Crunchwrap Slider

My new third favorite is the Spicy Beefy Nacho (BLT is my number two). The creamy chipotle sauce isn’t very spicy, but it has a nice smoky, zesty flavor that seems to work better with their seasoned beef than their chicken. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Spicy Chicken Crunchwrap Slider. The mixing of the chipotle sauce with the nacho cheese sauce created a nice queso flavor. If you liked the Beefy Cheddar version, but wished it has a bit more flavor, then the Spicy Beefy Nacho will satisfy your taco hole.

As for the Fritos chips, despite being in flour tortilla cocoons, they were able to maintain some crunchiness. And because there aren’t a lot of ingredients to get in the way of each other, I could taste the corn and salt from the Fritos as I ate my way through each one. Thank goodness because what’s the point of having Fritos if we can’t taste the Fritos.

For a dollar, both of these new Crunchwrap Sliders are totally worth it. They prove once again that Taco Bell knows how to do cheap and tasty. Now if only the chain would add these to their regular menu.

(Nutrition Facts – Sriracha Chicken – 370 calories, 15 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 980 milligrams of sodium, 44 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar, and 15 grams of protein. Spicy Beefy Nacho – 460 calories, 25 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 1030 milligrams of sodium, 46 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein.)

Item: Taco Bell Sriracha Chicken and Spicy Beefy Nacho Crunchwrap Sliders
Purchased Price: $1.79 each*
Size: N/A
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Sriracha Chicken)
Rating: 8 out of 10 (Spicy Beefy Nacho)
Pros: Cheap. Sriracha Chicken is way better then Spicy Chicken. The sauces. Chipotle sauce works better with seasoned ground beef than shredded chicken. Fritos chips remained somewhat crunchy.
Cons: Something so small has so much sodium. Those looking to burn their mouths will have to burn their mouths with something else. Wish the Sriracha Chicken had a bit more heat. Not cheap here on this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

*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 Bacon Fondue Fries

Wendy’s Bacon Fondue Fries

“You know, you’re the first guy I’ve seen eat cheese fries in a suit. And with a knife and fork to boot. I told you not to order just cheese fries”

Taking a break from chewing, I realized my friend Seth had a point. For a second I even considered that I might look ridiculous. Then I remembered he was the one saying “to boot,” and I was the one savoring one of the finest cheeses of Europe or something.

“Dude, these aren’t cheese fries. It’s fondue. If you knew anything about anything you’d know it’s all the rage in Europe and only the next big food trend here.”

“You sure there, Marty McFly? I coulda sworn my grandparents saw that stuff go out of style.”

I looked down at the natural cut, skin-on fries; their still-crispy skins peeking out from the thick white goo of the Swiss Gruyere cheese like rocky outcroppings dotting the Alps. Ok, I told myself, he has a point. But so what if fondue is a bit retro. Besides, I don’t remember bacon in any of those corny old photo albums. And these fries weren’t just covered in bacon, they were covered in practically a whole hog’s belly.

“Cheesy goodness never goes out of style, Seth. Especially not when bacon is introduced.”

“Yeah, but on fries? I like cheese and bacon as much as the next guy, but I’d prefer to eat this bacon cheeseburger. I like my fries crispy, not soggy and covered in even more fat.”

Wendy’s Bacon Fondue Fries 2

A fair point, to be sure, and one I had originally had reservations about. But the fries remained remarkably crisp despite the fresh covering of Gruyere cheese lava. They even managed to retain that hearty and earthy potato flavor with the addition of the assertive but nutty richness of fast food’s take on the classic Swiss cheese.

“It’s all strategic positioning,” I explained. “The cheese covers most of the fries without saturating each fry completely. Yeah, parts of the fries are a bit soggy, but more often than not you’re still getting bites of untouched potato skin. It’s really the best of both worlds.”

Now he was the one doing a double take at his meal, his Junior Bacon Cheeseburger appearing increasingly dull.

“But the bacon…no way it’s actually good.”

I could tell he was scrambling. And still wrong.

“Why wouldn’t it be? It’s the same bacon the burgers use. Crispy, meaty, and with enough chewy and smoky fat to keep things interesting. I did get one burnt tasting piece, but overall it’s damn good.

“But man, let me tell you, this cheese sauce is where it’s at.” I was getting close to rubbing it in now, but Seth had been the one mocking me for “just” getting cheese fries. The way I saw it, he had earned it. “It’s rich like butter, smoky like meat, and as gooey as the gooiest grilled cheese sandwich your mom ever made for you. And since you can eat it with a fork and knife, you actually savor it all.

Now that was a bit excessive. I looked down in partial shame (but really mostly just to get another bite) and then looked up again to apologize to Seth. He had left, but returning a moment later with an order of Bacon Fondue Fries in one hand, and a knife and fork in the other.

“Yeah,” he said. “Turns out you were right.”

(Nutrition Facts – 460 calories, 230 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, 8 grams of sat fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 590 milligrams of sodium, 1050 milligrams of potassium, 45 grams of carbohydrates, 1 grams of sugar, and 13 grams of protein, 10% DV calcium..)

Item: Wendy’s Bacon Fondue Fries
Purchased Price: $3.29
Size: N/A
Purchased at: Wendy’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Excellent contrast of crispy fries and warm, gooey cheese sauce. Bacon is plentiful and meaty with excellent smoke flavor. Complex Gruyere cheese sauce is like Queso with a Ph.D. in International banking (or something). Two and a half bananas worth of potassium. Being right.
Cons: Bordering on heavy. Pricey for a side item. Eating French Fries like an aristocrat.